Groovebook – The Recurring Groupon

For those who don’t know what Groovebook is, it is a subscription service that will send you a 4×6 photo book of up to 100 of your photos, every month, for $2.99.

You will forget to order your photo book, several times a year

I compare Groovebook to Groupon because if you actually use your subscription to the max every month,loose change then awesome, I think you are getting a pretty darn good deal. If you aren’t, then Groovebook is just taking your money to the bank. Groovebook knows, just like Groupon, that people are busy, and choosing 100 photos is time consuming! My napkin math tells me that Groovebook’s business model assumes 25-50% of books will never be ordered. I would not be surprised at all if this is what is actually happening.

Bad attitude towards customers

This sort of approach in a business model isn’t new, and I don’f feel like there is anything inherently wrong with it.  If that is what makes a business viable, and consumers still come and make it thrive, great, so long as everyone is happy.   What really rubs me the wrong way is that Groovebook has taken some fairly common tactics to make the bad deal (not ordering every book) even worse than it needs to be.  For one, you can just not order a book one month, but you still pay $2.99.  Umm, really?  And this is what the Groovebook FAQ says about it “No problem, we will still keep your account active. The fee of $2.99 is a subscription cost, so it will still be charged if you decide not to receive a book one month. We hope this is such a small fee that you will not choose to cancel GrooveBook.”  Let me translate this last sentence to what Groovebook is thinking “we know people are busy and you will never get around to canceling anyway, so we will just keep taking your money even if we don’t offer you any value.”

No self service ‘cancel my subscription’ from the app or website

Wait, it gets better.  If you do want to cancel your subscription, you need to email them.  There is no self service ‘cancel my account’ on their web site or app.  This sort of tactic is used by cable companies, phone companies, gym memberships, etc because they want to make it hard for you to stop wasting your money and them pocketing it.  I’m a firm believer in giving customers control and an awesome user experience.   Always make them feel like you are giving them the best overall experience ever and it is worth every penny they spend on it.  The Groovebook FAQ is like giving you the middle finger, “hey it’s only $2.99, chump change, forget about it.” That is not the kind of attitude I want from a business I am considering purchasing a product from.

To this day, I haven’t ordered a Groovebook.  The primary reason was the 100 photos. I don’t have the time to find 100 photos, and I don’t really want 100 photos floating around every month.  Now, what is really keeping me from buying is the email required to cancel and their attitude about paying even when you don’t order a book one month.

So Groovebook, an awesome deal or a horrible deal, it’s up to you.  Are you the super diligent person who will take on this task every month?  You will get a nice book subsidized by all the people who for whatever reason never get around to ordering one.. Before signing up, really think about whether or not the way you will use it and if it will ultimately be worthwhile.

Photo Printing Sites & Apps Are Focusing On The Wrong Thing

Higher Quantity, Lower Cost, and Pricing Games


Sample ad I saw for a crazy amount of free prints

For as long as I can remember, sites where you can get photos printed in books, 4×6 prints, cards, calendars, cups, etc. have seemingly been in constant discount mode so long as you know the secret code to get the discount.  This year things have taken a little bit of a shift and and competition has heated up.  Now the focus is on how many prints you can get for the least amount of money.  Groovebook is offering 100 prints in a book for $2.99, delivered.  This Labor Day Shutterfly had a promotion to get 101 prints for free.  PhotoAffections came out with an iOS app called Free Prints earlier this year, up to 1000 free* prints per year.   I barely have the time to choose 1 or 2 photos to print, let alone 101, or 1000!

Fast, Simple, Quality


Mosaic Book home page

What I think the vast majority of people want is simplicity and consistency.  I want simplicity in pricing, ease of choosing a product, easy of choosing photo(s) for the product(s) I want to purchase.  I love the Mosaic app for all of these reasons. $20, 20 photos, in a well design photo book, all the time, super simple, done.  Ease of use and shortest path to completing the purchase are key.  Sure, I could spend $2.99 and get 100 prints in a book from Groovebook.  However the book is junk compared to what Mosaic offers.  Also, who has time to choose 100 photos at once?  Sometimes I want 100 photos in a book, but that is rare, and in those cases I will need to spend more time to choose the photos, which I don’t have now.  I’m willing to pay more per photo for a quality, simple, fast purchasing experience.  It isn’t about the cheapest 4×6 print folks!  Parting with 13 cents for a 4×6 print isn’t what is keeping people away from buying more prints from you.

Postcard Back

Back of #SepiaMail postcard

Pricing games are not a way to gain faithful customers in the long run.  The price I am going to pay needs to be consistent day to day.  My time as a parent is limited enough, I don’t want to have to hunt for a discount code, wait for the window to open, then order my prints.  I need to strike while the iron is hot.  I’ve got my photo, I want it sent to to my parents and grandparents, I want to do it now, and I’m willing to pay X amount for it.  #SepiaMail, a new service from Sepia Life is another examples that is trying to give people what they really want from a photo printing service.  When I’m posting a photo to Facebook of my son or daughter riding their bike or climbing a tree, I want my family who isn’t on Facebook to see the photo as well.  With #SepiaMail I can just add #SepiaMail #grandparents #sister to the end of caption as I’m writing it for the post, and #SepiaMail will print the photo and send it as a 4×6 postcard to my grandparents and sister.  I didn’t need to spend the time doing an entirely separate photo selection and publish workflow to get the postcards sent in another app or site.  Just a few extra taps on my phone when I’m already posting a photo, and I’m done.

Other gotchas with pricing

Since I brought up the topic of pricing games and some examples, I thought I’d go into some of the nitty gritty details on the games that are played.  For the FreePrints app there are a variety of restrictions and upsells, but the primary way they cover costs, and most certainly make money is you always pay shipping, $1.99 minimum. I select all the photos in one of my Facebook albums, 68, and it was gong to charge me $8.99 for shipping.  So I’d be paying ~13 center per photo, not a bad deal, but not free.  For comparison, Shutterly charges 15 cents per 4×6 print, so the Free Prints app is competitive with that, but again not free.  Free Prints is simply a product built around marketing, taking advantage of people’s thirst for free goods, and many people’s lack of time/desire/etc to bother looking into whether or not they are getting a good deal or not.

Free Prints is really the app that has taken cost games to the extreme for photo prints, and represents one of the huge problems I see in photo printing.  I personally can’t stand pricing games such as the ones Free Prints, Shutterfly, and most photo printing sites use.  I don’t think I’m alone here either.  The sites are set up so that unless you pay attention and do more work, you are probably going to get screwed and pay way more than you really should for your photo print product.


Photo printing needs to evolve so it isn’t a chore.  It needs to adapt to fit into my lifestyle and the way in which I view and share photos.  #SepiaMail is just one simple way in which this can be done.  Digital photos online are great, but I’m convinced that physical prints are the best way to love your photos again, and again, and again…