Spring Kick Off

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of birds chirping, flowers blooming, and photographers setting up their tripods. As spring approaches, it’s time for you to gear up for the upcoming season. At Fotomerchant, we know preparation is key, so we’ve compiled a handy guide to help you make this season your best one yet. Let’s do this.

Prep for the New Season in Commerce

Whether you’re shaking things up or sticking to what has worked in the past, starting the season on the right foot is crucial. Create a new season in your account to keep your marketing, reports, and Portal organized. This simple step makes gathering data as pleasant as a spring breeze.

Increasing prices? Please make us aware. Communicating these changes is essential so we’re all on the same page. The same also goes for changes to your product offerings. Fresh offerings can add excitement and attract more sales, so if you plan on incorporating new products, let us know!

Start fresh. Duplicate your session template, adjusting settings as needed for the upcoming season. Don’t forget catalogs and packages—review and make necessary changes. Future you will thank you for these clearly defined, season-specific frameworks, making informed decisions for the following seasons straightforward.

Update Your Backgrounds

Spring is a time of renewal, and your background offerings should reflect that. Fotomerchant provides studios access to a diverse library of backgrounds suitable for any season. Take this opportunity to review and refresh your background options. Contact your customer success team to add a cost associated with new backgrounds.

Review Your Client List

Take advantage of the calm before the storm to review your client list in Commerce. Check for duplicates, ensuring accurate client information. If you are using Portal, remember that charges are per client, so eliminating duplicates can save you from sneaky added costs.

Stay Informed 

Our team is always working on new releases and improvements. Stay in the loop with webinars offering insight into upcoming features, releases, or features you may not be utilizing to their fullest potential. Check out our blogs for additional information, ideas, or customer stories because who knows what your workflow might be missing?

Lock In Your Marketing Plan

Do your future self a favor and ensure your marketing plan is in place. Take advantage of our data-informed approach to marketing to make your next season better and faster than ever. Learn more about that in this blog here.

With the right preparation and our support, this season is bound to be a blooming success. Keep an eye out for upcoming webinars we’ve got coming your way. As you prep for spring, keep up to date with ways you can further streamline your workflow. We’ve got your back; let’s make this season unforgettable together.

Reach out to get started with us or learn more.

Get the Most Out of Your Data

With the right approach, data can be transformative. In the following blog, we’ve unpacked our methods of collecting, sorting, and analyzing data. From our insights into our epic School Photography Industry report to general data collection tips and tricks, it’s a true behind-the-scenes glimpse. So go forth, read, and learn how to get the most out of your data! 

The School Photography Report

As a collaboration with SPOA, we’ve created the School Photography Industry Report to aid the understanding of the dynamics of the school photography industry.  Over the past two years, we’ve surveyed over 74,000 parents in every state of the USA and reached 2,500 educators. Through our survey, we strive to promote industry growth and innovation by equipping photography companies with readily available data and usable insights. It’s an annual report to provide insights into the industry because, without data, we are only guessing. Want to view the report? Click here.

Use these insights to evaluate your business and the potential untapped opportunities in our industry. 

Key takeaways from this year’s report:

  • Price, quality, and variety are still trending as crucial factors in meeting customer expectations
  • Customization and convenience are emerging as pivotal factors in achieving customer satisfaction and increasing perceived value
  • Ease, digital products, alternate payment methods, and an excellent shopping cart user experience are highly desired by customers

New this year

Let me tell you, the latest addition to this year’s insights report, titled ‘New Data, New Insights,’ is an absolute game-changer. It’s a direct result of incorporating invaluable feedback from our previous report and leveraging the freshest data available for this year. 

What’s truly exciting is the emergence of new focus areas that demand our attention; in a world where choice, customization, and convenience reign supreme, these elements have taken center stage like never before. They’re not just important; they’re vital.

We’ve got our finger on the pulse of this dynamic industry, and this year’s insights report is here to show you the underlying patterns and key drivers that shape our industry. What makes it even more exciting is that you can harness these insights as a powerful tool to dissect your business and uncover the treasure trove of uncharted opportunities waiting to be seized.

While we’re here, check out these insights!

Customization

  • 62% of photography companies provide custom background options
  • 74% of parents want to create their own package
  • Our findings reveal that 71% of parents favor basic color backgrounds, 57% appreciate textured backgrounds, and 40% lean towards themed backgrounds

Technology

  • A staggering 53% of parents now seek to utilize their child’s school photos as digital products
  • Almost half of parents want a digital product included in a package
  • 55% of parents want to include custom backgrounds when purchasing digital products

Communication

  • Teachers surveyed believe that 31% of parents prepay with paper order forms, while only 9% of parents did
  • Parents want to “ship to school for free,” whereas Teachers want to “ship to home for a small fee”
  • Parents and Teachers are not on the same page when it comes to knowing how much parents are actually spending on school photos

With this wealth of knowledge, your school photography company can now better meet the needs and expectations of parents and schools through making data-informed decisions. However, these are not strategies. So, see how these insights can work for your company with the nuances of your own business in mind.

Next year’s report

The School Photography Industry Report will be back in 2024 and is set to be our biggest year yet! We’ll strive to understand what motivates non-buyers and focus on educator decision-makers. Increasing the survey time frame to 12 months, from January 2024 to December 2024, we aim to capture seasonal information while facilitating growth in overall participation.

But how can I use this data to inform my decision for Fall 2024!? Don’t worry; we have you covered! An interim report will be produced in July 2024, delivered at SPOA 2024, and sent to Fotomerchant customers and SPOA members. This will provide a snapshot of the data and an overview of the emerging stand-out trends.

There you have it! The School Photography Industry Report is a crucial guide for businesses in the dynamic school photo and yearbook industry. Surveying thousands of parents and educators, the report unveils current trends and provides detailed insights. The rise of customization and the increasing demand for digital products underscore the evolving landscape of customer preferences and expectations. It goes beyond industry understanding, acting as a powerful tool to discover untapped opportunities within your business.

Advocating for a ‘data-informed’ approach, the report recognizes the synergy of data and human experience for optimal results, fostering a culture of data collaboration and strategic decision-making. It’s not merely a snapshot of the industry; it’s a dynamic tool empowering your business to navigate change, seize opportunities, and align decisions with the evolving needs of parents, educators, and the industry.

Data-Driven vs Data-Informed

Chances are, you’re familiar with the term ‘data-driven,’ a methodology where data, devoid of human presumptions or external influences, exclusively guide decisions. While this approach has its merits, it may not be optimal for every business. 

In our journey, we’ve found that embracing a ‘data-informed’ approach resonates more with our ethos. This nuanced strategy allows us to leverage data as a valuable tool, incorporating it into our decision-making process while keeping sight of the valuable insights that human experience and intuition bring to the table.

In essence, the implementation of a data-informed approach has not only optimized our operational efficiency but has also reinforced a culture that is built on data collaboration and strategic decision-making across our organization.

Data “Rule of Thumb” 

Now, you might wonder, how can I transform my studio into a data-informed business? Let’s pull back the curtain and explore our approach to data. Follow along to gather valuable tips for integrating data-informed decision-making into your repertoire.

  • When diving into data analysis and whipping up a report, stick to the basics for a great result. Set crystal-clear goals, so you’re not just spinning your wheels. Keep your data honest – check sources and don’t let any sneaky errors slip through.
  • When it’s showtime, pick visuals that are as spot-on as your grandma’s apple pie. Keep it simple, though – no need for brain-busting complexity. Explain why your data matters – give it some context. And don’t forget to shine a spotlight on the real stars of the show – those key insights that make your data sing.
  • Uniformity is your sidekick, so stick to a consistent style. Make it easy on the eyes with clear labels and jargon-free zones. Craft a story from your data; take your reader on a journey from the beginning to the lightbulb moments. And when you wrap it up, serve some actionable advice on a silver platter.

 So, next time you’re crunching numbers, follow these tips and get the most out of your data!

That’s all for now, folks! 

Ready to embark on your data journey? Unpack the treasure trove of tools we’ve shared in this blog. Combine your discoveries with insights from our report to make your studio an unstoppable force. For a deeper dive, check out our “Generating and Analyzing Reports” blog; your passport to unlocking the full potential of our Commerce reporting hub. Armed with savvy decisions, let the excitement of discovery fuel your path. Every click counts, and every report tells a tale.

This journey is possible because of YOU. Thank you! Eager to contribute? Get in touch with our legendary team about becoming a survey distributor or question creator. Together, let’s chart a course toward a future where data-informed decision-making steers our industry and propels it to new heights of success.

How We Work

Totally Remote. Totally Awesome.

The Fotomerchant team is all about good vibes. We are people who like people, and it’s important to us that we all respect each other and get along. We gravitate towards hiring people with these traits because we have a clear idea of who we are and who we want to be, not only with one another but with our customers and within the broader industry. 

Everyone in the Fotomerchant team works remotely, which means that we don’t have any shared office space; the majority of our team works from their homes. We love working this way because it allows us to have the best people possible without geographical restrictions. It also means that we can connect with our customers across a broad spectrum of time zones, an invaluable asset to our industry-leading support model.

But how do we manage this? There are some very specific challenges that a remote team has to navigate, and we have learned some important lessons along the way so that we continue to be better and faster, day by day.

Reach Out

We encourage our team to have as many video calls as they need. Struggling to work out a problem? Why not run through it with another team member? It’s everyone’s responsibility to fight against feeling isolated, though we understand this can be a tricky balance to navigate.

“Water cooler chatter” has an important place in an in-person office; fun small talk is crucial to developing a sense of community and connection. We have dedicated Slack channels for music & books, pets, and one dedicated to random silliness. Getting to know and share with the team is at everyone’s fingertips.

Use Good Tools

Slack

Communication is key. It is vital that we have a great way to connect to both the Fotomerchant team and our customers. Slack is a fantastic platform we use to organize, plan, connect, joke, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Sure, we’ll have Zoom meetings throughout the week, but Slack is the team’s central communication hub. There are full-staff, team-specific, project, and customer channels.

Venue

Venue is a terrific platform where we run our full-team Town Halls. There is an excellent range of interaction tools: polls, Q&A’s, breakout rooms, and randomized 1-1’s. This is only something we introduced to the team earlier this year, and we are still developing ways to maximize all the fun new toys it comes with; their support has been really helpful, and they are constantly adding new features. Definitely worth checking out!

Asana

Being a team that is so spread out means we have to collaborate proactively. Asana is a task management solution that works exceptionally well for our support, marketing, and Capture teams. Large multi-tiered projects and small support tasks: Asana helps us manage it all.

Tips and Tricks

Here are some tips for remote work from a staff handbook we are developing. It’s not yet been released, so this is a sneak peek just for you!

  • Don’t be afraid to take a break. Not one where you’re still checking your phone…a real one!
  • Get outside and move around. Sun is good (so is sunblock)! It helps the body and the mind; some Vitamin D works wonders! Plenty of seemingly immovable work problems have been solved during a walk around the block.
  • It can be nice to switch up your working environment occasionally, even if it’s still at home. This can look like a simple desk re-arrangement, making your workspace tidy or pleasant to be around, plants are proven to be particularly beneficial, or simply moving to a different part of your home.
Here are some of our own team’s setups.
 
  • Some basic routines to start your day and establish your workspace can go a long way. Some team suggestions include:
    – Enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee
    – Having a particular scented diffuser/candle for your office area
    – Listening to a certain playlist or genre during ‘heads down’ work sessions
  • Some of our team regularly use the Pomodoro method, especially when they have a full workload. This site is recommended.
  • InsightTimer has an extensive range of free guided and unguided meditations, reflections, and exercises. A healthy mind and a healthy body make for a healthy life.

So that’s a tiny glimpse of life with Fotomerchant; along with developing the best workflow solutions available on the market, we are committed to developing the best fully remote team experience worldwide. It’s an exciting goal and something I am thrilled to be part of helping build.

Don’t be a stranger; follow us on socials to stay in the Fotomerchant loop!

Let’s Get Digital

It’s undeniable. Digital products are here to stay. How can we say this with such confidence? Well, we asked. Both our 2022 and 2023 School Photography Industry Reports revealed a steady increase in popularity of digital products. 

Hold your horses! Before we dive into the data, let’s look at what digital products actually are.

Fotomerchant’s Digital Images

What are digital images? Well, they’re the future of photography. Instead of physical prints, you deliver high-quality digital files to your clients. It’s convenient, modern, and oh-so-trendy. Gone are the days of paper slips, USB sticks, and CDs; we’ve streamlined digital products to a simple click.

Woah, hang on. These aren’t just any old digital products. Our automated digital delivery is truly something special. With Fotomerchant’s digital images, delivery is a breeze as parents are sent their images via email or SMS. Easily downloaded alongside a license file, the images go straight to the parents without requiring extra steps. Easy.

Set It and Forget It

Oh, and did I mention this is all automated? Yep. The beauty of this process is that you can let it run in the background once it’s set up. Even pre-order digital delivery can be automated! It’s like having your own little digital assistant taking care of everything while you sip your coffee. Ah, the sweet taste of automation. 

If you are in a scenario where you do not want the digital images to go automatically, you can hold the digitals so that you can release them when you’re ready. We’re all about flexibility here at Fotomerchant! This option is configurable at every stage so that you can fit this into your workflow.  

The Customer Experience

Let’s step into your customer’s shoes for a moment. After they place their order, they’ll receive a confirmation email. But wait, there’s more!

They also get an email (and SMS if you’d like) when their digital files are ready for download. They can choose individual images or a zip file for quick and easy access. How’s that for customer service?!

Another handy feature is the ability to quickly re-send the digital downloads if a parent requests it. While in commerce, you’ll be able to review whether the digital product has been downloaded and easily re-send. 

Unpacking Digital Bundles and Galleries

Now we’re going to talk about digital bundles, and who doesn’t love a good bundle? Get ready to supercharge your digital offerings!

Create bundles to offer parents a single image on various backgrounds. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure for digital backgrounds! You can offer seasonal and special occasion bundles. The possibilities are endless. As the 2023 School Photography Industry Report data showed, parents love having options, especially when it comes to preserving precious memories.

Oh, let’s not forget about digital galleries. These are perfect for when you’ve captured multiple images of the same subject with one background. It’s like a little treasure trove of memories all in one place.

Think about it. Parents get all their child’s photos beautifully presented on a single background. It’s like flipping through a digital yearbook, and who doesn’t love reminiscing about the good ol’ school days?

The Power of Variety

Give your customers the variety they crave. You can offer seasonal backgrounds or mix and match to keep things exciting. You can even create multiple bundles, each with its unique charm. So, why limit yourself to one when you can offer parents an array of choices? Maybe even throw in some Christmas and Halloween backgrounds for good measure!

That’s all for now! Good on you for taking the time to read this blog and dip your toe into the digital realm. So, what are you waiting for? Embrace the digital revolution, and watch your studio thrive like never before.

Want to learn more about this digital revolution? You can learn how to set up and manage digital products here. Watch our recent webinar, where Tearah and Mark will expand on what was covered in this blog. Oh, and get excited for the second blog in this series. We’ll be looking at the data surrounding digital products. It’ll be a hoot. 

Fotomerchant’s School Photography Insights

Informing, Educating, and Inspiring Growth

We’re thrilled to welcome back the School Photography Industry Report for 2023! This year’s edition is better than ever, building upon the success of last year’s report. As a joint initiative between Fotomerchant and School Photographers of America, we aim to provide you with valuable data to inform, educate, and inspire your organization’s growth. 

At its core, this report aims to uncover what parents truly want when it comes to school photography. It serves as a source of truth, helping us understand their preferences, needs, and expectations. We can foster continuous growth and improvement in the historic School Photography industry by delving into the insights provided. What’s not to love?!

This blog will present a high-level view of the report, and we highly recommend you take a look at the full report to gain an all-encompassing view of the data. For now, let’s look at some of the highlights. Strap in. We’ve got some transformative data to reveal. 

The Power of Data

Last year’s report was well-received, and we’re grateful to announce that our survey respondents have increased by an impressive 44% this year! You beauty!

With this expanded participation, we have been able to evaluate and compare data gathered over the past couple of years, giving us a comprehensive view of the industry’s progress and changes. We’re pumped to see what the future holds and how this report can continue to benefit the school photography community. To further the growth of this survey in future years, read the bottom of this page, where you can find out how to share the survey.

Let’s Dive into the 2023 Report

We’re not joking when we say this year’s report is better than ever. We’ve received invaluable feedback from 44,000 parents who shared their opinions on various topics, such as print size, photo quality, likes and dislikes, and more. Our survey covered 74,000 parents from 50 states across the U.S., representing 2,500 schools. That’s a whole lot of opinions! 

We’ve also expanded the report to include a dedicated section on yearbooks, incorporating 13 new questions. You’ve got no excuse to sleep on the importance of yearbooks. 65% of parents reported buying one last year, highlighting the clear demand for this product offering.

Insights from Parents

As a starting point, we began with parents, hoping to understand their purchasing behaviors better. We can use demographic data as a baseline to correlate how these factors affect their purchasing habits.

Most parents were female, aged 25-60, and the primary decision-makers in their households. English was the primary language for 96% of respondents. We also found that most parents had children attending public schools, making this report a good reflection of the overall educational landscape in the U.S. With data from many states, we have a rich and diverse dataset to draw insights from. High fives all around here at the Fotomerchant & SPOA HQ!

What Do Parents Think?

To understand parents’ perspectives, we asked them a series of targeted questions. Here’s a glimpse of what we discovered.

How do parents want to purchase their school photos? The top preference for current purchase methods was pre-paying online. However, when asked about their preferred ordering process, most parents chose to receive an online proof via email or an order form. The least popular option was a packaged print ordered at wholesale. The data never lies; it’s clear that parents want the convenience of online proofing.

What do parents think about price, quality, and choice? Opinions on price were divided, with a 50/50 split between parents who found it too expensive and those who considered it fair.

Although, the majority of parents expressed satisfaction with the quality of the photos. 

How do parents want to be notified about picture day? Email and text alerts emerged as the top preferences for parents to receive notifications about picture day. This is excellent news for any studios looking to convince schools of the importance of providing emails for their students.

Alongside this data, it was also revealed that most parents preferred to be notified one month in advance, allowing them ample time to prepare.

Insights from Educators and Schools

There’s no denying it, educators and school administrators play a crucial role in the school photography ecosystem. It’s important to consider their opinions and perspectives to ensure client retention. Here are some highlights of what our report revealed about educators.

What Do Educators Think?

We set out to understand if educators knew how parents preferred to purchase school photos. We suspected a slight disconnect, and boy, oh boy, there was some interesting data revealed here. There was a significant difference between educators’ responses and those of parents. 

For example, prepaying online and prepaying via a paper order were the most common methods reported by educators, while parents showed a stronger preference for online proofing. This disparity highlights the need for better communication between schools and parents to align their expectations.

We also asked educators their opinions on price, quality, and choice. While the majority believed that the price of school photos was fair, there was uncertainty regarding parents’ satisfaction with the cost. 

Similarly, opinions on the variety and options offered to parents were split, further indicating a disconnect between educators’ and parents’ perceptions. An example is the disparity between educator and parent answers when asked questions about shipping options.

The Importance of Yearbooks

Yearbooks hold a special place in the hearts of parents, serving as a milestone and a cherished keepsake of their child’s academic journey. 

Our survey revealed that 65% of parents purchased a yearbook last year, highlighting the strong demand for this product. Price emerged as a pain point, with 40% of parents indicating they would change their minds if the price were more favorable.

Personalization was also highlighted as important, with 61% of parents valuing the inclusion of their child’s photo and name on the cover. You heard them. Parents want personalization!

We want to stress that we’ve only scratched the surface of understanding yearbook preferences. We’re well aware that there are many aspects to this product offering we may not have covered. This year’s yearbook data is an excellent baseline for us to build on in future years. Watch this space!

A Deeper Understanding

We plan to release a separate insights report based on two years of surveys to enhance our understanding further and provide you with even more valuable insights. This upcoming report will offer a deeper dive into the data and trends. Keep your eyes peeled for this.

We Value Your Feedback

Your insights are crucial in making this annual report meaningful and impactful. Please take a moment to share your thoughts on what you found informative and where you think improvements can be made. Your on-the-ground knowledge is invaluable to the effectiveness of this report. Scan the QR code to share your thoughts.

Join Us!

To expand the reach of our survey and gather more comprehensive data, we invite you to sign up to help us distribute next year’s 2024 survey to your contacts. Your involvement will contribute to the collective knowledge of the school photography industry, so don’t take a backseat! The future growth of this report hinges on you sharing future surveys. Sign up by scanning the QR code above and be part of shaping this industry’s future. 

Bon Voyage 2023 School Photography Industry Report

Now that our report is out in the world, making waves, we’d like to extend our gratitude to all the participants and contributors who made this report possible. Your input and engagement are invaluable to shaping the school photography industry. Let’s continue to learn, grow, and provide the best possible experiences for parents and schools alike. 

With powerful data, you can make educated decisions for the future of your business. Remember, without data, we’re only guessing. Let’s navigate the industry together and create a bright future based on a solid bedrock of data.

Hungry for more? Watch our latest webinar, where Lucy Richards and Luke Calo dive deeper into this report. From the minds who helped to build this report, it’s not one to be missed!

Pre-Season Checklist

As the next season approaches, plenty must be done to ensure you’re prepared for the new challenges, goals, and growth the next season has to offer. 

While you may have your laundry list of to-do’s already planned, we’ve compiled a few key items for you to take the guesswork out of pre-season planning. Use our guide below to make your next season with Fotomerchant better and faster than ever (you should’ve seen that coming).

Lock In Your Marketing Plan

At Fotomerchant, we provide a tailored marketing plan based on your customer demographic, your business goals for the season, and industry insights gathered from our team. We take a data-informed approach to marketing, analyzing the performance of past campaigns and finding what works best for you and your clients! By confirming your marketing plan, you ensure that you and your customer success team are all on the same page and can prepare for the season accordingly. 

Want to learn more about the marketing we offer? Sink your teeth into this blog looking at marketing linked to stage types.

Prep for the New Season in Commerce

Whether you’re making big changes to your upcoming season or utilizing what has worked in the past, it’s important to start on the right foot or season in Commerce. Create a new Season in your account so that your marketing, reports, and Portal platform can be clearly organized and any data from the season can be gathered with ease. 

Once your new season is created, duplicate your session template and adjust the settings as needed for the upcoming season. You can also duplicate catalogs and packages, reviewing what you have in place and making any necessary changes.

Future you will be glad to have these clearly defined, season-specific frameworks. You’ll be able to pull data (using our handy “review usage” feature) that accurately reflects this season’s performance, allowing you to make informed decisions for the following seasons.

Review Your Client List

While things are relatively quiet, take a moment to review your client list in Commerce to make sure you don’t have any duplicates of schools, leagues, etc., and that the client information is correct. If you plan to use Portal, note that Portal charges per client, so those duplicates could cost you! Nobody likes sneaky added costs.

Update Your Backgrounds

We provide our studios with access to a diverse library of backgrounds fit for any season through partnerships with Cloud CT and 36Pix. Use this time to review the backgrounds you currently offer and add or replace backgrounds to give your customers new and exciting options for the next season. You can also contact your customer success team to add a cost associated with the new backgrounds; a great upsell opportunity! Read this blog to learn more about how you can best leverage backgrounds.

Keep an Eye on New Releases and Webinars

Our team constantly works on new releases and improvements to our wide range of Fotomerchant products and services. Webinars are an excellent way for you to gain insight on upcoming, newly released, or even existing features that you may not be utilizing to their fullest potential.

We also publish blogs (just like this one!), giving you more information, ideas, or customer stories about our features and workflows. You may not even realize what your workflow is missing! Plus, you get the added benefit of seeing the smiling faces of your fellow Fotomerchant team members, a win-win!

Has all this talk made you excited for your upcoming season? We hope so! You have the tools to make this season the best one yet, and we want to help you every step of the way. If you’re an existing customer, be on the lookout for a customized pre-season checklist that breaks down each task above into manageable steps with helpful videos and guides from our team. Yeah, we’re just that prepared. Now it’s your turn (with our help, of course). 

SPAC: Looking Back

As SPAC 2023 looms, we are feeling nostalgic. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at SPAC times gone by.

SPAC History Lesson

SPAC? If you haven’t had the privilege of attending this event, let me run you through it. SPAC, otherwise known as School and Sports Photographers Association of California, is a nonprofit volunteer organization that annually holds a conference in Las Vegas. I’m not just telling you this information for trivia night points; SPAC and Fotomerchant have an intertwined past. We honestly would not be where we are without SPAC.

In 1956, SPAC began with a small group of photographers from California meeting in Vegas to network and socialize. Since these humble beginnings, SPAC now welcomes photographers, studios, eCommerce providers, printing labs, and many more. SPAC currently serves as the acronym for School Photographers Annual Conference. This shows that SPAC now serves the needs of all school photographers in the US, not just California. Traveling from all corners of the country to gather, SPAC has genuinely become something with intangible value.

Fotomerchant & SPAC’s History

2016

We go way back. It all started in January 2016. We were doing some market research and became interested in the high-volume industry. On a reconnaissance mission, we tried to gather as much information as possible from this event. Turning up to this event as attendees, our CTO Derek Clapham and lead developer Gabriel Moreira had their eyes opened to the potential for innovation and growth in the school photography industry. 

It was truly illuminating. That’s not all that happened this year; more importantly, new friendships were forged that laid the foundation for many SPACs to come.

2017

Fast forward to 2017, and we were rocking up with our very first booth. Well, almost a booth. More like a trestle table. We all have to start somewhere. A small yet successful affair, we learned a lot from this year. You would have seen an early version of commerce if you had caught us at SPAC during this time. We also picked up our first large customer, so it was a successful mission all around.

This year also marked the first of Derek’s talks. The room was packed with around 220 people.

2018

This was the year things began to pick up for us. We had our very own booth with a snazzy backdrop to match. Four of us attended, pumped to show off our commerce solution with new expanded functionality.

2019

In 2019 we were given the opportunity to occupy a double booth set up. Our presence was growing, and with this, our Australia day party was born. With almost double the team members from 2018 now here to help out, we got to work providing a fantastic party in one of the hotel suites.

2020

This year marked a turning point for us. Our team had gained in size and had an impressive new booth set up. With a large-scale backdrop, we were making a statement, and it worked. Attracting many new faces, we spent most of our conference giving demo, after demo, after demo.

Derek gave a presentation to a room packed like sardines. The buzz generated in this room was electric as people stood outside the door to get a glimpse of our new capture device. We were making some serious innovative movements with a new hardware workflow solution.

This was the second Australia day party we hosted. In the suite, the party was a raging success. Party-goers posed for photos and had their backgrounds knocked out.

2021

You might be thinking 2021? I don’t remember that SPAC. Well, there is a good reason for that. This was the first ever virtual SPAC conference, meaning two things for us. One, we saved a lot of money on airfares, and two, very late nights. We transformed our Sydney office space into a demo recording studio and got to work.

Our usual Australia day party also became virtual. Hosted in our CEO’s house, we gathered for a day of BBQ’ing, pie making, and poorly timed jokes due to zoom lags.

We also held our first-ever competition this year. The mission? Provide us with the most creative use of our background knockout feature. The prize? Win a trip down under! We had some amazing entries come through, and then we had a challenging task ahead of choosing a winner.

The winner ended up being Dennis Vargas! Enjoy his entry. We know we did.

2022

Our presence this year was the largest yet. Joining forces with the Simplephoto team, we had quite a large crew. Last year we also rocked up to SPAC with our new branding. Our booth has never looked better, thanks to the hard efforts of the new marketing team. We have come a long way since our 2017 setup of a trestle table and two laptops!

We presented our end-to-end workflow solution this year. We wanted to show attendees we have you covered, right from snapping the photograph to a customer placing their order. This mission remains unchanged; use us in an end-to-end capacity or slot us into the missing parts of your workflow. We work the way you work!

We had some invigorating conversations during our presentations in 2022. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Backgrounds Masterclass with 36Pix

  • School Photography Industry Report 2022 – Interim Results

  • Growing as a Volume Studio with Strawbridge

  • Live Case Study with Prime Sports

Our Australia day party was also a smashing success. With a bunch of new team members, this was an excellent way to get to know each other.

As we did the preceding year, we hosted our Win a Trip to Australia competition again. This year’s competition involved attendees creating their boarding passes and answering a simple question; how would you make a kangaroo better and faster? A simple but complex question, we received some very interesting answers.

Greg Chatmon from Southern Images reigned supreme in 2022 as he won the trip. Here was his entry…Looking forward to seeing you soon, Greg!

Bring On 2023

We can’t wait to see what this upcoming SPAC brings us. As usual, we suspect long nights and lots of amazing new friendships.

We want to round up this blog with a message to SPAC.  Thank you.

Thank you for all you have done for us over these years. Since our first 2016 SPAC experience, we have felt immensely supported by the great people who make up the SPAC committee. As we strive to innovate the industry, problem-solving with the newest technology available, SPAC has been there. Always providing fantastic feedback and support, we couldn’t imagine this industry without you guys and gals!

Now that we have felt all the feels, I have a message for you, reader. 2023. SPAC. Be there or be square. 

Our team will attempt to get all the shut-eye we can on our flights in preparation for any burning questions you have. So come ready. We know we are. 

See you real soon!

Conversational Support

This article is extending further on the recent webinar:

Customer Success through Better & Faster Support

We’re all used to the process of searching for a support number online or sending an email into the ether in the hope that someone will receive it and respond with a fix-all solution to our query. But what if this process was different? What if you could send off a quick message to support just like you’d send a text to a friend? 

We’ve been pioneering a new way of handling support for the last few years, and I’d love to share some details with you.

Deli Counter Support 

Let’s be honest; no one really enjoys it when they need to contact support. It typically means something isn’t working as expected, and now you’re left frustrated and needing help. Unfortunately, a standard support model we like to call “deli-counter” support has formed. This type of support model requires you to “take a ticket” and wait in some kind of queue until you are called upon and your issue or question can be addressed. The timeframe for a resolution in this scenario is not usually speedy. And while this type of model can be effective for certain situations, we’ve discovered that it is not the best solution. So we decided to make it better. 

A New Way to Support 

Customer happiness is one of our top priorities. We want you to feel your needs are being addressed efficiently. This is why we’ve made the process of submitting a support request as easy as messaging a friend by using Slack, and as a bonus, you may even get a few laughs in return, you know, like a random photo of a wizard because that’s just how our support rolls. In addition, this conversational approach to our support structure has provided more transparency between you and our support team, allowing us to build and maintain more meaningful relationships.

 

“A lot of support chats are automated, so the automated responses send you to a knowledge base article, and sometimes there’s an infinite loop. When you eventually get to a human, it’s just infuriating.” – Tearah (07:14-07:39)

We don’t think you should have to message an automated system to reach our support team like Tearah mentions above because it further delays your problem being resolved or your question being answered. We know your time is valuable, and getting stuck in an infinite loop isn’t our idea of fun either. With our new approach, you can easily message our support team, and we can quickly identify the problem and provide more frequent updates while working towards a solution. Doing this has alleviated many of the delays with the more traditional support model.

 

“We don’t require that same traditional email escalation model. So often, the person who’s let you know, I’ve seen you, is the person who comes back and finishes it.” – Tearah (09:08-09:21)

 

As difficult as it is for you to wade through multiple emails, it is just as difficult for us to remain up to date on how a request is proceeding and what steps have already been taken when relying solely on email communication. Reviewing previous messages in a single area has reduced the potential for errors when providing status updates and allowed us to respond in a more timely manner. We can also quickly bring in other support team members to help expedite those trickier problems that can sometimes arise. But we can do so without the headache of missing email trails or confusing email chains that even that wizard couldn’t decipher.

 

“We’re very invested in knowing the challenges of the industry and of a studio because that’s how we push our products, platforms, and our support to be better.” – Tearah (25:06-25:15)

 

Most importantly, Fotomerchant is built on the things you wanted, and our conversational support model has given us a better opportunity for advancements in product development. You can send us your spur-of-the-moment ideas anytime. Whereas, before, we likely wouldn’t have received those ideas because submitting an email or official request via a ticketing system is much more time-consuming, especially when these ideas don’t typically surface during the traditional 9-to-5. Making it convenient for you to get your ideas to us has allowed us to make many of the updates you are enjoying right now.

 

Moving Forward

Completely restructuring our support to accommodate a faster way to communicate with you has boosted our rapport and helped us create unique business relationships and friendships. But we’re not done yet. While we’ve seen significant improvements, we are always looking to make things better and faster. So keep those wizard hats on and send us your brilliant ideas anytime. They’re always welcome in our mind palace, and we’re always here.

 

 

Using Capture to open new revenue streams

There are two types of events happening during your low periods that you can capitalize on as a school/sports photographer. While you might shy away from it because it takes a lot of work to deliver a good experience for your customers, we have better, faster ways for you to do it.

Awards Nights/Graduations/Convocations along with Proms/Formals/Dances are excellent revenue-increasing opportunities for your business. Using Fotomerchant’s Capture solution opens up new workflow automations that can streamline your process, improve your customer’s experience, and add a wow factor to your business. You already have a relationship with the school/university/sports club, so why not use your Capture device in the off-season to generate some new income streams for your studio? 

First, let me tell you about a personal experience I had not long ago (and remember that this is the most common way of delivering photos for these events). My wife won a Dean’s award at her university, so she and I were invited to an awards ceremony where a hired photographer took our photo. It took weeks before we saw the pictures, and it took me over an hour to scroll through all the images to find the ones I actually wanted. I intensely disliked that experience, and now I want to rid the world of this type of terrible customer experience.

So how can it be done better and faster?

Fotomerchant’s Capture solution uploads photos in real-time via a dedicated cellular connection (wifi also available). Once the images are in our cloud platform, Fotomerchant automatically sorts out personal galleries for event guests. These personal galleries are immediately accessible on the guest’s smartphone and can be customized to include branding, image watermarks, messages, and a shopping cart. No more waiting to view photos days later once the excitement has worn off, and no more sorting through other people’s photos; your customers will be taken directly to their images with no other distractions. The best part for you? When the event is over, so is your work. All of your post-processing work has already been done using AI and automations.

No two events are the same, so you’ll be glad to know that we have a plethora of customization options and features. Let’s use a prom night and an awards ceremony as examples to show how you can achieve a better, faster result using some of the various options available with Fotomerchant’s Capture solution: 

Pre-Paid Prom Night Using Facial Recognition

For this event, the school has paid you upfront to photograph the event and then provide photos back to the school and the attendees as soon as possible.

Using the same Capture device that you’ve been using for school photo days, you can roam the event as much as you like (you’re not tethered to a laptop), taking photos. Each photo you take will be uploaded in real-time, automatically enhanced using AI, and sorted into personalized galleries for each person who registers. Then, within seconds, that person will receive a text message with a link to view their personal photo gallery in any web browser. The school will also receive a Dropbox folder which includes a copy of all photos taken that night. 

Here’s how easy it is to do all that:

  1. Create an ‘Event’ via our handy web console and select what features you want turned on. For this one, we’ll choose Photo First Mode, Customisable Registration Form, Facial Recognition, SMS messaging, Auto Image Enhancement, and Dropbox integration.
  2. Allow attendees to register their selfie to be used for automatic matching of their photos to their personal gallery.
  3. Roam the party taking photos and enjoy seeing the attendees’ faces light up when they get their pictures in their gallery in real-time!
 

Awards Night with Speculative Sales & No Attendee Information

You’ve been permitted to take photos for this event, but you aren’t being paid to be there. You are relying on sales to cover your costs and make a profit. The university has not provided you with any class lists or personal information about the students (and to keep things different from the other example, we won’t use facial recognition or our registration form).

For events where you don’t have any personal information but want to give event attendees access to their own personal gallery of photos in real-time, you can create your own “Gallery Cards.” Gallery Cards look like branded business cards with a unique QR code on the back. They can be scanned by a Capture device to add images to a gallery and then scanned by a customer for instant access to their gallery from the privacy of their device. Gallery Cards are designed to be an all-purpose solution for many situations.

Using the same Capture device you’ve been using for school photo days, you can run a photo studio or roam the event as much as you like (you’re not tethered to a laptop). Each photo you take will be uploaded in real-time, protected with a watermark, and sorted into personalized galleries for each Gallery Card. Then, within seconds, images will be available for purchase in Fotomerchant’s fully featured Commerce online shopping cart.

After completing a mini photo session with an attendee (or group of attendees), you’d simply scan their Gallery Card/s or give them a new card. They can scan the QR code and instantly view and purchase digitals and prints from the Fotomerchant Commerce shopping cart on their phone. They can also return to you later during the event to get more photos which you can easily scan onto their original gallery card so all their images will appear in the same place and be ready for purchase while the event is still fresh and exciting!

Here’s how easy it is to do all that:

  1. Order your custom branded Gallery Cards in advance via our handy web console. While you’re there, create an ‘Event’ and select what features you want turned on. For this one, we’ll choose Photo First Mode and Fotomerchant Commerce Integration.
  2. Allocate images to personal Gallery Cards in real-time by scanning a new or existing Gallery Card after each batch of pictures you take. 
  3. Enjoy hearing the exclamations of joy from the attendees’ when they get their photos in their own personal gallery in real-time, and your outburst of delight when you start seeing the sales revenue flowing in via Stripe!

As you can see, with a few clicks inside the Capture Console, you can set up your Events to use Fotomerchant Capture and its powerful automation to take the work out of these workflows. 

Contact us today to spare your customers from the lousy experience I had with my wife’s award ceremony photos and start using the powerful features available with Fotomerchant Capture.