Solving Real Market Issues
I could have used this space to trumpet our phenomenal growth in net revenue of more than 65% since April and wax lyrical about the reasons for our success. You can read that information in plenty of other places. Instead, I am interested in discussing the real market issues we are dealing with and finding ways to solve them.
Despite the economic downturn, the digital camera market continues to grow at a steady rate; in fact, analysts expect penetration to reach 25% of households in the next 12 months. None of us involved in digital imaging are reaping the expected benefits from the market's growth. We're missing the boat. And, we're the ones to blame.
Retailers, manufacturers, online photo services each represent different, complementary components of the digital imaging industry. We each have a vested interest in seeing mass consumer adoption of digital photography, yet we have not done enough to make consumers aware of all the benefits of this technology. Many people purchase digital cameras without knowing that they can get prints of their pictures, not to mention the range of printing alternatives available to them. This is not the consumer's fault. It's ours. We need to focus on educating consumers about the value inherent in digital imaging.
As an industry, we need to give consumers a reason to change the way they are used to taking, sharing and printing photos. We must work together to educate the market and grow awareness about the many features and services that are unique to the digital world. Increased education and awareness is in all of our best interests: it will help sell more cameras, accessories and printers; it will attract new users to online photo services, retailers with digital solutions; it will also bring new consumers into the digital imaging market. Without this effort, consumers will never change their behavior and none of us will achieve sustainable returns.
However, our work does not stop with creating awareness and educating the market. All of us need to make it easier for consumers to take advantage of the value proposition we are offering. Getting images from a memory card to a computer needs to be easier. Uploading images to an online photo service needs to be easier. Printing at home needs to be easier. I could go on, but I assume you get my point.
The digital camera market is going to continue to grow at an exciting rate and if we, as an industry, don't make some progress on consumer adoption, it will pass us by.
Andy Wood, CEO,
Riding the Evolution
With all that has happened this past year, you could sum up the State of the Industry with one word — evolution. We have seen changes in every type of product engineered for consumers and the way this new product is distributed and merchandised to the consumer. With business, as in life, evolution is unavoidable and is needed in order to grow and prosper.
One of the more prominent elements affecting this change is the emergence and rapid acceptance of digital photographic products. The upcoming year will likely be the one in which digital product sales will outstrip 35mm products. This is significant for an industry that has relied on the one primary format for so many years.
While this is a time of transition, it is also one of excitement as innovative products are coming to market quicker than ever, with advanced features, incredibly compact dimensions, and for digital, higher resolution with greater storage capacity. And all of it is priced to move. With easier operation and impressive capabilities, there has been a huge acceptance of digital products much greater than anticipated as consumers are becoming computer savvy with modems at home to share their images with others and photo quality printers to print images at home for themselves. This new technology has a traditional feel as consumers can drop off their storage media at the local camera stop and pick up pictures in less than an hour. This relatively new technology affords them capabilities that they only dreamed of just a few years ago.
While we recognize there is a profound emphasis on digital product, we all need to take great care not to abandon 35mm, as there is still tremendous viability and profitability in film-based cameras both from unit sales and film processing. Many consumer's needs are still being met with film-based cameras and they are quite content to remain and upgrade within this traditional format.
I believe we have all been impacted by the challenging economic climate of the past year. As a result, dealers are reluctant to stock heavy for the fall selling season. They need to be wary as not to be caught off guard and have too little to sell and miss needed profits.
We truly have grown and transformed into an "imaging industry" quite different from just a few years ago.
What Digital Means to Business
Over the past several years, much has been made about the dawning of a new digital age in the professional imaging industry. As is often the case however, it seemed for a while that the reality of the digital age might not live up to our lofty expectations. Much of the industry adopted a "wait and see" approach to the digital era as major imaging manufacturers and service providers sought to determine where they might fit into the dynamic of the new digital world.
As 2002 approaches it is clear the digital era has definitely arrived, but what will that mean to your business? Look at it this way — whether you are selling traditional film or a SmartMedia card, a box of silver photographic printing paper or photo quality ink jet paper, our business is the same as it always has been: image capture and imaging output. As our customers embrace new imaging tools it is our goal to provide those tools. Over the course of its 123-year history, Ilford has remained on the cutting edge of new imaging technology. For digital consumers, we do this primarily around the image output side with photo quality ink jet papers.