SmugMug Taps Adobe Analytics to Grow Photo Communities with Flickr
Just in the last decade, smartphones have upended the world of photography. Communities have grown beyond professionals to include everyday people who enjoy capturing pets, culinary experiences, and more. Photography has evolved from being an infrequent event (family portraits, weddings) to a daily behavior — with estimates showing that over 1 trillion digital photos are taken each year (over a hundred times the global population). Being in the earlier stages of this boom, we expect that people will not only require more digital services to keep their photos safe moving forward but will crave communities with similar photography interests.
For nearly two decades, SmugMug has been at the forefront of digital photography. The family-run company of just over 200 employees stands out in Silicon Valley for having taken zero outside funding. By combining the personal touch of a local business with a singular passion for photographers, SmugMug has distinguished itself from larger behemoths.
SmugMug invests in the needs of photographers over monetizing personal data, creating a secure place to store, share, and sell photography — an approach that has attracted millions of subscribers that value privacy and security. With their recent acquisition of Flickr, the company is now on a bigger stage. As it looks to welcome a new community and invest in Flickr’s growth, SmugMug has chosen Adobe Analytics to be their core insights engine — helping drive decision-making in the moments when it counts most.
SmugMug + Flickr
The arrival of Flickr brought SmugMug a community of many millions of more members. The brand was one of the early darlings of the internet era, and the user base had grown rapidly over the years. By the time the two companies came together in 2018, the Flickr community was a bit of a wild west. SmugMug has long prided itself on knowing what makes their customers tick — to build a sustainable future for Flickr, they needed to understand the needs of this new community, bring them into the SmugMug family, and continue developing services that would shape the future of photography. This exercise would be a crucial factor to long-term success, and critical to this effort was a sophistication with data analytics.
According to Ben MacAskill, COO of SmugMug: “While our company operates on a smaller scale, we have always leveraged best-in-class technology. As our community grew with Flickr, we needed to keep a pulse on the evolving needs of our members. On the SmugMug platform, we had been leveraging the free version of Google Analytics. With the addition of Flickr, however, we needed a tool to support higher traffic volumes and a need for deeper insights. Adobe Analytics had the most comprehensive platform in what it could measure and tell us about our vibrant community, taking us beyond simple vanity metrics and giving us a central insights engine — one that different teams could leverage to inform thinking and drive real action. SmugMug and Adobe also share a common commitment to the security and privacy of customer data, which factored into our decision as well.”
By understanding how Flickr users engaged with the brand by looking at customer journeys and the reasons for fallout, the company could ensure a consistently high-quality experience for members. It gave SmugMug properties a dynamic quality, with the experience changing constantly based on what resonates best with users. And by understanding the differences and overlaps among customer segments, the marketing team has a foundation to inform retention strategies, optimize migration paths from Free to Pro accounts, and uncover new opportunities for bundled subscriptions or advertising partnerships.
One example is when changes were made to the Flickr Free account model. The company was able to gather critical insights around the most popular member upgrade journeys (from Free to Pro) to ensure that those paths were as seamless as possible — with tweaks that made it easier for customers to get from point A to point B. As the custodian for the vast amount of content and data on the Flickr platform, Adobe Analytics also provides AI services that can alert SmugMug of real-time anomalies, such as traffic spikes in trending content, along with the contributing factors for teams to take action.
Many of the world’s most successful products and services are built around communities. Giving customers a forum to engage other like-minded users develops advocacy over time and loyalty in the long run. With the complexity of how consumers engage brands now, fostering community requires more than just gut instinct. By having a pulse on the customer experience, SmugMug has cemented its reputation as a trusted partner for one of life’s treasured assets. As their communities grow, data will be a key ingredient in helping the company scale their philosophy and maintain leadership in the category of customer experience management.