PicCollage photo app tops 5 million at-home prints, shares insights
By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers’ Portal (hp.io)
PicCollage is a Top 10 mobile photo/video app in the Apple store, with 140 million downloads since 2011. PicCollage users around the world are now printing about 10,000 times a day from printers in homes, schools, and even offices. Clearly many PicCollage users want to hold their creations in their hands.
“Free-form collaging and ease of printing is one of the features that distinguishes PicCollage,” said Ching-Mei Chen, co-founder and Head of Business and Partnerships of PicCollage. “We are the only app in the Top 10 Photo/Video category that features printing at home. Our data shows that at-home printing keeps our users engaged longer and boosts orders for photo products like custom-printed phone cases.”
With more than a year of printing behind her, Chen shared some of PicCollage’s findings, insights, and surprises:
- PicCollage users want to print
The biggest surprise was the immediate demand for at-home printing. In 2015, PicCollage already had an e-commerce system for ordering photo prints, phone cases, and posters through the app, with delivery by mail. At first, the Print at Home button was hidden on a second-level page. Nevertheless 1,800 users discovered it and hit print on the first day. When PicCollage made the button visible on the first level of the share menu, printing almost doubled. At the start of 2017, PicCollage users are home printing photos and collages at a rate of about 10,000 prints a day – nearly 4 million prints a year.
- Spike days
PicCollage has learned that home printing is seasonal – low in the summer and high during the school year. There are spikes leading up to the holiday season and other photo-heavy occasions such as St. Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Mother’s Day. On the eve of Valentine’s Day this year, PicCollage set a new daily record with almost 20,000 prints.
- Shoot on the weekend. Print during the week.
Every weekend, PicCollage servers light up as users take millions of photos and turn them into collages. No surprise there. The surprise came when printing peaked in the middle of the week.
- Printing at work and school
The common wisdom is that photo printing is done at home. However, almost 400,000 collages (roughly 1,000 a day) are printed on HP Laserjets, which are usually installed in offices and schools. PicCollage recently launched a teacher ambassador program with a dozen teachers to learn how PicCollage can be used in education.
- iOS printing dwarfs Android printing
Apple made it easy to print. Android’s initial flavors made printing challenging. The HP Mobile Print SDK (now deprecated) worked for both iOS and Android. For PicCollage, 97 percent of prints came from iOS devices. Mobile printing from Android devices was just 3 percent. (Editor's note: The Mobile Print SDK was deprecated in 2017 when the Android Oreo operating system was released with a built-in print service. Now any developer - Android or iOS - can easily add a PRINT button to their app.)
Nearly half the photos printed by iPhone users are on 5-by-7-inch paper. That size accounts for just a fraction on Android, whose users mostly print 4-by-6 inch or full page (8.5-by-11 inches in North America; A4 in Europe.)
- Home printing sparked online orders. Best margin: phone cases.
Before the Home Print button was added, PicCollage was set up to sell photo merchandise (big prints, posters, photo mugs, and the like) through a company named Kite. Delivery was through the mail and took several days. PicCollage was concerned that adding home printing might cannibalize the demand for “print-and-ship” products, but just the opposite occurred. Users who got in the habit of printing, ordered several times more products. After a year of watching what people order, PicCollage has trimmed its online orders down to just phone cases, which are the most popular product and yield the highest profit margin.
- Users who print also spend more in the app
PicCollage found that there is a high and positive correlation between users who print at home and users who are more likely to make in-app purchases, such as buying premium seasonal backgrounds and digital stickers packs.
- Brand extension
HP Mobile Print users were twice as likely to share and display their collage creations, providing opportunities to extend the PicCollage brand. “Print at home has become a useful tool in our retention and brand extension strategy,” Chen said.
Merging home and online printing
As part of a redesign in late 2016, PicCollage merged both types of printing (at-home and print-and-ship) onto a single “Print” button. It was a considerable technical challenge, but it didn’t seem to affect printing. Orders, engagement, and retention continued to perk along, with a surge during the holiday season.
Value of printing
As PicCollage approaches its second year with a Print at Home button, Chen considers home printing important to its rapidly evolving strategy. Ease of printing sets PicCollage apart from other apps in the Top 10.
“We are the only leading photo app that features free-form collaging and integrated printing,” Chen said. “We allow users to express their creativity digitally, replicating a physical behavior that humans have been using for decades to express themselves through scrapbooking, sticker collections, photo albums and memory boxes. Being able to easily print out these digital collage creations reconnect us with what we love about our physical collage-making days.”