Give Customers Search Return Order Choice

Posted on 6/19/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Traditional picture sellers are missing a tremendous opportunity to assist customers in their search for images. Instead of limiting the search return order to one standard system chosen by the agency, agencies should offer customers a variety of options.

Micropayment sites have introduced this concept to their great advantage, but RM sites can expand the strategy beyond what micropayment is doing - and benefit greatly.

In my estimation, one of the most valuable tools that microstock offers the busy art director is the ability to organize search returns by the number of times the image has been purchased. This way, someone doing a new search can quickly see what other art directors thought were the best images.

Some will argue that photo buyers don't want to use the same image as everyone else. But, a quick review of iStock's site shows that many images in certain categories have been purchased 5,000-plus times. For some, knowing that others have also used an image may even be an incentive to buy.

iStock has 25,687 pictures keyworded "cell phone," 5,494 keyworded "man, woman, office," 2,617 "mother, daughter, outside," 11,176 "London" and 9,206 keyworded "crowd." Consider what an advantage it might be to cull from a list others pros have already examined.

The numbers on Alamy for these same keyword searches are: 56,653 "cell phones,"

10,774 "mother, daughter, outside,",334,440 "London" and 147,572 "crowd" and 28,085 "man, woman, office."

For those who don't want to use images that others have purchased, let them organize this search return in reverse order (as some microstock companies allow). The first images they see are recent images that have never been used. If the customer doesn't like either of these options, she can always go back to the agency's default search.

Organizing pictures by downloads is only one way to speed the search process. Suppose someone is looking for a picture of Barack Obama. Wouldn't it be nice if the first pictures to appear were images that had been used by others on such sites? Or to look at the reverse, and be sure your photo hadn't been used before.

Suppose you're looking for a child working on a science project to be used in a textbook. Wouldn't it be helpful to know if any images in the file that had been used by book publishers? Comparing the search term to images downloaded by book publishers gives you that result.

RF customers might be very happy to provide information as to how they intend to use the images they purchase. The next time they come to purchase, they can quickly see what others have been using and maybe simplify their search. One of the reasons microstock has appealed to so many professional picture buyers is that its features make the buyer's life easier.

In effect, such a system provides free professional research to buyers, and it can be accomplished entirely with technology.

Such a system could also alleviate the thorny problem of editing collections in an attempt to limit the number of images in any search. There will still need to be editing to ensure quality standards, but editing based on subject matter will, for the most part, become unnecessary. Having several versions of the same situation in a collection is fine because the first buyer will do some editing for the rest. If the buyer wants to take the time to go through the images not previously chosen, everything is there. It will no longer be necessary for an agency's editor to try to guess what customers might want in the future.

Copyright © 2008 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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