PMA's Fox says, "Retailers will have to continually prepare themselves for the increasingly educated and demanding photo imaging consumers parading through their doors. Today's consumers research well and are extremely savvy on the latest and greatest products/services in all categories. The specialty retailer segment is known for its knowledgeable sales staff and should be well positioned to take full advantage of these increased sales opportunities."
Olympus' DiCarlo warns that with the internet playing a larger role in how consumers educate themselves as well as make purchases, the industry must focus on relationship building. "The industry shouldn't lose sight of the importance of developing the relationships with existing and potential customers. As electronic means of communicating products and services expand, it is important to remember that personal contact with the end user goes a long way toward increasing knowledge of product trends and applications."
"Photo dealers and minilab owners should know how all of their customers use products so that they can educate them on all the options their facilities offer," he says.
DiCarlo also suggests that dealers tap into the resources that manufacturers offer. "There is an array of programs that go above and beyond advertising to help dealers compete and sell products, such as interactive training to educate sales staff. Handson demonstrations and experiential events for staff and customers are also good incentives that can offer a new dimension to enhance sell through," he says.
"The photo industry has always raised the "education flag" when asked what it can do to prosper, or even survive, in our new digital world," says Kingston Technology's Leathem. "While everyone with a digital camera does not read the photo trade and enthusiast publications, we are the collective experts in digital imaging and as such should be the source for other mainstream, general consumer publications, to gain knowledge and advice to share with their readers—your customers," he adds.
"The concept for future success can be so simple, but like all retail, the devil is in the details," says McCurry. "Retailers have seen consumers become more knowledgeable every day and, unfortunately, also more cynical. Today's consumer looks for congruency where they spend their money. Is the merchant who's asking for their business true to all they allegedly stand for?"
"So what are photo retailers doing today that is incongruent? Consumers expect to wait and be mistreated in big box warehouse clubs. This same response in a specialty retail store is incongruent and turns off customers. They may not have the same expectation of every retailer, but now more than ever, successful retailers have to meet the stated and unstated expectations of their customers.
"Jay Conrad Levinson said it to PMA audiences in the 1980s... Everything you do is part of your marketing—every time you 'touch' your customer you are marketing to them.
"It's not often discussed in our industry, but one of these "touches" is our customer bathroom. Think about the changes over the past few years. We're now asking "Jennifer" to spend more time in our stores; we're creating play areas for her kids, offering her coffee or other drinks. Do we then let her use a bathroom that looks like it belongs in a third world country's bus station? How does this influence her attitude about your store? What if her kids need to use the bathroom while she's at your kiosk? She has an expectation that anyone who would offer her a seat at their kiosk, coffee to drink, and a place for her kids to play would take care of her basic needs in a civilized way. When you fail in this, she sees you as incongruent or fake, a place not worthy of her consumer dollars. If your bathroom's not clean, what does it say about your lab's quality or your attention to detail? And some retailers wonder why Jennifer didn't return!"
McCurry continues, "The imaging industry is going through a huge rebirth. For some leading retailers, personalized photo products today generate higher revenue than 4x6 print did. The secret in building this volume isn't in how or where the products are made, but how the interface engages the customer."
The Importance of Printing Images
"…Our industry must remember it is all about the photography," says Pentax's Bunnell.
"The best way to preserve and share cherished digital photos continues to be by printing them out," adds Canon's Peck.
"For several years now, photography has been about digital ways to do all the same things we used to do with film. It's time to unleash the power and flexibility that digital photos have because they are digital," says Alan Bullock, Associate Director, InfoTrends, Inc.
"Digital Imaging has removed significant consumer and retailer workflow barriers and image creativity and applications are now virtually limitless. As awareness expands and household penetration of broadband access continues to increase, consumers can upload images to their retailer of choice and order prints, scrapbook pages, greeting cards, postage stamps, calendars, complete photo books and numerous other personalized photo products," explains Fujifilm's Liem.
Brad Kruchten GM, Retail Printing and VP, Eastman Kodak Co. notes that 115 billion images are taken, stored and not printed each year.