Photo printing market after COVID-19: data and trends

The global pandemic has upended the entire economic order without sparing the photo printing industry. All previous forecasts turned out to be simply unsuitable for the new challenges. This article, written and sponsored by Printbox, discusses how photo product sales changed from 2019 to 2020, how lockdown influenced consumer behavior and preferences, and post-pandemic trends that will affect sales in 2022.

By Inga Leder, Content Writer, Printbox

The global pandemic has upended the entire economic order without sparing the photo printing industry. All previous forecasts turned out to be simply unsuitable for the new challenges.

Based on the collected data, Printbox, the business photo product software provider, prepared an analysis of the results and predicted future trends. In this article, we cover:

  • How were sales of photo products in 2020, and how did they differ from the results obtained in 2019?
  • Has the confinement of several months influenced consumer behavior and preferences?
  • What trends have developed post-pandemic that will affect sales in 2022?

Fast forward to 2019

2019 was the year of continued digital transformation, and the photo printing industry was no exception. Before the pandemic crisis erupted, the global photo printing and merchandise market was expected to grow with a CAGR of 7.1% from 2019 to 2027, from 2018 with a market value of $22.60 billion Americans.

According to Printbox analysis in 2019, photo books are the products that have triumphed in terms of the largest share of sales. On average, they filled over 60% of all photo items sold, and it wasn’t until December that they were overtaken by photo calendars. The second most frequently chosen product by customers was Wall decoration with 13% share. the prints took third place in photo product sales statistics, peaking in November & more than 17% share in total sales.

2020 Global Collapse, But Photo Printing Accelerates

The sudden global lockdown in the first quarter of 2020 resulted in irreparable losses for many printing companies. Companies that supply fairs, exhibitions or events such as weddings have been particularly affected. Most missions were canceled at the last minute or postponed to subsequent years.

The world has gone into lockdown and our lives have become almost entirely online. Due to home isolation, people were looking for other forms of free time, which was also reflected in an increase in online shopping.

In 2020, the growth of the global e-commerce market was 25.7%. According to data from Printbox, total customer sales increased by approximately 16% during this period. The pandemic period has also seen an increase in customer retention. The difference in the share of loyal customers in total sales between the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019 and the corresponding period in 2020 was more than 90%.

2021 results and predictions for the industry’s peak season

After last year’s boom, the industry has slowed down. Gradual declines, with results not lower than 2019, began in April 2021. As expected, lack of travel and social activities reduced the number of photos taken in 2020 by 15% per year. compared to 2019. Currently, in the fourth quarter, the situation is stabilizing.

Due to travel and event restrictions in 2020, the number of photo book orders has decreased. Their share in the total number of orders in 2021 was around 40%. On the other hand, sales of single impressions have increased, averaging over 38% this year. Since the tourism and events industry has restarted, we can see a slow return to the results achieved before 2020. As Printbox data shows, The October 2021 results were again higher than the 2019 results, proving that the industry is on the verge of a rebound just before the peak Christmas season.

Crucially, photo printing businesses in the post-pandemic era are not only subject to trends in their industry but, more importantly, dependent on the forces of the e-commerce sector. According to McKinsey Global Institute analysis, e-commerce has grown 2-5 times faster than before the pandemic.

Trends to watch in 2021, according to Printbox

Based on market data and predictive analyzes conducted with its customers, Printbox has distinguished itself 4 directions to focus your attention on when running your photo printing business in 2021 and 2022.

1. AI-powered photo book creation

The digital transformation has made it possible to create tools that shorten the time needed to design a book by almost 5 times. Photo printing companies have realized that using AI in photo album software can empower their customers and help them when they need it, much faster than before.

An example of such a solution is Printbox Smart Creation, which allows cut photo book project creation time by 5.1 days (for manual creation) at 1.3 days (using smart algorithms).

AI should support end users by helping them in areas where they need it, such as the tedious photo selection process. According to Kasper Rybak, Product Owner at Printbox, the biggest advantage of the latest AI-based photo album software is that it doesn’t just create white or black papers. It quickly provides a beautiful, unique project with lots of clipart, backgrounds, text fields, and other elements.

Artificial Intelligence is a phenomenon highlighted by the biggest players in the photo printing market. One of the most recognizable brands has implemented the smart autofill feature in editors, which automatically places users’ photos into their photo book pages in chronological order.

2. Mobile sales boom

Mobile e-commerce is on the rise and poised for further growth. In 2019, the share of the mobile channel in all online sales was 63.5% and in 2021 it is expected to reach 72.9%. (according to

Based on data from Printbox, the median mobile traffic for customers of this photo software provider in 2021 is 19%.

In this context, it is crucial to consider two issues: Responsive Web Design (RWD) and dedicated mobile applications.

An RWD approach and site optimization for mobile is now a new gold standard. When a user moves from a laptop to a tablet or smartphone, the site should automatically change to accommodate resolution, image size, and scripting capabilities.

The share of users placing orders via mobile continues to grow. According to Printbox data from 2019, the number of projects rendered in the RWD editor was 10.73%, and in 2021, it increased to 15.43%.

The second element of mobile presence is the app. It must be very efficient, have well-designed purchase paths, as well as features dedicated to this sales channel.

3. Protection against supply chain disruptions

Border closures and nationwide shutdowns have had a huge impact on how the business operates. They have caused significant disruptions to production operations and supply chains. Global distribution channels were disrupted, while demand remained the same or even increased.

Therefore, the business of physical stores has been transformed into different business models and adapted to the new conditions. At the same time, most online stores have started making more improvements to increase their efficiency.

Photo printing companies are looking to diversify their offerings and supply chain options to avoid bottlenecks and mitigate the effects of general industry volatility.

For e-commerce companies, this means modernizing their inventory and order management systems to improve integration with supply chain partners and deal with market shocks and uncertainty.

4. Move from open source to SaaS

Currently, around 70% of companies rely on open source solutions. Their main advantage is the fact that they are theoretically free. However, there are many associated costs, such as hiring employees for service or developing teams. With the increase in staff turnover, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the stability of the development and maintenance of open source solutions.

SaaS e-commerce platforms are hosted and maintained by their provider and then licensed to merchants. Users access these applications through web browsers and pay a monthly subscription. The main advantage of SaaS platforms is that the software is not installed on site or maintained by the user. Instead, the vendor builds, hosts, and maintains the software on its own servers.

The SaaS market is currently growing 18% every year, and by the end of 2021, 99% of organizations will be using one or more SaaS solutions.

Although open-source solutions are still more popular, it can be seen that in 2020 SaaS solutions registered the highest growth and this trend will continue in the years to come.


Certainly, we can interpret industry data and reports in different ways, because such global disruption had no precedent in history. It is not known how the world and the industry will evolve after the pandemic, but we can draw some conclusions from the analyzes carried out:

  • Global e-commerce statistics show that the coronavirus crisis is likely to accelerate existing industry trends. This means that online shopping and delivery is constantly expanding and photo product manufacturers must adapt.
  • From a vendor’s perspective, automation and algorithm support are desirable. The demand for technologically advanced and fully integrated systems is increasing and consumers expect satisfying results quickly and without hassle. We can solve many industry challenges with the support of AI.
  • Returning to a typical business model may be impossible and, above all, unprofitable. Instead of waiting and hoping, companies should transform their own businesses to meet customer and market needs. They should diversify their supply chains and review their technology.

Elaine F. Brim