Consumers today are less intimidated by the techie facet of their digital gadgets (including digicams) and more inclined to see them as necessities in their lives-in other words, lifestyle accessories. "The end user is more interested in knowing if the product will do what they need it to do in their life," explains Eliott Peck, VP and GM of sales, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. "The product needs to look good, match the style of the consumer, and enrich their life in some way. That is why style, design, and color have such a major influence in today's purchasing decision. With repeat customers now accounting for more than 50% of all digital camera sales, manufacturers need to provide more choices and new features at competitive price points so consumers can choose the perfect camera that fits their lifestyle."
So when it comes to choosing a new compact digital camera, what exactly are consumers looking for? And, perhaps just as important, what techniques can retailers use to make those sales that may be different, say, than how they'd sell a DSLR or ultra-zoom?
Consumers are looking beyond what are now "the standards." "When you look at who's buying, 8 out of 10 people are buying their second or third digicam next year; they're looking past megapixels and the LCD and looking at more-advanced features," says Rich Ford, SPG Manager, Digital Capture & Devices, Americas Region, for Kodak. "It's like when you buy a car: now megapixels, LCD, and zoom are standard. Resolution for second-time buyers is 40% more important. The brand also resonates more strongly the second time around."
So what advanced features and special technologies are making waves? Kodak's lineup strives to offer ease of use without sacrificing quality-featuring technologies like face detection and image stabilization. "We pack a lot of technology under the hood, but it's still an easy, intuitive brand," adds Annabelle Freeman, director of PR,Americas Region, Kodak. A few of Kodak's new cameras feature HD technology, for playback on HDTVs.
Companies are embracing the proliferation of some of the internet's hottest technologies and integrating them into their compact digital camera lines. All of Casio's new cameras, for instance, feature a YouTube Best Shot Capture mode, making it easy to shoot, upload, and share your video memories. "With the YouTube mode, consumers now have the added flexibility to share…video memories with their friends and family," says Bill Heuer, senior vice president of Casio's Digital Imaging Division.
In addition to a recent digicam lineup introduced in the fall to respond to several key demographics, Fujifilm designed its FinePix Z10fd, in five hot colors, specifically for fashion-conscious Generation Z users who want to be "hooked up" at all times. Notable features on this cutting-edge compact digicam include IrSimple technology (wireless image transfer to IrSimple-equipped devices); face detection; and a Blog mode. The Blog mode automatically resizes any image you've captured to a properly sized image-in the camera. Jim Calverley, senior product training manager, Electronic Imaging Products, Fujifilm, says, "Fujifilm is the first camera manufacturer to recognize the importance of social networking for this demographic and addresses the demand for better tools that can be used with social networking sites."
Nikon sets its Coolpix line of compact digital cameras apart with technologies that make sharing easier. "The S51c [for example] incorporates built-in Wi-Fi, which allows users to wirelessly email their images to family and friends, to Flickr, to a blog site, or to Nikon's my Picturetown website, which is a secured storage and sharing site," says Bill Giordano, general marketing manager, Coolpix and Coolscan products for Nikon.
Most of the Nikon Coolpix cameras also feature vibration-reduction, so even the average user can achieve blur-free images in a wide range of lighting scenarios.
Panasonic's FX33, FX55, and FZ18 cameras feature Panasonic's Intelligent Auto Mode, which is comprised of an Intelligent Scene Selector, which automatically selects the appropriate scene mode; a Face Detection System (detecting up to 15 human faces); and Continuous AF.