My name is Jennifer, and I’ve been told I’m a target. According to the Photo Marketing Association International, my fashionable first name was chosen to represent the Generation X mom, a moniker to personify the powerful market that is perched to upend the photography retail business. The photo imaging trade association even went so far as to build The Complete Picture just for little ol’ me at this year’s PMA convention in Orlando. The cutting-edge concept store on the trade-show floor offered five “inspiration centers” that focused on how my namesake interacts with and engages with images, and how retailers can capitalize on these trends.
In other words, we gals have got the green stuff, and we’re supposedly chomping at the bit to give it up. But before you get excited about all the memory cards, scrapbooking embellishments, and photo paper you’re going to unload into my cart, listen up: I prefer a friendly conversation about taking pictures of my son over a detailed discussion about DMax. I only have about 20 minutes to shop in your store before I have to go pick up the kid at daycare; and just so you know, the color pink makes me break out in hives (though I’m sure there are plenty of my estrogen-fueled amies who may be perfectly content with shades of fuchsia and salmon—I don’t presume to speak for the entire sisterhood).
My point being: Retailers need to reassess everything from their customer service approach to their store setup and followup to nab future funds from the fairer sex.
What’s Up With the Women?
There’s good reason for PMAI (and others in the photo industry) to expect a rapid rise in purchasing from this segment. Women accounted for 46%, or $49.3 billion, of the $107.2 billion spent on consumer electronics in 2005, according to The NPD Group. The majority of internet users in the U.S. are of the female persuasion, according to a recent eMarket.com report, which will likely translate sooner than later into more online retail sales (after all, we all know who usually controls, or at least heavily influences, the household purse strings). And even Mother’s Day sales of digital cameras this year saw a 19.4% increase in dollar volume and a 27% increase in unit volume over the same holiday period in 2005, asserted The NPD Group study—meaning Mom was more likely to receive a snazzy new digicam than a bouquet of begonias or a half-melted box of Godiva chocolates.
These trends will definitely continue to carry over to the photo retailer. “Women have always been a key customer for photography,” says Gary Pageau, publisher, Content Development and Strategic Initiatives, PMA. “Typically, back in the analog days, women made the decisions on what films were purchased and where film processing was done. Today, she has a great strong voice in camera brands and preferences, as well as using digital printing services, like kiosks and in-store pickup.”
And who is this mysterious Jennifer that suddenly has all this discretionary moolah to throw your way? While PMA’s prototype is not meant to represent every female patron that will wander through your aisles, there are some key characteristics to keep in mind. This demographic consumer is most likely to buy a new digital camera (and to own one); is most likely to make paper prints; is most likely to use online internet photo services and self-service kiosks; and is likely to save a greater proportion of pictures taken in the household.
“PMA chose to focus on the ‘Gen X mom’ (those born between 1961 and 1981) as just one example of lifestyle marketing,” explains Pageau. “There are many target markets, but Jennifer was chosen because she is a heavy user of photography. She has been the focus of many industry and market studies, and PMA is capitalizing on this basic research, as well as on our own primary photo and digital imaging research. PMA named her ‘Jennifer’ after ‘Gen’ X, and the fact that Jennifer is one of the most popular names of this generation.” (Ed. note: As one of at least four Jennifers in each of my elementary-school classes, I can certainly attest to Pageau’s last statement.) The Psychology of the Purchase
So how can store owners tap into this research and knowledge to draw in the Jenns (and the Janes, Jessicas, and Jezebels) who are flocking in to peruse your shelves and pick your brains?
First, know what’s most important to the women coming into your store, and what characterizes their busy lives. Lack of time and an adherence to household budgets are just a couple of the facets that make up this segment. The Complete Picture store, which was designed by professional retail design firm JGA, incorporated some of these lifestyle characteristics into its faux storefront. “Every design and merchandising decision in the Complete Picture store is correlated with Jennifer’s lifestyle,” explains Pageau. “Key lifestyle areas are variations of social networking, preserving family values, and being practically creative on limited budgets.”
Knowing how to set up your store, then, becomes critical. Andrea Learned, one of the keynote speakers at PMA Canada next month and the co-author of Don’t Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy - and How To Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market, asserts that it’s all in the details. “When women walk into a store, they are noticing everything: clutter, aisles that aren’t wide enough to wheel a baby stroller through, dust on the frame selections, or salespeople talking about this weekend’s party in the corner,” she says.
Women also may compare the ambiance of your store to other stores they go to, not related to photo retail. “What are the cues you can take from places like Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic and incorporate into your own store?” asks Learned.
In the “Because It’s Ladies Night” article in the April 2006 issue of PTN, we covered two women-owned photo businesses, who’s owners worked their womanly ways into their storefront, including Ann Markeley, owner of Ann Chase Photography in Woodinville, WA. To appeal to her own women customers, the first thing Markley did when she bought her store was change the environment. “I got huge wooden cabinets at a consignment store, and that’s where I put my frames,” she says. “I have really big couches, and a conversation table; in my viewing room, I have nice furniture; I have candles, flowers, and plants. I spent a lot of time thinking about it.”
Gaby Mullinax, proprietor of Fullerton Photo in Fullerton, CA (also featured in the April article) concurs. “It’s very cozy in my store,” she says. “I get compliments every day on the looks of the place. And I do feel that its because of the warmth and ambiance here that we’ve been able to build these lasting relationships with our customers. That’s been the foundation of our success.”
Basic customer service is another cornerstone of successfully drawing in female purchasers, and a more-casual, laidback approach may be necessary. “Store owners should train sales staff to allow for a longer purchasing process,” says Learned. “In other words: no hard sells. A woman may ‘date’ a retail store before fully committing, so she may buy film or a few frames over the first few visits and then, finally, when she’s gotten a good feel for the store and its staff, make a larger camera purchase. Let her walk out the door with nothing, and welcome her back again and again, to give her time to get to know what you deliver and why your store is so uniquely the right one for her.”