Understanding the Opportunities to Profit in the Photo Market


Think back to last November or December. Amidst the holiday madness, chances are you probably produced a batch of photo greeting cards or a handful of family photo books. The growing trend in consumer photo products, enabled by mobile devices and digital presses, has created a population who enjoy photo-rich materials in their personal and professional lives. That spells opportunity for your business. 

Today, your customers have the ability to leverage photo images for use in their business communications as well as their personal projects. How can you ensure your customers think of you year-round for these highly personal, hugely profitable jobs? 

The opportunities in photo publishing are growing. Will you take advantage?

The photo book and photo publishing space is strong and growing. InfoTrends projects a 13% increase in sales of photo-merchandise products from 2013 to 2014, and an 11% increase from 2014 to 2015. 

Consumer behavior is strong on all fronts as familiarity, purchase behavior, purchase intent and repeat order figures are all high. 

73% of respondents to an InfoTrends survey said that they print photos at least occasionally, with many having purchased photo merchandise recently (40% say they’ve done so within the past year, up from 25% in 2009). 

Purchase intent for photo-based products is also high, with 40% of buyers and non-buyers saying they definitely or probably would buy photo cards in the future, and 35% saying the same about photo books. 

Most encouraging of all was the incredibly high retention rates. Of those who have bought photo merchandise in the past year, 80% would buy again within the next year. 

How can you take advantage? What are your customers looking for? Let’s take a look. 

Despite the positive growth and potential, there are some challenges that service providers need to be aware of. 

Photo products and prints are fighting to stay relevant in today’s digital world

The digital world has exploded. Smartphone penetration has grown from 5% in 2009 to 22% in 2013. If Facebook were a country, it would be the second largest with a population of over 1.2 Billion. 

Printing of photos once represented a way for consumers to easily view and share memories. Today, photos are stored on phones and shared through social networks such as Facebook and Instagram. 

Service providers are now faced with the challenge of positioning their printed product as one that is differentiated through preservation, professional presentation and quick retrieval. 

How can you do so? What are your customers looking for? Let’s take a look. 

To consumers, substrates matter.

When it comes to delivering photo publishing and merchandise offerings, there are few markets that rely more heavily on paper as a defining product attribute. 

By its very nature, photo merchandise products are highly personal. To the end-user, it is the tactile, visual and archival qualities that are points of differentiation – and they are willing to pay more to attain them. 

A survey by InfoTrends asked respondents which features in a photo book they would be willing to pay more for and how much more they were willing to spend. 

Higher quality materials was one of the highest-ranking features, as nearly 80% said they’d be willing to pay 10% or more. Of that population, just over 20% of the respondents said they’d be willing to pay 40% or more for higher substrate quality. 

What’s next?

There is a clear connection between material quality, the impact it has on a customer’s perception of product quality, and their willingness to pay a premium price for the substrate’s perceived value. 

Next, we will discuss how you can ensure your company is positioned to take advantage of these opportunities by using substrates as a means to develop niche product offerings aimed at targeted audiences.

  • Talk to your customers to better understand what they value and what they would be willing to pay more for.
  • Familiarize yourself with Mohawk’s portfolio of fine papers and substrates, from linens and vellums to felts and magnets. We will take a closer look at these in our next article.
  • The type of substrate chosen can dramatically impact the look and feel of the finished piece. Always have print samples on hand to demonstrate the differences with customers.
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