The classical music is playing, and it sounds like a perfect documentary is in progress, but, WRONG. Data shows that total sales go down 30-40% when offering online proofing only. Why? Fewer buyers. What good is a higher sales average if the number of buyers goes down 40%?
A studio reported an event with 95% of parents viewing their online images. The event was shot over several hours and had 1,400 images posted. If you are looking for this to be a happy ending it’s not going to be. Total sales were, wait for it, $295.This was disastrous for the studio and really drove the point home that this model of online proofing first does not work. This is just one case; there are countless more who have realized the same thing.
Something else to consider, parents don’t care about a watermark. So, one of the reasons engagement rates are so low is because some parents are okay with screenshots (how disastrous for your business). “Good enough” has become the status quo.
So here is what you need to consider, after shooting 300 soccer players, would you rather have 200 players give you $30 each for total sales of $6k, or a $60 average from 30 orders and total sales of $1800? Let me give you a hint, if you chose the second one then you don’t need to read any further.
In addition, the notion that you can “post it and forget it” is laughable. As photographers, we all want “easy.” Many of us hate sales and the sales process. While we want “easy,” the question is, who is this “easy” for? Is it easy for you or for your customer? We need to invest in and nurture our sales process to monitor what is working and what is not. Merely posting online and hoping for the best is a failing strategy. If we are being honest, that’s not really a strategy at all. It’s lazy. Do you know the saying, “if it were easy, everyone would do it”?
While sales, marketing, and other non-camera related tasks can be hard, they don’t have to be.We believe the H&H Total Schools and Sports program is industry leading, but we will save that for another time.
Here is what “mom” wants. She wants more than ‘multiple images to choose from’ and more than ‘digital only’; mom wants fast, few steps, and easy. Make it easy for her to say yes and she will; the data supports it.
Any company that is pushing an “online gallery only” sales model, will be quick to show the higher individual sales. Average sales may appear to be higher with an online gallery, but that lacks context. When switching from a prepay forms combined with an online gallery to an online gallery only model, total buyers go DOWN by 30% or more. Not sure if that’s right? Ask someone who’s made the switch to show you their numbers. If your goal is to spend as little time on your business as possible, we get it. But if you want to minimize labor AND maximize sales, then an online proofing gallery only model can not be your first choice.
At H&H we focus on making it easy for parents to do business with you. You are making a critical mistake with your business when you focus on a business model that is “easy” for you. Having a successful business is about making good investments for you and your customers with a great return. With H&H, not only do we offer flexible sales options that you can provide your clients, (including both prepay combined with selling from an online image gallery), we also offer integrated systems proven to make it easy for parents to spend money with you on prints, keepsakes, build your own packages, and automated image downloads. In addition, we make it easy for you to fulfill those orders. At the end of the day we believe an entrepreneur that offers a quality product should be able to grow their business to whatever size they want, especially when they have access to a scalable back-end system like the one we offer at H&H.
Established, successful school and sports photographer, Jeff Edwards, had this to say:
“We ran a sales report on prepay jobs we did last fall. We had 88% participation with a decent average order. When I ran a sales report on a similar size and demographic school we sold with online proofs only, we had a 63% participation. Sure the average order value was a little higher, but so were my costs. Bottom line, I end up with more money in my pocket when I sell via prepay.”
When a parent tells you they want to see the images before they decide to order. What they are saying is they don’t know enough about you to be sure you can capture a good expression of their child. You, as the professional photographer, have other options to reassure parents of the quality you are promising. You can communicate with confidence that you stand behind your products by offering a money-back guarantee. If a full refund still isn’t enough to reassure parents, this is where second chance sales opportunities come in to play. Just make it clear that parents get the best deal when they trust you and prepay before picture day. That is why at H&H we focus on the best-in-class prepay system with automated second sale or second chance sales for those that chose to wait. If you’re not sure how effective this is, read our previous blog, “Parents Only Want Digital Files.”
H&H offers both prepay and online proofing sales capabilities; both with second chance purchase plans. There are times that in order to get the business, the organization signing your agreement may dictate terms. But be careful with the false lure of “it’s simple, just post the images for online sales.” Sitting back and waiting for consumers to purchase may leave you bitterly disappointed. When you look at the numbers needed to maximize sales for your time invested, the most profitable formula for volume sales is the printed flyer and online prepay with additional parent messaging leading up to picture day.
When you need to provide an image gallery, maximize sales by having an order deadline and accompanying printed proofs and text or email parent messaging. And when you’re finished with each season, don’t only ask yourself, “what was my average sale?”. Ask “What percent of potential buyers purchased?” After all, it’s about maximizing overall profits. Average sales are just one piece of the puzzle.
Let us know what you think. Comment below.