We can now optimistically say we are beginning to look at the Covid-19 virus in our rearview mirrors. The results were catastrophic, with so many deaths and sickness, as well as its effect on business and commerce. I think we can safely say the world has changed forever. However, perhaps now we can also see new opportunities arise.
In general, camera retailers were bold and creative. Moreover, many have survived this challenge with amazing results. The questions for us all now are: how has our world changed? How do we capitalize over the next 12–24 months?
New Opportunities Arise
The World Now Knows Virtual
Until the pandemic, the world’s virtual contact was mostly limited to online shopping, and some college online learning. However, practically overnight, almost everyone had to learn to master vehicles like Zoom and Skype. Think about it. Not only did teachers have to teach their students virtually, but students had to learn to adapt to online classrooms. My daughter teaches kindergarten, and she had the challenge of teaching kids as young as 5 years old through Zoom and other methods.
So what does this mean? It means that consumers might not feel the need to leave their homes to complete tasks beyond purchasing products. Virtual training programs will not only become the norm, but they might also be the expected form of learning.
A new camera purchaser used to feel the need to come to your store to learn about their new product. Can the same one-on-one training now happen virtually? And can it become a consistent source of income for your store? Why not?
The Home Office Is Here to Stay
The pandemic also forced businesses indoors, where most of the world became at-home employees. Now that things are loosening up, do you really think that everyone will return to the office?
Some companies like Facebook and Google have already declared their employees can work from home permanently. Most I’ve heard will modify their demands to two or three days per week in the office, with staggered schedules and optional meetings.
Consequently, our opportunity is realizing the home office phenomenon is here to stay, and the demand for visual and virtual tools will not abate when this is over. Stocking products that home offices need is an opportunity for camera stores. On-computer cameras, ring lights and mini tripods to create home studios are just a few of the options. However, it’s not enough to just stock these products. Think about creating a home office display in your store, with all of the products you can promote to make the experience better than your customers are experiencing now.
Online Shopping Will Only Get Bigger
Fortunately, most of you were already experienced in online retail. So, this is not news. However, the difference is that many more formerly inexperienced online shoppers are now experts. What’s more, their next phase is comparing your online shopping experience to those with much greater resources (like Amazon, Target, Best Buy, etc.).
If your online shopping experience hasn’t changed in the last few years, this is probably a worthy investment. Spend time on other websites and compare your strengths and weaknesses. Things like easy returns, live chat, uncomplicated shopping carts and simple navigation are now the norm. In addition, online isn’t just about sales; it’s about information. Those who provide the most information on products—with comparison tools and detailed spec sheets—have a better chance of gaining customer loyalty and new followers.
Families Recognized the Emotional Power of Imaging
How many of you used your time at home to complete projects you put off for years? How many of them included family memories?
After years of procrastinating, I finally digitized my life. Over a number of weekends, I took all of my shoebox prints (circa 1970–2000) and fed them through a high-speed scanner. I organized the prints by family members as well as decades and shared them with my kids and siblings.
Realizing I was on a roll, my next adventure was gathering up my 53 VHS-C tapes (beginning with the birth of my kids); I sent them off to be digitized. I’m now sharing one video at a time with my family, hoping to make the fun last for at least a few months. At that point, they’ll all have cloud access to all of our family memories.
This isn’t new to our industry, but every friend I mentioned it to said the same thing: “Oh, I have to do that!” This market is far from saturated, and with most retailers offering digitizing services, it’s time to move that to the front of the store. My message is really to strike while the iron is hot with older photo memories. This can not only lead to “digitizing” profits but also increased print revenue as well.
Consumers Have Money to Spend
This phenomenon might not last forever; however, many consumers lucky enough to hold onto their jobs have some extra money in their wallets. There are government stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment insurance, and the simple fact that when you’re locked in your house, you’re not spending money on restaurants, gas and car repairs, vacations and travel, and lots of other things that were always a natural drain on income.
This presents a short-term opportunity to take advantage of a happy, relieved, slightly wealthier consumer. This will not last forever. Retailers that recognize and take advantage of this trend (can you spell “promotions?”) are in a great place this year.
Knowing there are product shortages, think about other categories where consumers are willing to make purchases either they’ve put off or are now needed in the post-pandemic normal.
By stepping back and recognizing these short-term trends, you may want to rethink the opportunities that this “new normal” presents.