Research: Wide-Format Outlook Part Three: Consumers' Buying Habits

In the recent study InfoTrends and Wide-Format Imaging conducted called Who Buys Wide-Format, we surveyed three groups, (1) professional wide-format graphics print buyers, (2) wide-format print service providers, and (3) consumers that have purchased wide-format digital printing. The first two articles in this series focused on the insights derived from the print buyer and wide-format print service providers. This article highlights some of the key findings related to the consumer inputs as well as inputs from print service providers about developing a B2C wide-format business.

The first and most important finding related to developing a B2C strategy is that, yes, for many wide-format printing establishments, there should be one. In fact, the results of the research show that the vast majority of wide-format print service providers do significant business with consumers already. Out of the 300 print service providers surveyed only 14 percent reported that they do NO business with consumers, and the mean was almost 15 percent. That’s right, 15 percent of their business is with consumers. Please bear in mind that the average printer in this survey had annual revenue of more than $5 million, but even if we look at an average small wide-format printing company with $250K to $500K in annual wide format revenue, 15 percent of this business is a respectable $37.5K to $75K in annual revenue derived from consumers.

What share of your digital wide-format print jobs are done for consumers?

While there are pitfalls to the B2C business, such as the fact that the B2C wide-format printing business is characterized by very small order sizes, fast turnaround time requirements, and a distinct preference for convenience purchasing. Indeed all of these are true; consumers indicated an average order size of 2.3 prints, they paid an average of about $40, and 88 percent of the wide-format prints they bought were produced and delivered either on the same-day or the next day. It should be known that for this consumer research we included sizes as small as 17 inches in the definition of wide-format in order to include photo enlargements and other applications that could be included as part of the overall wide format B2C print service. This is an important point, because whether it is a straightforward photo enlargement or the integration of photos into banners and posters, photos seem to be an integral element of the B2C service. Almost 60 percent of consumers reported that they have purchased wide-format applications that are photo enlargements of family photos, vacation photos, or sports photos.

What types of wide-format prints have you bought?

The fact that so many of these consumer wide-format applications are photo oriented, while requiring fast turnarounds, yet still very limited orders, means it is very disruptive to the production workflow for sign companies or wide-format production houses to do B2C business. To me, perhaps this suggests the need for an extension of photo kiosk services that let consumers pick and print the best images they have captured. While a straight-up photo enlargement—for example up to a 30x40-inch poster—may challenge the image quality of a lot of consumer photos, integration of photos into wide-format posters and banner prints could easily be done where the order is placed on a kiosk and printed at a local store, then either shipped or picked up by the consumer. As a consumer, I think people would like this approach, as a kiosk interface could still present additional value-added services such as grommeting or laminating without the hurry or hard sell a consumer might feel they could experience if they took their images to a sign shop.

Just to validate the chart above, I want to show the data from when we asked those print service providers that report they do wide-format printing for consumers, which applications they produce for consumers. As the chart shows, the application mix includes banners, posters, signs, photography, art prints, presentations, and more.

Which of the following applications do you regularly produce on your digital wide-format printer for consumers?

There is another very important element to a wide-format B2C business development strategy, that more than 20 percent of the consumers who bought wide-format graphics bought them on impulse. So, while it seems there could be an extension of photo print kiosk services, clearly there is an opportunity to draw people into your shop with window displays and banners that call attention to the service and perhaps illustrate the possibilities.

The chart below shows there is potentially a strong opportunity for on-line ordering of wide-format graphics from consumers. When we asked where these consumers bought wide-format graphics from, 43 percent bought from a copy shop that offers wide-format graphics, while 41 percent bought from a retail shop that specializes in signs and graphics. Similar numbers reported that they would consider the same suppliers. As the chart shows though, while only 18 percent of the consumers reported that they bought from an on-line source, 48 percent reported that they would consider an on-line source. For consumers, convenience is a critical aspect of many shopping experiences, and of course using the Internet can be just the kind of low-pressure, highly convenient shopping method many are looking for.

Where did you go to buy wide-format graphics? Where would you consider buying wide-format graphics in the future?

The data shows that there is likely a good opportunity for wide-format printing establishments to sell wide-format graphics using the Internet. Of course, building the e-commerce infrastructure and driving traffic to your website to buy wide-format graphics are necessary elements of building that business. The good news is that there are organizations now offering low-cost website development including e-commerce capabilities and directory services to sign shops and wide-format digital printing establishments. These services could go a long way towards helping small shops expand their wide-format print services beyond their local markets.