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What I did to Improve Sales in 2015

Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,463
After joining Zenfolio three years ago my on-line sales have been steadily declining year over year. Some of this is attributable to the economy, some to the advancement of technology with consumer cameras, and some to how customers needs have changed (mostly driven by the social media sites). I think everyone can relate to those changes.

However, there was still something missing in that equation and I needed to find out what it was. After carefully reviewing orders that spanned almost 10 years I discovered that the number of orders placed had not changed that much. What had changed was the average SIZE of the orders and the number of products sold were taking a hit. So, why are customers not buying as much as they used to? That was the question I needed to find the answer to.

About a year ago, I picked up the phone and began calling some of my clients and asked them if they would help me by providing honest answers to some questions I had. Almost all agreed to do so. In summary, they found my Zenfolio site to be confusing and overly time consuming to use. For those of you that follow my threads, you know this has been an area of focus for most of my comments and I do believe that Zenfolio will take steps in the right direction in 2016 (provided that they listen closely to what we are telling them).

OK, so I can't control the development team decisions but I can control my own. What were some of the things that I could do to make it easier for my clients and reduce the confusion?? Here's what I did.

1. I wanted to communicate with my all my clients once a month without having to use "We are having a Big Sale!!" strategy. When I add a new gallery I add it to my Featured Gallery list and then send an email out once a month letting my clients know how many new galleries have been added over the last 30 days and then provide them a link to see them. I keep my Featured list only to events I have covered over the past 30 days. This strategy always gets my sales off to a good start each month.

2. I simplified my price sheets and narrowed the selection of Items that clients can choose from. All items that I sell can be displayed on the image preview pages under the "Featured Products". If a client clicks on "View More Products" they simply see the same products and in the same order that they are displayed on the Featured Products List.

3. I changed my price strategy so that the transition to more expensive products is easier for my clients to understand and digest. Your lowest cost print (often a 4x6) is the basis from which all other print sizes are priced and you need to think the way a customer thinks. For example, a 5x7 is just $2 more that a 4x6. A 8x10 is $8 more than a 5x7. A 11x14 is $10 more than a 8x10...... and so on.

4. I sent out two emails this year to my clients regarding personal use downloads. I wanted them to know what the real "value proposition" was on these vs ordering small prints. I only sell one size PUD which is a 1800 pixel 300 ppi file which can be downloaded immediately after payment. Customers can use these files to make their own small prints, share them with family, store them on mobile devices, use them on social media sites, and use them creatively if they are handy with Photoshop etc. Also, there's no shipping cost on a PUD. I sell a 4x6 for $9.99 and a PUD for $19.99. If you order one 4x6, however, you have to add the cost of shipping which is $4.25. Now the cost of that one 4x6 is $14.24. A PUD is now only $5.75 more and provides greater value and immediate delivery.

5. Finally, with my larger clients (those that have purchased 50 or more prints from me each year), I take care of them directly. They don't need to select images on my site or place orders. They pay me a flat fee (by check) at the beginning of the sports season and I drop ship a 4x6 print of every shot I have taken of their son or daughter at the end of the season. From there, they can order enlargements from me directly or from my web site. My cost is much lower since I don't have a 12% commission to pay and I use a lab that sells 4x6 prints for a much lower cost than Millers/MPIX/MPIXPro.

My goal for 2016 is to continue to find ways to simplify the end user experience and promote larger orders on my site. I know I could use packages to do that but populating packages is somewhat of a challenge for my clients if they are ordering from multiple galleries and don't have a favorites list created. I know I could use a coupon for a % off based on dollar volume but that would require me to send out constant reminders of what the code is and/or put the code in the banner or front page of my site. Clients think coupon codes are a pain and I don't like looking like "Monty Hall - Let's make a deal". And, what if a client forgets to put the coupon code in??? Well unless you are willing to pay an extra $120 (or more) for an Advanced Account so you can enter this in yourself, you are simply SOL.

Rather than using discounts and packages, I'm thinking about having a "New User" video done professionally that will demonstrate how to use my site and include the tips and tricks they can use to place orders faster by using favorites lists. I would send the link out to everyone at first and then to any new account created on my site as a "Welcome .... take 5 minutes to save yourself hours" I want the video to be produced using my web site, my workflows, and promote my company so that's why I would never use the stock videos Zenfolio has. I also know how to produce videos myself, but I'm really not tat good at it. $200-$300 to have a professional produce the video might be one of the best investments I have made???

Hopefully, Zenfolio will do their part in 2016 in making the client "end user" experience the best it can be. We would all benefit from that.


  • Excellent article Kevin, some great tip that can be applied to any business, mine included, in some way.

    I like your idea of the Welcome Video for new visitors to your site. Only reservation that I would have is that its effectiveness largely depends upon Zenfolio doing their part by providing a reliable, stable platform so when we tell our customers to click here to do such and such, it actually works - every time - without the endless wait for something to load that is currently the Hallmark of the Zenfolio experience, and that Zenfolio don't go stupidly making change after change to the system that affects the public (our customers) experience as some sites seem to keep doing which would require us to keep remaking our Welcome Videos and/or other help text.

    Fortunately we have some control over the latter as we design our sites and set out our own menus etc, but the former is up to Zenfolio and I hope they get it sorted soon.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,463
    Thanks @Geografpix Photography I agree that site stability and some simple changes to the E-commerce platform would go a long way. No talking about "major development" issues but rather some minor changes.

    Hopefully the partnership between Zenfolio and it's professional photographers will improve and we can all have a great 2016!
  • Curt Dennison PhotographyCurt Dennison Photography Washington, MO USAMember Posts: 7
    I like the video idea, it would be specific to your site and help people to feel more comfortable with the site navigation, purchase process, etc. Now, my opinion: 5 minutes is an eternity to the viewer, shorter=better.
  • webboy634webboy634 Member Posts: 2
    Any chance you might elaborate on this?
    "I only sell one size PUD which is a 1800 pixel 300 ppi file which can be downloaded immediately after payment"

    I'd be interested in doing this too but I'm not sure how.

  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,463
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,463
    edited April 2016
    As I indicated in my original post, one of my goals was to have a professionally produced user video for my clients to watch so they can get the most out of my site. I have chosen a production company and will begin working with them at the end of May with a target delivery date of July 1st.

    I've told the production company that the video cannot be any longer than 3 minutes and needs to cut to the chase. The outline for the video (using my web site) is:

    1. Creating a user account.
    2. Logging in and out of your account.
    3. Finding, selecting, and saving favorite images.
    4. Placing orders from your favorites lists.
    5. What happens after your order is placed.

    I feel the easier I make it for my clients to use my web site the more they will use it. Every change I have made to "simplify" the end user experience has always yielded great returns. Conversely, every time I've made things more complex, it's caused confusion and negative consequences. When it comes down to performance and increasing sales you have to think like your customers...not like a photographer with a Type A personality that thinks they know everything.
  • Kevin KrowsKevin Krows United StatesMember Posts: 1,463
    Just an update. I continue to get customer feedback on how much easier it is to understand how the order process works on my site. Customers still trip over a few things but not like they did a few years ago.

    Simplicity works folks. From everything to how your site is displayed, galleries are organized, how many products you offer, to how fast a customer can add items to a cart and check out. My continued growth in sales can only be attributed to making things simple.

    Worth Repeating! Simplicity Works! You can start by auditing your site and making changes that you are in control of. When you are done, become more vocal about simplification items with the Zenfolio developers so they know what your customers are actually saying to you. It doesn't matter what you think .... what matters is what your clients think. They are the ones using your site. Right?
  • KazzaKazza Member Posts: 19
    Kevin. Thanks a lot for sharing this tips. I find this absolutely incredible!!
  • Kali ArtistryKali Artistry Member Posts: 4
    this article was amazingly informative. definitely saw a couple things i can do better
    Kali Artistry Miami Photographer and Blogger
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