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Virtual Photofinishing



Since Wal-Mart was starting a new online service, they had complete freedom over how to design the site. Hugens' team worked on it every day, for three months, traveling to Vancouver to meet with the PhotoChannel designers and map out the details. One hundred percent of the site, from start to finish, was based on what Wal-Mart wanted. The system went online in April 2003.

"Our customer feedback has been extremely positive," says Hugens. "The Internet is a touchy young industry and we still have a few hurdles to face, but they are more of a rarity now than the norm. We're constantly committed to speeding up and improving the quality of service, and to ensure that it's an easy task to place an order."

Renee Senchyna, manager of a Wal-Mart lab in Edmonton, has also received very positive feedback. Her store has two Noritsu processors and three order stations to handle the high-volume of digital photo customers.

"The PhotoCenter online direct to store printing solution has been very popular," she said. "Customers are happy that they can order prints from home, and pick them up later while they're shopping. They tell me that it's not only convenient, but easy to use."

Senchyna's staff regularly checks the PhotoChannel Lab Server, housed in the store's lab, throughout the day. As soon as new orders come up, they print them and call the customers to let them know it's ready to pick up. The customer also receives an automated e-mail.

"We see all types of print orders come over the in-store server. Prints from 4x6 to 12x18, prints with borders, and even the special effects options," she added. "The site has been running very smoothly and orders are increasing every day."

Shaping the Future

PhotoChannel continues to broaden its horizons. Working in cooperation with TELUS Corporation (Canada's second largest telephone company and cellular provider - owned 25 percent by Verizon), the two companies recently built a world-class data center that will allow them to scale up and add new customers in an efficient and cost-effective manner. "TELUS has been an investor and business partner with PhotoChannel for almost two years," says Mark Schnarr, executive vice president of corporate development at TELUS. "The rapid adoption of PhotoChannel's digital photofinishing is a testament to the need for innovative technology that brings user-friendly online solutions to customers."

PhotoChannel has also developed an online, in-store-printing model for Costco, which is now being used by Costco warehouses all over Texas. More retailers in the US expected to follow.

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