With social media sites like Facebook and Google+ serving as online photo albums it may seem like the need for photo kiosks would be dwindling. In fact, less than 20 percent of images captured on digital cameras and camera phones are printed, according to the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA)
That lack of printing is the single biggest restraint to the photo kiosk industry, according to research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, a global growth consulting company. However, the 20 percent of photos that consumers print will still result in billions upon billions of prints from kiosks over the next several years. So the bottom line? Kiosks are here to stay.
Another reason contributing to the staying power of the photo kiosk is that consumers don't use them just to print photos. An August 2010 InfoTrends study found that consumers are using photo kiosks now more than ever to create photo gifts like personalized mugs and custom calendars; sales are expected to increase by 20 percent through 2014.
Frost & Sullivan's research predicted the same 20 percent growth for photo kiosks and also predicted that the gifting and creative segment will cause a powerful shift in the photo kiosk product mix leading to revenue increases. The average transaction price at the photo kiosk was $10.83 in 2006 but should be around $16.69 by 2013. The analysis also predicted the number of daily transactions per photo kiosk to increase from the current average of eight per day to 12 per day by 2013.
Walgreens is one retailer adapting to the gifting trend. The nation's largest drugstore chain recently launched a new service to allow customers to create and pick up photo products on the same day.
"With most online photo sites, people often have to wait a week or more to get custom photo gifts delivered to their homes," Jasbir Patel, Walgreens senior director and general merchandise manager of photo and e-commerce, said in a company press release. "For time-crunched holiday shoppers, this will be a valuable service."
Customers can create photo gifts via touchscreen photo kiosks in stores or from home at Walgreens.com/photo, and pick them up within the same day at their local drugstore.
"Photos are making it beyond social media and smartphones as people seek more creative ways to share special moments with friends and family," Patel said.
Embracing social media
Instead of seeing social media as public enemy No. 1, Eastman Kodak Company has recently integrated it into its business model with the launch of Kodak Picture Kiosk. The service allows consumers to access and print the photos they've published or shared on Kodak Gallery, Facebook and Picasa Web Albums.
With more than 475 million active consumers in 180 countries and more than 3 billion photos uploaded to these sites each month, the software offers retailers the opportunity to market their in-store services to users, according to Kodak's Darren Johnson, regional business director and vice president, retail system solutions, paper and output systems, and film products, EAMER.
"Today's online-savvy consumers want to access their favorite online photos anytime and anywhere," he said. "Adding social connectivity to our Kodak Picture Kiosk means new, easier and faster ways for people to connect, print and share their memories."
Lucidiom, a photo kiosk provider, embraced social media in 2009, and has since seen traffic at its kiosks increase, according to Richard Glomb, Lucidiom's vice president of business development.
"Facebook demonstrates the true impact on image storage — people store photos and want to do things with them, which just means that you have to give access to storage places like Facebook images," he said.
Offering more than just prints and gifts
While there is a growing installed base of photo kiosks, there still remain challenges in driving consumers to use them, according to David Hoegler, OEM business manager of LC Technology International, a company specializing in data recovery for flash and hard drives and other storage media. He's now hoping to do business with manufacturers of photo kiosks.
The company has developed recovery applications to allow consumers to recover lost images from deletions, formatting and media corruption. The technology, which is free to qualified photo kiosk hardware/software companies based on a pay-for-use model, can easily be integrated into photo kiosk software with the existing hardware, according to Hoegler, who also said offering the service would help increase foot traffic to the stores hosting the kiosks.
"They are able to integrate flash card and USB drive data recovery into photo kiosk solutions, giving customers an additional reason to use photo kiosks," Hoegler said. "As anyone who has lost data on a USB or flash device knows, this can be a frustrating and stressful experience, particularly if the data lost are photos from a special event or important documents that cannot be recreated."
Providing the recovery service gives retailers another way to attract customers to photo kiosks, so it's highly likely that the customer will print or burn the recovered photos while there, Hoegler said.
"By increasing the number of users of the photo kiosk, the number of prints would also increase, and the achievement of an ROI on such projects would quickly result," he said.
Gary Pageau, publisher of Photo Marketing Association International and KioskMarketplace.com blogger, said kiosk manufacturers may find a photo recovery service useful, considering that they're always looking for ways to expand services that don't increase capital costs or complexity.
"A flash-card rescue service could be of use to consumers, especially compact-camera users who are not tech-savvy," he said. "A lot of this will depend on awareness and availability. I doubt if many users will go to great lengths to seek out image-recovery services if their cards go corrupt. Awareness is just too low for the mainstream. That 's why in-store signage and email/Facebook campaigns would have to be in place to get the word out."
Lucidiom kiosks have recently added the LC's recovery service in its machines, according to Glomb, who said kiosks will always benefit from other services that complement their main functions.
"With photo storage disasters just becoming the trailing sad story in the image capture boom of the digital age, the service offerings to address storage issues need to catch up and provide the saving grace of lost images," Glomb said.
New services, such as LC's recovery platform, and the many ways they can be used have helped keep photo kiosks relevant, Glomb said.
"Kiosk usage is strong, if not increased, since five years ago," he said. "The calculations and measurement of kiosk usage are what distort the objective data on this fact."
He pointed out that Lucidiom's 64,000 plus kiosk placements throughout out specialty stores and malls give him vital data on kiosk usage every day.
"Photo kiosks are going strong. The shift of usage may have many fooled but the adaptive nature of the (Lucidiom) kiosk has clients adding units to locations or providing scale with quick setup add-on interface panels at peak times."
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Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.