What's working in Mobile Photo? Top 10 app PicCollage and Kite share insights

By Warren Volkmann, Editor
HP Developers Portal

"Millennials love to print," Ching-Mei Chen, co-founder of PicCollage, told developers during the first HP webinar convened to examine "What's Working with Mobile Print?" 

Fionn Concannon, co-founder of Kite added, "The Z Generation is coming online with $44 billion to spend." A significant chunk of that will be spent on printed photo products, Kite analytics indicate.

Pent-up demand

The demand for photo printing at home came as a surprise to PicCollage, one of the Top 10 photo apps in the United States and England, with 110 million downloads worldwide.

"We thought of PicCollage as a digital app," Mei said. "When HP reached out to us with its Mobile Print SDK, we hadn't even considered a Print-at-Home button. We had a paid postcard printing service that users liked, but we didn't focus on it."

(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 add a PRINT button to their app without the HP Mobile Print SDK.)

When PicCollage integrated a Print-at-Home button, they were in for an overnight surprise. More than 1,800 users clicked the Print button on the very first day. In response, PicCollage promoted the Print-at-Home button to a top screen to make it more visible. The hit rate more than doubled.

"In the first month we had 50,000 people tapping, without any marketing," Mei said. "In 8 months we are up to almost 2 million taps on the Print button. Clearly there is a demand for printing. That has been really impressive." 

 

iOS vs. Android

PicCollage is seeing a significant difference in engagement and retention between iOS users and Android users. iOS users print more because Apple made mobile printing easy by integrating it into the operating system. For Android, plug-in downloads prove vexing to users, but Android users who overcome those hurdles turn out to be very good customers for PicCollage print products. (Editor's note: In 2017 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.)

 

Monetizing a free app

At first Mei and the PicCollage team were concerned that offering a Print-at-Home option would undercut its existing "print-and-ship" photo products business, one of the key ways PicCollage – a free app – extracts revenue from billions of photos and collages. When users order photo products like mugs, mouse pads, posters, and framed prints, PicCollage and its e-commerce supplier, Kite Tech Ltd., split the revenue. PicCollage and Kite were surprised and pleased to discover that at-home photo printing actually drives photo orders. iOS users who print at home are 7 times more likely than the average PicCollage user to order photo products. Android users who tap the Print at Home button are 12 times more likely to order photo products that are shipped to their door.  

"Now we are trying to make it more clear to users that they can print from PicCollage," Mei said.

Fionn Concannon: Kite analytics guiding e-commerce

In the webinar, Fionn Concannon showed how Kite is much more than a print-and-ship, drop-it-on-the-doorstep delivery service. It is an e-commerce technology platform that provides data insights and automated push-notification marketing tools to maximize revenue for its app partners. Kite’s native print SDKs are installed on more than 200 million devices and offer hundreds of products, shipped globally, in pursuit of a burgeoning market for photo products.

 

Why integrate print?

Kite's e-commerce analytics for more than 50 clients show that "younger demographics show a revival of interest in digital to physical print."

Key findings Fionn presented are:

  • Millennials are 2-3 times more likely to print. There are 80 million in the U.S., spending $1.4 trillion annually.
  • Generation Z – the first mobile digital generation – is coming of age. They already have $44 billion in purchasing power.
  • The trend is for new kinds of personalized photo products, including printed textiles.

 

Mobile photo printing: "It's working."

For Mei and PicCollage, mobile printing is now integral to plans for greater engagement, retention, and monetization. It's not just because analytics indicated that users like printing. It's because Mei likes printing her photos.

"I have been using it a ton for greeting cards. I send them to all my friends. They are on all my friends' refrigerators. This was completely unexpected. It was a bonus. We integrated Mobile Print and unleashed this whole new world that we hadn't thought about."

Developer resources

Learn more about PicCollage and Mobile Print SDK: