Why Would Customers Pay Higher Prices?

Posted on 9/19/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The big question for the industry is, “Why would customers agree to pay slightly higher prices?”
Everyone seems to believe that the only way to get, or keep, customers is to constantly give them lower and lower prices.

I think there are a couple other things customers want: (1) better quality and (2) the ability to find what they need quickly. The industry is missing out on both these levels.

Better Quality

If sellers keep lowering prices quality will eventually suffer. Creators who produce some of the best quality work will stop producing. They are forced to take this step because can no longer earn enough from the licensing of their images to justify the time and expense involved in continued production.

A few years ago some argued that creators simply needed to learn how to work more efficiently. That time has passed. The good ones have already done everything possible to maximize efficiency, and they still can’t earn enough to justify continued production.

Some believe that with all the new creators entering the market some will eventually produce everything customers want. But there are some images that involve significant production costs as well as contacts, experience and access in certain areas of society (i.e. science, medical). Few will spend time shooting such images unless there is some chance of profit for the effort.

The major stock suppliers have the data that would enable them to see that this is happening, but for the most part they are not looking at it.

Ability To Find Images Quickly

For most customers, time is important. They don’t have all day to leisurely all the images major distributors can throw at them. Distributors could be doing a lot more to make it easier and faster for customers to find the images that work for their projects. But the distributors have chosen to ignore this opportunity and have focused instead on adding more and more images to their collections rather than making it easier to find something in the collection.

This actually makes search harder for customers. They must spend more of their valuable time looking for the images they need.

If we go back to the transparency days of the 80s and early 90s. customers would call a stock agency, talk to a picture editor they worked with on a regular basis and describe what they were looking for. Knowing the customer’s tastes, the editor would then go to the files and select a 100 or so images to send the customer for review. The editor wouldn’t send the customer everything they had. When the customer received the selection he/she could quickly decide which image to use and not be required to waste his/her time in a lot of research.

Next the industry moved to print catalogs. Each agency would put out a new catalog annually, usually with several thousand of their best and most popular images covering every general category of subject they had in their collection. All the agencies had much deeper files available in all the categories, but they quickly discovered that a huge percentage of their customers chose images from catalogs. The same images got used many times over and over, but that didn’t bother the customers because they were good images that told the story the customer wanted to tell better than any other image they could easily find. This method of research also saved the customer huge amounts of time.

Tony Stone used to say that he could fulfill every customer need with 5,000 of the very best images. He constantly looked for images that would do a better job of telling the particular story that his 5,000 key story telling images were designed to tell, but the focus was on showing customer a small selection of the very best.
Then we got the Internet. The thinking was, “Now, we don’t have to pay the salaries of all the picture editors who knew our files and what the customers wanted. Now, we can just throw everything we’ve got at the customer and let them choose.”

That worked for a while when everything they had wasn’t all that much. It was possible, with good keywords, for a customer to review a reasonable sized collection in a relatively short period of time. Now, it has gotten totally out of hand.

Is There A Solution?

The first step is to show customers a curated collection of images that other customers have chosen for there projects. In-house editors aren’t as important anymore because our customers have been doing the editing for us for years. They have chosen the best we have to offer. Chances are that among that group are exactly the images the new customer will want to use. Most customers don’t care if someone else has used the same image.

It would also help if agencies would enable customers to search based on downloads and organize their searches for images that have been downloaded more than 10 times, more than 100 times or fewer than 10 times.

If a customer wants an image that has never been used let him/her search a collection of “never used” images. Put all new additions to the agency in this never used collection until they have been used at least once. Then the image that is used is automatically moved to the collection of purchased images.

Also let the customer organize the search of “never used” images for only those images that were added in the last 30 days, 60 days, 6 months or one year.

All this would save the customer time, make their image search more efficient and justify charging more for at least some of the images.

Copyright © 2017 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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