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Wow, has the world we live in changed since I was a young parent raising kids, and has technology changed the way we experience life.  Some 25 years ago as I had children beginning their school age years (circa mid 1990’s) we did many of the same things that parents do today – we put them on the bus each day, we attended parent/teacher conferences, we helped them with their homework, and we bought school pictures each fall.  It’s not so much what we did that was so different but it was how we did it.

And not just relating to sports and school pictures.  We talked on the landline phone because there were no smartphones.  We watched TV through cable because there was no Netflix, Hulu or Sling.  We watched programs live or recorded them for playback on our VCR. We listened to music through home sound systems but we didn’t stream and were amazed that we could take our songs with us through an iPod in 2001.  We watched the kids play video games through a Nintendo game console because there were no PlayStations, Xboxes, or other devices. We shared pictures as wallets across the miles to connect with family and friends because there was no Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.  Heck, there wasn’t even MySpace yet though that would arrive by 2004. We took pictures with cameras that used film, we shopped for goods and services in stores, we had no appreciation of the opportunities that the internet would bring and certainly no inkling of the power that smartphones and apps would bring.

It wasn’t the most efficient way to experience life but it’s all we knew and it worked in that context.  It took longer, required more effort, was limited in many ways, and it gave us as consumers very little in the way of choice, convenience and control.  By todays standards we were Neanderthals in terms of the capabilities and advantages that technology offers.

For school pictures it was all about School Picture Day.  Announcements heralding the big day began weeks in advance and there were flyers, sell sheets, order envelopes and basic choices built around different packages.  Reminders came in paper form as well cuz there were no emails, cell phone numbers, websites or apps (we were still using fax machines to communicate!). Decisions were made on what to order, forms were filled out using a pen, checks were written and in a few weeks to a month from picture day the prints were delivered to the school and sent home with the child.  Boy did we depend on that backpack and all things delivered to the home by way of the child! Plans included pre-pay and proofing but never did we see final prints until they came home in the backpack (or was it a book bag?). And reorders – don’t even think about it, too complicated and too much work for both the consumer and the photography company.

Not exactly the epitome of efficiency or automation, certainly all analog and void of the experience that would prevail with digital and highly limited compared to today’s workflows.  Sports photography was just taking hold across the US market and it paralleled school pictures in many ways. Flyers, sell sheets, order envelopes, package configurations (memory mates and T&I), checks or cash, and delivery in weeks to a month.  Good products, hard process to get them!

While the process worked will enough then to yield acceptable participation and sales the process left a lot to be desired.  Back then there was lesser competition and fewer options for us parents – consumer photos were smaller, lower quality, fewer choices and didn’t serve the need for prominent display, sharing and standing apart as the annual record of physical growth and context of participation and achievement.  Everything was done by hand (and done with my unreadable penmanship), there were no real time views of the images, mistakes were made, paperwork was clumsy and it took seemingly forever to deliver the final product! Oh, where was Amazon and next day delivery, online ordering tools, web sites to peruse the choices, and smartphones to allow all of this no matter where we were or how far from a computer we happened to be.

We were sold on the product based on last years experience and the need to update what was hanging on the walls.  We wanted professional capture and output, and we were effectively following conditioned behaviors – creatures of habit relegated to buy, sometimes (even often) out of guilt.  We bought in spite of the process and not because of the process!

And along came the internet, the web and then the smartphone!  Boy did things change – we now lived in a world of hyper-connectivity and hyper-adoption and were treated to;

  • Anytime/anywhere access
  • Infinite/immediate reach
  • Real time/all the time connectivity

Talk about a game changer – in every facet of life.  What it afforded us was a whole new way to experience life and to interact with people, with information, and with brands and the products they offered and sold.  We texted instead of talked and we used social media to connect and to communicate. It changed the entire consumer experience and the ways we engage the world around us including how we shopped, ordered, price compared and even had things delivered.  Ecommerce opened a whole new way of doing business and smartphones gave us the opportunity to do our business anytime and anywhere we wanted or needed to. And apps moved us from browsers to more effective and efficient user experiences. Wow did it make things fast, fun and friendly!

Smartphones have become the epicenter of human engagement and interaction.  They are the primary source of communications, information, socialization and connectivity.  Consumers are constantly connected through their smartphones, all day/everyday/everywhere. They use their devices to live and  experience life, online and through the network, to explore, entertain, inform and shop. Smartphones engage us, entertain us, enlighten us – they occupy us and pre-occupy us.  Never has a technology/device so captivated us, enticed us and consumed us. There are 229M smartphone users in the US (70% of the total US population) and they spend an average of 2.5 hours a day using their mobile devices on the internet.  Smartphones have transformed our lives and redefined our expectations, and this includes what is expected of the school/sports portrait market!

PhotoDay understands this and has been designed to serve this smartphone toting consumer.  The tool makes ordering easier, allows automatic find of individual students/players, eliminates the paper order forms, envelopes and sell sheets, and provides a full shopping cart experience on their smartphone.  Talk about fast, fun and friendly, the PhotoDay solution provides a much better customer experience that engages, enriches and inspires, resulting in increased sales and higher overall satisfaction. It also has benefits for the photographer, reducing workflow steps, stress and the time required to run the business.  No more paper, no more image and data matching, no more cashing checks, and opportunities for creativity.

So, I sit and wonder what my life could have been if I had a smartphone when I was raising my kids.  Certainly school and sports pictures would have been a whole lot easier, and ordering and payment would have been so streamlined.  Seeing images immediately and have technology like face recognition would have made for a much better experience, and being able to interact with all this on my phone – way cool.  

While I was not able to take advantage of all of this, you are!  Check out the PhotoDay tool for volume photography and see what it does for you and your customers, and see how it leverages the power of technology and smartphone devices to create and deliver a winning experience!

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