What areas should they be looking at?
Butler: Some of the labs we work with are finding great success with indoor work such as exhibit display graphics and retail in-store displays as well as even bigger opportunity in outdoor displays of event banners and even fleet marking and vehicle wraps. The key is to not to try to provide everything, but to specialize and be exceptional with a few applications that make customers willing to pay more for your service and keep coming back.
Cedrone: POP continues to grow as does exhibition graphics, which are higher margin items with quick turnaround times. As designers learn more about the possibilities of printing directly onto rigid substrates, exotic materials such as wood, glass and metal will become more popular.
Griff: Inkjet output presents a tremendous opportunity for photo labs to expand their businesses into new markets and products. Photo labs already have installed and mastered the computerized tools to support design, retouching and output of images. New market opportunities exist for producing a variety of products including posters, displays, signs and graphics.
Howard: Productivity throughout the entire workflow - from file prep through printing time, finishing and fulfillment. The key to having a successful and competitive business does seem to be centered on productivity. The other key area is the fulfillment aspect of client projects. Other business types, such as screen printers and offset printers, have really sophisticated fulfillment centers where they can “pack out” a campaign and ship to many locations for the client. This is increasingly a point of distinction among competitors in the client's eyes.
Mador: Evaluate the feature set of the equipment. Consider the products you will be offering and research the available media types. Signage applications, for example, will have a different set of requirements than fine art output. Choose printers that offer the most variety of media types, which can provide you with a mix of products to offer your customers. Also take into account the maximum output size of the printer. Partner with a supplier that offers an equipment growth path and offers printers that can address both current and future needs.
McLeod: Portrait and social labs can use wide-format printing technologies to add banners, paper-based posters, and a range of indoor and outdoor graphics to their product offering. They can also build on their existing photography businesses with the addition of large format canvas photos for family portraits and other similar applications. The wide color gamut and exceptional quality of today's digital inkjet technology is particularly attractive to these professionals.
For commercial labs, we recommend getting into the wide-format printing business to offer a greater range of products and services to customers. Profitable applications include outdoor prints, posters, banners, billboards, murals for restaurants and shops, trade show graphics and floor graphics.
Reamer: Photo labs will need to get creative and market these new services beyond traditional customers to many new outlets. Local businesses, art galleries, places of worship, flee market vendors, and local concert venues and playhouses all offer new markets and potential targets. The PosterArtist design software along with the versatile output media positions photo labs to attack these new markets with specific product offerings for fine art reproduction, presentation materials, commercial posters, banners, POP displays, wedding and event prints, and more.
Sayers: Photo labs should be looking at UV digital equipment that produces high quality output to defend their current market position and capture additional market share. They need to equip themselves with UV digital equipment to meet customer expectations of tight turn around times and the flexibility needed to meet customer requirements. Print '05 and SGIA '05 in September 2005 are great opportunities to learn more about all of the UV digital equipment available today.
Sexton: We have customers that use Chromira's for large and small Trade Show display graphics, Point of Purchase displays, Signage, Posters, and a variety of vertical markets applications. In the commercial graphics market, imaging state-of-the-art backlit displays seems to be one of the most exciting opportunities that we've seen. There is nothing more beautiful and visually compelling than RA4 backlit display graphics. It's very exciting that digital technology is creating new business opportunities for imaging labs. In the past, the expense of creating commercial art to print was a bigger obstacle to the business customer than the cost of imaging the print. Today with products like WorkStream Imaging Automation software, the ability to quickly (in minutes) create customized Poster, POP displays, and signage from templates offers an exciting new business opportunity and new demand for large format prints.
Sheikh: According to the 2005 U.S. Wide Format Inkjet Printer & RIP Trends Report published by Web Consulting in June 2005, photo labs surveyed stated that 21% of total shop sales came from wide format inkjet graphics. However in the same report, while 87% of photo labs surveyed owned an aqueous-based inkjet, only 4% owned a solvent unit.
Outdoor advertising continues to see strong growth. According to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, fourth quarter 2004 revenue was 4.5% higher than the same period in 2003. The association also states that significant gains of 31.9% were seen in the Media & Advertising category, which includes billboards, bus shelters, wrapped vehicles, building wraps and vehicle graphics. These visual communications vehicles are ideal for the Océ CS6060, which delivers high quality images and outdoor durability.
Shimamoto: Photo labs can look towards all of their existing customers today in addition to a wide variety of new customers currently utilizing wide-format prints at the consumer and commercial level. With today's excellent image quality of inkjet, longevity of inks, and wide range of media, photo labs can compete with any sign shop, service bureau, or printer with the right equipment and experience.
How should photo labs be marketing these services to their clients? How do they better position themselves to compete in this marketplace?