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SPAC 2019 rides trends in AI, marketing and Millennials

The annual School & Sports Photographers of California (SPAC) 2019 conference last week drew a record 1,200 attendees, organizers said. Moreover, the mood among attendees was positive, as the volume-portrait market continues to expand opportunities. As with most conferences, attendees and vendors found value not only in the numerous sessions and vendor displays but also the conversations in the hallways. And those hallways were buzzing.

In a multifaceted event like this, it’s a challenge to wrap up in one article the major topics and trends. Look for follow-up articles from specific topics in upcoming days. In short, here are three topics making the rounds at SPAC:

1.) More than one vendor was demonstrating or projecting some manner of artificial intelligence and/or facial recognition as a workflow enhancement. Volume photography is a very data-intensive business, which means managing customer data, order data and the image file. This process has traditionally been paper-driven but is moving quickly to apps and to web-based ordering systems. AI and face recognition are two technologies poised to make this even easier than ever.

2.) The nature of the school and sports portrait business model is going direct to the customer. Traditionally, volume photography companies dealt with schools, school boards, league committees, etc., and didn’t interact with parents. That’s changing rapidly, as direct-order systems and personalized gift products essential for revenue growth require parental contact. The Lifetouch/Shutterfly combo is going to reset customer expectations across the industry, according to many speakers, as Lifetouch school pictures will be integrated into mom’s Shutterfly account. That level of customer service and convenience will be table stakes in the near future.

3) Along with the changing customer relationship mentioned above, there’s also the changing demographics. Today’s Millennial parents have completely different expectations for customer service and ordering system. Paper forms and pre-paid packages are not how they want to buy and, with the glut of photography options available to them, Millennial parents view school and sports photos as an option, not a necessity. That means pro-active marketing like texting a link to an image to mom the same day as a photo session, so she can share the child’s photo on social media.

For an audio recap of the SPAC show and conversation about trends in the volume photography market, check out this week’s “Hanging Pixels Podcast” with TW Woodward. Gary Pageau from the Dead Pixels Society was a guest.

Listen to “Hanging Pixels” podcast for photographers where we discuss trends in the photo industry, focusing on the rapidly changing world of digital photography.

Available on iTunes, Spotify, Facebook and Google Play Music.

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