As the days of the 4×6 print continue to fade, an entire range of customized photo print products are helping photo retailers and photofinishers increase their bottom lines—and leading that charge is the photo book. Consumers are now offered an amazing selection of book sizes, textures and formats in an ever-expanding market niche. In fact, PMA Market Research estimates that in 2010, the photo book market will grow to $421 million.
This arena represents an important opportunity for the photo retailer, with various avenues available to enter the market, either through kiosk offerings, software sales or becoming a back-end printer/binder.
This special article includes interviews from leading companies who provide services and equipment that can help you prosper from this burgeoning market.
Mitsubishi Imaging Products
A Formidable Electronics Giant
Enters the Photo Gifts Printing Arena
Mitsubishi Imaging Products, a division of Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc., is poised to make a dramatic entry into the expanding market for photo books and the increasingly popular photo gift category using its acclaimed kiosks and digital photo printers as a springboard.
Market research indicates that this high-margin segment of the photo printing market is largely untapped and has the potential of offering added value for both retailers and consumers. “Our business model for photo books is based on optimizing the time-honored cash and carry principle that’s advantageous for retailers in terms of profitability and cash flow and saves time and money for consumers,” notes Richard Kacik, the division’s sales manager for Photo Retail Systems.
“Using the powerful software in the freestanding Mitsubishi DPS Kiosk 7000, for example, customers can preview, create and print multi-image book pages in the store using up to 145 of their images,” says Kacik. There’s an extensive array of templates and styles to choose from, allowing users to create collages and add creative touches. At home, the customer assembles the book pages into an attractive, prewrapped, beautifully bound, 4×6- or 6×9-format, 20-page book module that’s provided as part of the photo book package by simply placing them into the book.
“Our basic goal is immediate fulfillment and also creating a sense of involvement for the consumer,” observes Kacik. “Obviously the concept of in-store printing and configuring, and at-home assembly, can also be applied to a vast range of additional photo gift items. We plan to roll out a whole range of exciting new gift items, all at very competitive prices.
“Of course, our kiosks and printers also turn out instant dye-sub prints very rapidly as well—indeed, Mitsubishi is the world leader in developing and improving the dye-sublimation printing process, and all our prints now include a special coating for enhanced permanence.”
Clearly, product and concept differentiation is an effective strategy for carving out a bigger niche in the lucrative and expanding creative output segment of the photo printing market, and Mitsubishi is doing it by creating sophisticated output in the easiest, most inexpensive ways possible, combining its renowned high tech with low-tech ingenuity.
Mitsubishi also serves retailers effectively by providing first class hardware from its basic DPS Express LabTM to the cutting-edge all-in-one DPS Kiosk 7000 that turns out 4×6, 5×7 and 8×10 prints, to a high-volume Flexilab system that can provide high output services like a traditional lab setup.
“Mitsubishi photo printing equipment has an unsurpassed reputation for quality and reliability,” concludes Kacik, “and that gives us a leg up on innovation, but what we’re really selling is complete business solutions. We’re in partnership with retailers, and they know we’re committed to providing the best possible marketing services and support along with profitable new ideas.” mitsubishi-imaging.com
On Demand Machinery
Leading the Photo Book Market through Innovation
Established in the 1920s as a purveyor of used graphic arts machinery, On Demand Machinery (ODM) is now a prime mover in the dynamic and expanding world of automated digital photo book printing. Headquartered in Elizabeth, New Jersey, it designs, manufactures and markets the machinery that produces the increasingly popular photo books sold through wide ranging retail printout channels—from photo specialty retailers to major fulfillment houses.
This dynamic, innovative company just announced a second generation of more automated photo book production machinery that is destined to transform the industry by providing greater efficiency, more consistent quality and added value for retailers and consumers alike.
Also the mainstay of online book printing giants Shutterfly, My Publisher, Snapfish and PhotoWorks, it is positioned literally where the rubber meets the road. Its mission: To supply state-of-the-art machinery that enables its clients to turn out large volumes of high-quality photo books efficiently and cost effectively with a minimum of specialized operator knowledge and training—and to satisfy customers that may order anything from a single one-off version of a traditional wedding album to a dozen holiday gift books to hundreds or thousands.
“Once it became clear that refurbishing and upgrading older equipment was no longer a viable option, we realized we had to reinvent ourselves, so we put our heads together and came up with a plan to manufacture our own line of machinery,” says CEO John Jacobson, Jr.
“We started with a simple hand case-making line consisting of a turning machine, case gauge, gluer and rotary press. But by the mid ’90s, with the advent of on-demand printing, we could foresee that the need for binding equipment capable of creating one book or many books at a time would expand rapidly and exponentially. We took the initiative and moved forward, introducing a complete line of hardcover equipment in 1997. Shortly thereafter we formed a new company, On Demand Machinery, as our marketing vehicle for the new ODM line of on-demand hardcover bookbinding machinery that accommodates book runs of any size using relatively low-cost, easy-to-operate equipment.”
ODM has moved rapidly upward, keeping pace with the changes in the digital printing marketplace. The latest innovations to the core system include the Sticker XXL (available for tabloid-size books) that accommodates books up to 18×18 inches and up to 4 inches thick, and the new Super Sticker designed for high-volume users. Both are state-of-the-art “casing-in” machines that bind and glue the book pages into the hardcover. The Super Smasher is a highly automated “building-in” machine that puts the book together into a perfect joint using hydraulic pressure and heat.
These machines represent the next generation of book manufacturing machinery. They’re designed to work seamlessly together, and by combining advanced engineering and production strategies ODM is able to offer them at the same prices as the previous machines. In configuring its extensive line, ODM’s goal is to enable clients to create more books in a day with fewer people, thus maximizing their profit potential.
“We take pride in the fact that ODM machines are designed to produce books that not only convey the image of quality and permanence but actually deliver it,” says Jacobson. “Our machinery is totally reliable and flexible, has the ability to create a staggering variety of highly marketable custom books, and are manufactured right here in the USA.
“The end-user market segment we target is the pro and serious enthusiast who wants a very high-end $150 book that provides a high margin for retailers, as opposed to $30 books that must be sold in high volume to yield a viable revenue stream. ODM has moved with this growing market by being proactive and being totally committed to craftsmanship, quality and high performance.”
Indeed, by leveraging its legacy and core competency with a forward-looking corporate culture, ODM has captured the lion’s share of the expanding equipment market for creating photo books—volumes that preserve cherished memories people can keep forever. odmachinery.com
Online Imaging Solutions Innovator Provides the Link between End Users & Retailers
“Simply the best online imaging solution provider.” That concise tagline sums up the company’s mission. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, LifePics was built by a team led by president and CEO Rick Patch, a pioneering software executive and entrepreneur, and Vahe Christianian, vice president of Sales & Development, who brought his wealth of hands-on experience in photofinishing.
By being consistently proactive in developing printing solutions and product options for retailers and consumers, LifePics has grown to become one of the largest providers
of privately branded online photo services in the world. The company serves about 600 unique dealers across 20,000 locations. Its enviable record of expansion is based on its unique ability to represent dealers’ offerings on the Web and provide a bridge between its clients, other Web-based service providers and customers. It seamlessly delivers an expansive range of powered-by-LifePics services, with the customer’s brand up front, while providing integrated backup services, like live online help for consumers. It’s a business model that adds value at every step, enhancing consumer satisfaction and creativity while expanding revenue streams for dealers.
“Photo books, calendars, folding cards, collage prints and collage posters are among the next generation of high-margin photo print products that are really taking off,” notes Ken McDonald, LifePics’ vice president of Marketing, “and the business-to-business arena also offers enormous profit potential for photo retailers at all levels. Anyone that can offer photo books and holiday cards can also deliver brochures, business cards, real estate portfolios, end-of-year gift calendars, stationery and POS displays. Our message for dealers: In 2010 you’re in the printing business, not just the photo printing business, and we can help you leverage your capabilities and supercharge your revenue from all forms of printout.”
If a store doesn’t have on-site photo book printing, retailers can send the files to any one of 27 printing wholesalers working with LifePics, with delivery via the store or by mail. Using the sophisticated architecture built into the system, retailers can expand their capabilities to offer a range of book styles and page templates. LifePics focuses on providing the simplest, most elegant bookmaking solutions, and that’s a big part of the magic for consumers. “The emotions generated by a photo book are exponentially greater than those generated by a 4×6 print,” says McDonald, “and that’s something retailers can take to the bank.
“To be truly effective and profitable today, retailers need to do five things effectively,” adds McDonald. “You must be able to take orders in store and online, optimize print workflow, especially during the holidays, offer a wide product range so customers can start small and move up, and have a marketing plan to explain and promote products. Most important, you’ve got to accommodate all the latest devices used to transmit orders—from smartphones and tablets to third-party iPhone apps. At LifePics, we’re on top of all these trends, paying commissions to developers for transactions received via their apps, configuring client websites that automatically update as products and services are added or deleted, and configuring and implementing effective marketing strategies.
“We provide the most sophisticated private-branded bookmaking solutions online, allowing dealers to print in-house with customized sizes, covers, themes and graphics, while also allowing our dealers to complement their offerings with other styles provided as ship-to-home or ship-to-store by other key wholesalers,” concludes McDonald. “Ultimately, we have one goal: to merge consumers’ wants with our dealers’ offerings as smoothly and profitably as possible.” lifepics.com
Making the Experience Seamless
Hewlett-Packard Retail Publishing Solutions is all about building a consistent experience for consumers, and offering the most compelling products for them to be able to tell their stories through images.
“Mom is starved for time,” says Dan Kinsley, vice president of Sales for Retail Publishing Solutions, HP. “She’s looking for high-quality products, and she’s looking for the convenience of creating books and projects on her own terms. She also prefers to learn one system, whether it’s online, in-store or on her home computer. We offer the entire imaging ecosystem for our consumers and our retail partners. By offering online solutions, software, hardware and the depth and breadth of our marketing prowess, we take a very holistic approach to imaging solutions. That’s how our Retail Publishing Solutions unit was born.
“We want to make it easy for mom or dad, and we also want to give them products that offer them an exciting yet simple experience,” continues Kinsley. “Our mandate when we build photo books and posters is all around mom being able to go through a simple workflow and auto-populate easily to give her a compelling first glance. While 95 percent of consumers are thrilled with their auto-populated books, we also know people want to do more.”
At this year’s PMA show, the HP booth was taken over by licensed characters, and that marketing program is an important, unique component to the HP solution.
“When we look at products today, we think the way of looking at the photo publishing business has transformed,” adds Kinsley. “Photo is really a designation that speaks to single consumer images being printed. When you start to talk about the way things have changed, you have people who now want to tell their stories in a way that’s personal and also brings their actual experience to life. For example, if they go to Sesame Place on a vacation, they want to create memorabilia about that experience. They can just print their images, or put them in a photo book. But with our system, they can also add Sesame Street graphics and match Sesame Street content and characters, like Elmo, with their own content. That really makes it exciting.”
Right now, HP is working with Walmart on their Dora the Explorer birthday solution. The end product includes planning a party that would include Dora birthday banners, posters, invitations and photo books, and the consumer can combine the Dora character with pictures of their own child. Or, with licensed Star Trek characters, consumers can now create wall murals for a bedroom wall.
So how do retailers get involved? “Our value proposition is to look at our partners and bring our offerings all the way through the portfolio, so we offer this to all of our partners both through Snapfish as well as with our on kiosk software,” says Kinsley. “We’re looking at our software taking a dramatic leap forward in the way it interacts with the terminals—to pull in content in real-time and to bring the entire portfolio together on the kiosk right down to the individual store level.”
But the bottom line is about what these new products can deliver to consumers.
“I’ve had the luxury of watching a daughter in her forties hand her father, a war veteran, a photo book, and to see the emotion that this book evoked from him. So it’s not only about kids; it’s also about parents and grandparents and capturing a family history in a beautiful book. That’s so much more than a 4×6 can deliver. And that’s what we can help deliver.” hp.com