Why Social Media Means New Revenues for Print Retailers

The Social Sharing Revolution

There will be 1.43 billion social network users in 2012, a 19.2% increase over 2011, according to eMarketer’s “Worldwide Social Network Usage: Market Size and Growth Forecast” report(1).

This year, according to the eMarketer’s report, 63.2% of internet users will visit a social network at least once a month, rising to 67.6% in 2013 and 70.7% in 2014. At those growth rates, one out of every five people in the world will use a social network this year.

These statistics become really interesting when you start to analyse what social network users are actually doing on their favourite sites. By far, the fastest growing social activity is the sharing of imagery – whether photos or videos. Recent statistics show that 80% of us now view our digital photos on social networking sites. On Facebook alone, there are over 150 million images with over 3.5 billion pieces of content (photos, web links, news stories, blog posts etc.) being shared each week on Facebook(1),(2).

Figures from EConsultancy show that photo uploads to Facebook have increased by over 100% and sharing figures across other networks, such as Twitter, have grown so much it’s impossible to ignore the fact that people love sharing visual content more than anything else3. Twitter users shared 58.4 million photos in December 2011, and the number of photos shared grew 421% over the course of the year(2).

Social Sharing Drives RPS Growth

With these figures in mind, it would be easy to assume that consumers have turned their back on more traditional, physical ways of capturing, keeping and sharing their photographic memories? As 2 billion people now use the internet, has the ‘digital home’ and the ‘paperless office’ removed our desire to create physical records such as photo albums and diaries?

Recent research demonstrates this is not the case. Contrary to all expectations, the retail print industry has, in fact, seen an increasing preference for tactile, traditional paper-based products over the past couple of years, with the photo-merchandise market growing 17% in 2010 in Western Europe to reach €422 million(4).

The total Western European photo merchandise market anticipates a CAGR of 5.6%, growing from 141 million units in 2010 to 212 million by 2015. The key reason for this is the exponential growth in online activity; in Western Europe, 69% of photo books are ordered online, expected to rise to 75% by 2013(5).

 What this means for retailers is that there is a fast-growing appetite for paper-based merchandise such as photo books and photo-cards. Consumers are, perhaps, nervous about leaving all their memories online – worried about their safety, and want to retain some physical memories.


 Perhaps we still enjoy being able to leaf through our favourite photos whilst sitting round the fire, or enjoy seeing our family photos displayed around the house. What we do know is that wall décor and photo-cards account for a significant proportion of the growth of the market. Wall décor now accounts for 36% of the total merchandise market value, reaching €151 million in 2010.


With online content doubling every 12-18 months, the opportunity for the print industry to leverage this digital content is clear.

Adriaan Vosloo, MD at Midsouth Distributors, a HP certified reseller, shares their thoughts on how print retailers can become profitable in the digital age.

Moving from digital to physical

With over 150 million images on Facebook alone, 80% of shoppers now view their digital photos on social networking sites. The opportunity for resellers lies in offering solutions that transform these online images into tangible products, to engage the increasingly tech-savvy audience and, ultimately, boost revenues. As mentioned earlier, InfoTrends estimates that up to 75% of all photo merchandise revenue will come from online orders by 2013(5).

With so much content creation, interest in innovative, non-digital ways to preserve memories is rising. Cost-effective, creative products that can be personalised are becoming increasingly popular gifts, with items such as cards and photo books representing the biggest share of units and revenue respectively in the 2011 Western European photo merchandise market.

HP Retail Publishing Solutions (RPS) reported that in 2011 the creative products that can be personalised had an increased contribution to the business success of independent photo stores. This trend was particularly perceptible in the festive period with independent photo stores using HP RPS solutions seeing a 53% of their total volume in December coming from creative products. The value for retailers lies in having a wide range of inspiring creative products available to excite the consumer and to be personalised accordingly.

Style and substance

It’s not just the location of the store that is important; it’s the style of the store as well. Providing a well-designed, creative space for customers to use can boost inspiration for these unique, personal products.

To see the real value, this should also be coupled with a well-trained staff force who can engage consumers, understand their needs and offer an appropriate solution in a timely manner. 

Time is money

With the increase in social media sites and instant messaging platforms, the general population now has an expectation of quick delivery and ‘waiting’ is no longer acceptable. The opportunity for the print industry to provide high quality solutions, without the wait, is obvious. This can be obtained in a number of ways:

       Invest in your technology: Ensuring that your printing technology is up to date is essential. The photo retail industry has adapted to provide photo development in minutes, as opposed to days, as customers no longer have the time to wait for their prints.

       Step-by-step instructions: Retail printing is becoming increasingly straightforward for consumers to use. However, it is still essential that businesses provide clear step-by-step instructions to ensure a comfortable customer experience and ensure that the route from browsing to purchasing is as seamless as possible.

       Invest in your staff: Training sessions to educate your in-store staff on all the products and solutions available is essential as a clear and simple explanation of exactly what the store is offering will boost both sales and customer satisfaction.

The boom in digital content offers an exceptional opportunity for retailers to facilitate the move from digital to physical content in a creative, exciting way. By providing robust, easy-to-use solutions and a wide range of creative products, retailers will be armed with the tools required to boost both revenue and customer reach, engaging the always on community an d proving that print and paper still have a strong place in modern society.


(1)      (1)       eMarketer’s “Worldwide Social Network Usage: Market Size and Growth Forecast” report., March 2012

(2)      (2)       Topsy Data, 2011

(3)      (3)       eConsultancy 2010 Social Media Statistics, Dec 2010

(4)      (4)       Futuresource, Photo-Merchandise Market Report: Western Europe, May 2011

(5)      (5)       InfoTrends 2010 Western Europe Photo Merchandise Forecast


© 2012 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein.

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