PicCollage co-founder touts print engagement at AppNation VII
Ching-Mei Chen, co-founder of PicCollage – a Top 10 photo app with more than 100 million downloads - traveled to AppNation in Las Vegas last week with a message for developers: to boost engagement and retention, add a print button. Chen joined HP’s Mobile Print team and Shutterfly for a panel discussion:
Leveraging the Power of the Image to Drive App Engagement
At a conference devoted to software development, Chen knew advocating for print would go against the prevailing mindset, so she used PicCollage data – real-world metrics – to show how print has boosted engagement and retention.
PicCollage integrated an HP print SDK into its photo collage in August 2015 and was surprised by the immediate response. “The minute we had a print button – even though it was hidden in the second layer of the Share menu – we had 1,800 prints on the very first day. When we moved the print button to the first level, printing almost doubled. In just over 4 months, our users have printed almost 800,000 prints. “Obviously there was a demand for printing finished collages that we just filled by adding a button. Sharing collages via email, text, or Instagram is great, but there is still something special about having a physical printout of your creations to hang on the wall or send to friends and family.” As the print tally approached 1 million photos, HP pointed out that those prints represent a million opportunities to make a brand impression in the physical world. A branded print can carry the PicCollage brand beyond the phone and app to the tangible consumer environment. (Friends share photos, not phones.) "We haven't thought of that as a key metric, but it's a great point. Perhaps we should start thinking about using photos to carry our brand in the physical world.”
Print-and-ship vs. print-at-home
“It is interesting how this all came about,” Chen explained. “Prior to HP approaching us with its SDK, we only had a print-and-ship solution.” PicCollage contracts with PhotoBox (which touts itself as “Europe’s No. 1 online photo service”) to provide “print-and-ship” services so users can order prints, greeting cards, postcards, mugs and posters of their collage masterpieces. PhotoBox not only provided an SDK developed by Kite, which included a polished UI and built-in payment system, but Photobox also handled customer service and product fulfilment. With a solid, low-touch, print-and-ship solution in place, PicCollage thought it had printing covered. “When HP suggested we add a print button for at-home printing, we thought, ‘Why haven’t we done that?’ We plugged in the HP SDK and integrated it. It only took about 15 minutes.” The instant surge of prints showed PicCollage that people use a print button very differently than a print-and-ship service. A print-from-home solution is immediate.
Bigger bang than Facebook button
PicCollage climbed into the Top 10 by constantly monitoring user behaviour and making business decisions based on data and clear correlations. They listen to their numbers, and the print button spoke loud and clear. “When we added a Share-to-Facebook button, we saw 7-day retention go up 1.5 times higher for those users,” Chen explained. “When we added the ability to print at home, retention doubled.”
Mid-week engagement bump
The data held another surprise. While most snapshots are taken on the weekend, collage printing peaks on Wednesdays. Printing gave PicCollage something it very much wanted – steady engagement though the week. “Our data doesn’t tell us exactly what is happening, but we image that our customers are taking photos on the weekend, then making collages and printing them during the week – apparently even at work.”
When to add print to your app
Chen offers advice on when to integrate printing into an app. “If you are just starting your app, your core competency is software, so first make your product work. When you reach a scale where a significant percentage of your users want the permanence of print, then use printing to add value to your app.” Digital fatigue Chen sees printing as an antidote to “digital photo fatigue.” “Prior to this year, PicCollage was focused more on teens and millennials, who we thought were not interested in physical product, but people are going back to the physical space. Teens are rediscovering Polaroids, postcards in the mail, and retro photos. They are printing photos with retro effects that make it look like they were taken in the 1970s. Teens still decorate their bedrooms, and creating your own poster means a lot more than a commercial poster. We are getting Moms using PicCollage to take all their photos and prepare them for their scrap books. This is a space with huge potential.” Chen sees the shift back to printed photos in her own behavior. “I use PicCollage every day,” she said. “I used to share my collages only on Facebook and Instagram, but since HP sent me a printer, I never buy greeting cards anymore. I create my own card, print it at home, and send it in the mail. The cards I send go up in the office, in bedrooms, or on the refrigerators of people I mail them to. Print gives our power users more to do. It makes PicCollage more meaningful.” And what developer doesn’t want their app to be more meaningful?