We can do better than comparing wedding suppliers on price

An article in the New York Times Magazine by Catherine Rampell gave this first hand description of the wedding industry: "…I thought the process of planning my own wedding would be fairly painless and practical.  That was before I entered the economically baffling world of the wedding industrial complex."  This frustration echoes an industry of brides and highlights a chronic need to make comparison shopping easier within the wedding market.

Research of other industries has shown that consumers who are provided an effective way to compare suppliers online are better informed and make more productive enquiries.  These industries all use a 'price vs specifications' formula, which has been effective for comparing products as well as services.

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The wedding industry does not conform to the price vs specifications model because the variables that its consumers base their comparison are regularly not definitive or tangible.  Lets compare the massage industry with wedding photography.  A customer seeking a massage can compare different businesses by the type, duration and price of the service.  They are definitive specifications.  But a bride's choice of photographer is far more subjective and might come down to whether they like the images and / or whether the personality of the photographer will be a good fit for their day.

The standard price-based comparison is not overly useful in the wedding industry either.  The high level of custom services within each of the wedding sectors makes a direct comparison between competitors impractical.  But also consider that anyone with a $4,000 photography budget has a choice of about 500 photographers in the Sydney region.  Price is an important part of the consumer's decision, but it is an impractical filter within the wedding industry.

There is a huge opportunity to increase productivity in the wedding industry by shifting the focus away from traditional price-based comparison.  When we build a compelling way to compare wedding suppliers, search costs will decrease and businesses will have an increased ability to express their value proposition.  The industry will be more transparent and less complex for the mutual benefit of both wedding businesses and the customers who book them.

How successful wedding photographers stand apart

Wedding Photography is one of those popular vocations followed by a legion of aspiring professionals.  And as far as creative pursuits go, it doesn't get much better than wedding photography for a feasible occupation in the arts.  But the industry is a saturated and extremely competitive one and standing apart is crucial to business success.  Our research found 2 common activities that successful wedding photographers do in order to differentiate themselves in the market.

1. Blog it!   While conducting our search for wedding suppliers we also researched the kinds of photographers that operate a wedding blog.  Not the kind of blog that contains advice for would be brides, but the Green Wedding Shoes variety where beautiful images of every imaginable wedding detail keep prospective clients scrolling down the page.  Australia's most successful wedding photographers all have one!  In fact, 54% of all wedding photographers in Australia have one.  And 95% of these businesses duplicate their efforts onto a business Facebook page.

blog usage

2. Maintain a (business) Facebook Page   Of all social media, Facebook is the most popular with wedding photographers.  90% of the sector operate a business Facebook page and regularly post images from recent weddings onto it.  Needless to say, all of Australia's most successful wedding photographers proudly display their latest and greatest masterpieces to the chorus of a few thousand Facebook fans.  And its not just the photography elite who have an impressive Facebook following.  Wedding Photographers based in Australia have a combined Facebook audience of more than 3.5 million users.

If you are a wedding photographer and you're not blogging, how are you showcasing your difference in the market?

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Photographers: An average of 67 weddings per year?

Photography is one of the largest sectors in the wedding industry.  It's also one of the most saturated and competitive markets, and accounts for 16% of all wedding businesses across Australia.

WeddingPhotographers

The photography sector is entirely made up of small businesses that primarily service a local community.  Most businesses are owner operated with 1 or 2 additional staff and there are a growing number of consortiums, where local photographers collaborate under an umbrella brand.  The industry has no regulatory body and anyone with sufficient means can establish a photography business.

The sector offers an enticing vocation for both professionals and amateurs, and established suppliers must contend with a constant stream of start-up businesses entering the market.  This creates a highly competitive environment and puts downward pressure on prices, and on profit margins.  Successful wedding photographers are most often businesses that do not solely compete on price, but secure bookings based on the quality of their products and service.

The number of photography suppliers that can sustain a successful business in the wedding industry grows only slightly over time in line with slow growth in actual weddings.  And as the number of start-ups entering the market is high, so too is the volume of market exits.  As we continue to research the wedding photography sector, the high level of competition is evident in the frequency that we find dormant websites and abandoned Facebook pages.

So far our research has uncovered 1,642 wedding photographers around Australia.  With 110,000+ weddings in Australia every year, this equates to about 67 weddings per business per year.  It would suggest, there are probably more photographers yet to appear out of the online woodwork.

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