Does ordering pictures through an app really lead to higher sales?

It Is More Convenient for Mom to Order Through a Smartphone App

Have you ever tried ordering pictures through an app for the first time? After the 16+ steps required to download the app, install it, create an account, find the images, and order, you are just left wondering “was this really easier?”

Compare that to a well-designed prepay form and a mobile-optimized online store – the results are staggering.

Recently, a Midwest studio learned this the hard way. They switched to an app-only model and sales went down $4k! The kicker? They had a higher sales average, but a significantly lower participation rate.

The fact is, allowing clients to buy post-event and adding more steps to the sales process creates a higher barrier to entry. This results in lower sales. Any marketing or sales person who knows what they are doing will tell you this— it’s not a “photo-industry thing.” It’s business; period. If you make it simple for your clients to participate, they will do so.

While sales flyers and paper-based systems seem overwhelming, they are proven to work. The sales flyer is not just an order form. It showcases your products and services and gets people excited to complete the purchase. A properly-designed flyer:

  • Brands your business
  • Merchandises your products
  • Creates a call-to-action
  • Is a physical reminder for parents of the upcoming picture day
  • Directs parents to the option of ordering online
  • Sets the expectation for the quality of service you will provide

We must act like business owners. Sales and marketing cannot be replaced with the magic wand of an app. The most successful studios have a well thought out online sales system that works in conjunction with paper marketing order forms and dovetails into electronic marketing. While email and text marketing are improving, we find that studios who engage all marketing channels for a cohesive marketing strategy will survive the winter that is coming for those who go all-in on an app.

We get it. No one wants to transcribe paper order forms into ordering software. But that doesn’t mean you throw them in the trash and never look back. Let me ask you this question: How many apps do you have on your phone? Go ahead and count. I’ll wait… Give up? 75. The average number of apps on a smart phone is 75.

Did you know there are 75 apps on an average smartphone?

How many do you actually look at on a regular basis? How about once a year? How many of those apps do you actually remember your password? Sure, downloading an app from the App Store is straight-forward. We have all been trained to do it. But that doesn’t mean accessing the images and data on apps is easy or intuitive.

I think we can all agree, the more barriers you put up between you and your customer, the less likely they are to do business with you. Consumers engage with apps that solve basic problems for them over time. No one disagrees that mobile apps are not here to stay. But the data shows that the overwhelming amount of app use is tied directly to social media and gaming. Apps that don’t solve a basic problem for people are quickly forgotten on the 4th screen.

Paper forms may be old school, but that doesn’t mean they are ineffective. When combined with a simple and secure online store that is branded for you, they provide the best physical reminder and and online platform that drives sales.

Paper forms may be "old school", but combined with a branded online store, they can be incredibly effective sales tools.

Here is what Melissa Brewer at 4ever Photography in Vancouver, WA (not Canada) had to say:

“For us we are most successful in reaching all of the parents when we offer both online sales and printed forms. A lot of the success for online ordering (without picture forms) is dependent on how well the league/school communicates the ordering information to the parents. We also have some remote schools that do not have great internet service and some parents do not have computers or smart phones, so printed forms are a must-have. I will say that our peak in digital package sales probably occurred around seven or eight years ago. Now, we are gradually seeing more printed orders vs digital downloads for sports.

On the flip-side, more people are ordering digital downloads for schools. I think a lot of this is dependent upon demographics, age group, and type of sport/event. I just photographed a small club of 80 flag football kids. The director didn’t get the information out to the parents until the night before, and we only offered online prepay because it was a last-minute schedule. We barely had a 25% participation rate. This has never happened to me in over 17 years in the business. I believe if we had distributed order forms our participation rate would have been much higher.”

This is why H&H Color Lab continues to share its best-of-class sales program— a well thought out, yet simple and beautiful, online sales system that is complemented by paper order forms.

H&H's best-of-class online sales system, hhimagehost.

But what about the data entry? With years of listening to our customers, software development, and hard work, H&H has created workflows that allow photographers to spend 30 minutes of post-shoot production for every hour of photography. But we aren’t stopping there.

Over the last year, hhimagehost online sales, prepay, and image gallery sales users have been able to quickly and easily submit orders for printing by importing all data from the parents into our free, industry-leading project management program, hhschools.

Quickly and easily submit orders for printing.

As more families decide to order their photos online, photographers using H&H Color Lab will see their data-entry time reduced even further. This is the formula that has proven to maximize both sales and automation for the parent and the photographer. We want to deliver the best of both worlds. Whether parents start online or on a printed flyer (or a combination of both), you need to be available to do business when and where the parents are ready.

Don’t believe us? Follow the money. Your total sales are higher when you engage parents in printed flyers in combination with online sales.

What do you think? Tell us below.

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H&H Color Lab is not only the market leader in the sports photography business, we are your partner. We’ve been helping independent sports photographers run profitable businesses for 49 years.

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