When eyewear supplier Warby Parker was still in its infancy and didn’t have any brick and mortar stores, customers would visit the offices to try on frames. Dave Gilboa, a founder, noted that he often posted options on social media for friends to weigh up.
When the company opened its first store on Greene Street in SoHo in 2013, it decided to make taking photos (and sharing) easier by installing a permanent photo booth that tweeted and emailed digital images.
The brand is getting a social media boost and the equivalent of user-generated ads: the images are adorned with “Warby Parker” and are set against the backdrop of colorful illustrations by artist Alia Penner, who designed the company’s first television commercial.
“There has been a lot of talk about the death of brick and mortar and how e-commerce will take over the world,” Gilboa said recently. “We wanted to offer something that wasn’t available through e-commerce to really promote the idea that shopping can be entertainment and that it’s a social phenomenon.”
Warby Parker now has photo booths in half of its 12 stores, including one in Miami, where the photo is taken from the ceiling against a backdrop designed to look like customers are on a pool raft. According to the company, around 10 percent of customers use the kiosks. “Hundreds of photos are posted on social media,” said Gilboa.
The photo booth, which is home to one-off events like weddings and parties, is now firmly established with fashion and lifestyle brands as companies like Urban Decay and Topshop recognize that some of the best promotions they can get are well-lit brands are photos of customers having a good time.
Celebrities do the same: For the past two years, Neil Patrick Harris and Kelly Ripa have installed stands in their homes with “perfect lighting and exposure,” said Mark van S, founder of Brooklyn’s MVS Studio Inc. (at Ms. Ripa’s) home Network makes it possible to put the pictures in a slide show that appears on all screens in your house.)
“People take better pictures of themselves than the photographers because they don’t have the same level of uncertainty,” said van S. “It’s a very inexpensive way to do marketing, especially when this stuff is social. “
The financial arrangements are complicated: some stalls are rentals; others are bought. Features and prices vary widely.
The kiosks, which are often free to customers, allow companies to collect information such as email addresses or Twitter handles and give customers the opportunity to receive updates.
“As long as the process doesn’t take forever, people are pretty open when they get a snack to enjoy,” said Aaron Fisher-Cohen, founder of Bosco, a photo booth company that claims pioneered the GIF (Looping Moving Image ).
Mr. Fisher-Cohen’s company, named for both his cat and the first successful photo booth company founded in 1890, has permanent booths in Soho House New York, the paintbox nail salon, and the brand’s SoHo store for sustainable Clothes reformation installed. “Booth” is actually a misnomer for some Bosco products. It’s sometimes an iPad with an app that’s not surrounded by walls.
For fashion brands, the stand has in no way replaced the locker room selfie, which is rather lonely. The stand “is very social. It’s usually more than one person, ”said Yael Aflalo, a founder of the Reformation. Ms. Aflalo declined to share numbers on usage, but said she hopes to eventually have the technology to tie them to buying habits.
The photographer Seamus Ryan, founder of Booth Nation in London, calls his dice “a full-fledged fashion shoot in a box, all the glamorous aspects without the inconvenience of a photographer”.
Mr Ryan, whose clients include Chanel and Louis Vuitton, set up a booth with a wind machine and “Beauty Lighting” in the Topshop in Oxford Circus three years ago. It has been so successful that he has since added two more.
He learned the attraction of photo booths and perfected their lighting when he was shooting an advertising campaign for a feminine hygiene product eight years ago. His job was to get portraits of 100 women who really laughed and thought one way to do so would be to mock a booth in his studio on Columbia Road, London, and open it to the public. “It was a hit,” he said.
For health food store Juice Generation, which installed a booth in its Manhattan financial district last month, the photos form the basis of what founder Eric Helms described as “a kind of modern loyalty program”. Instead of offering cards that are stamped with every purchase, three Juice Generation employees who monitor the company’s social media invite people who post lots of photos to share free drinks and other surprises with friends on their birthdays to take. The same goes for customers who live it in their portraits. “We always turn to people who breakdance or do backflips,” said Helms. “The crazier the better.”
One problem is that there is no way to guarantee that the company’s products will ever make it into the pictures – ironic considering that Mr. Helms’ original idea was that the booth would only display pictures of beverages, not drinks People is intended.
On Saturdays after SoulCycle, Audree Morrison, a Pilates instructor, and her boyfriend Fred Pisapia love to play around with the photos while they wait for their drinks to be made. “Once I yawned, another time I kissed him,” said Ms. Morrison. “People at the counter always say, ‘Now you have to do it with your drinks in hand. ‘”
At the AKT InMotion boutique dance cardio gym, which is due to open a studio on 1182 Broadway this month, the photo booth is also being used to build loyalty with gifts for those who post frequently.
Last year the company ran social media-based challenges like “Wring in the New Year,” where customers were encouraged to measure how soaked their clothes were from the sweat they’d worked up, but “It’s always difficult to find someone they can accept a picture for you, ”said the founder Anna Kaiser. “That way, it comes out with flattering lighting and without worrying about the angle.”