DIR June 2017 Editor’s Note: Disruptive Technologies

DIR June 2017 Editor’s Note: Disruptive Technologies


With so much talk about the decline of the photo industry, I often think about how we can seize opportunities for our future.

I had an interesting conversation with a very well-respected photo retailer a few weeks ago. I asked him who his core customer was these days, and his answer surprised me. He said that many of his customers were older men who still see photography as a hobby and who finally have the time to devote to their lifelong passion.

Jerry Grossman

I recognize the importance of keeping core customers who love to take a photo trek in the woods. But it’s also incumbent on us to bring in the next generation of customers who may not even know what a real camera is.

In my college marketing class, I teach students about disruptive technologies. These are the technologies that no one really sees coming, that ultimately destroy thriving businesses. Think of what Netflix did to Blockbuster. Or for that matter, what digital cameras did to Kodak. Or what Steve Jobs did to so many businesses that we’ve all lost count.

We are now living in a world of disruption, where Silicon Valley seems to create new products every other day, and where every business has to be on guard against what affect those products might have on their future. And in many cases, their collapse could have been prevented. Take Kodak, if only its management recognized in time that digital was the future. (Kudos for Fujifilm for their foresight.)

We all have to understand that nothing lives forever, and the DSLR and printing markets as we know them continue to evolve and shrink. In some cases, we’re all guilty of trying to hang onto our old customers to make current numbers. But we should be investing in our future customers, those who will ultimately be responsible for our success.

The good news is that the photography market isn’t shrinking at all. In fact it’s thriving like never before! Every age group from young teens to seniors are taking pictures and sharing them. There is a true enthusiasm and excitement for sharing every moment. The question is: how do we make sure our industry—and your store in particular—capitalizes on this photo craze? Our core customers should no longer be 60-year-old men but rather 25 year olds looking for new and different ways to capture their memories.

Our future depends on it.