Market Sense: Selling Accessories, Advice from Two Experts

Market Sense: Selling Accessories, Advice from Two Experts


What are the best things a retailer can do to spur accessory sales? How can we get customers back into the store today to buy gadgets for cameras purchased during the holidays? And what does the future hold for accessories: have changes in camera technology negatively affected highly profitable accessory sales?

For the answers to these and other questions, PIR turned to two of the giants in the accessory arena—Manfrotto and Tiffen—and got straight answers from their chiefs.

“The best method of selling accessories post-holiday is to have visually attractive and inviting point-of-sale displays,” said Bill Drysdale, managing director, Manfrotto Distribution, Inc. Manfrotto consists of 13 separate brands and offers products ranging from tripods, lighting equipment, bags and much more. 

He went on to explain that the displays must address the reason why the accessory is essential—and educate consumers by illustrating the benefits derived from them.

“Since the holiday purchase is the driver for the accessory sale,” he said, “the message must reach out and connect to the activities of the user. Accessories traditionally enhance the experience of the hardware, and it is our job to make sure the end user understands how the accessory can extend the enjoyment and their experience. Many gift cards are received during the holiday season, and accessories are one of the largest benefactors of these gifts.”

Hilary Araujo, vice president of Marketing for The Tiffen Company, agrees that POS is important, and he told us how his company takes displays one creative step further.

“We’re working on a special accessory program that uses QR barcodes—not only in our advertising but also at the retail level,” Araujo explained. “By applying brand-specific QR codes to products, when the customer scans the code at the retailer with their smartphone, it takes them to a Web page that showcases the specific product and alerts them to any promotion that may be in effect. It’s a great way to promote specific accessories, and the potential for cross-promotion of related products is huge. The QR code system is a smart way of allowing consumers to share information with retailers and to promote products at the retail level.”

Tiffen has also been successful at engaging their customer base through direct e-mail blasts. These highlight a wide range of name-brand accessories aimed at post-holiday purchasers of cameras and camcorders who wish to enhance their shooting experience and upgrade the quality of their pictures and videos. “Domke bags and Davis & Sanford tripods are good examples that have generated an excellent response for us,” Araujo said. “Direct e-mail allows us to feature a wider array of products and is more cost-effective than print. Also, when we target ‘customers,’ that concept includes our retail partners as well, because they’re motivated when end users ask them for specific brands.

“Training and educating the sales staff on the accessory equipment, and explaining the importance of the attachment sale to the bottom line, help the retailer see their sales and profit picture grow.”

“We schedule many of our e-mail blasts to coincide with the post-holiday season. When people begin using their cameras, they start thinking about acquiring quality accessories they didn’t purchase with their cameras,” Araujo added. “A good example of the latter would be our optical filters and our Tiffen Dfx creative digital effects software that emulates and dovetails with our optical filter line, and offers a host of other special effects.”

Manfrotto’s Drysdale concurs that e-mail campaigns can be effective. To get the best results, of course, resellers must collect e-mail addresses of camera purchasers. Then they can make special offers to attract customers to return for more goodies.

“While it is true that it’s easier to get the accessory attachment at the time of the camera sale,” Drysdale said, “there are certain techniques that can help bring the new user back into the store. Offering a discount or free training with the new camera (and explaining some of the available accessories) will drive sales. Additionally, incentives and rebates assist in accessory sales. Also, as mentioned earlier, gift cards drive return visits. Last and not least, the dealer should follow up via e-mail or print with the consumer and educate the owner on the benefits that additional accessories can provide.”

Drysdale reminded us that training and education—at the retailer level—is crucial to promote accessory sales. “Training and educating the sales staff on the accessory equipment, and explaining the importance of the attachment sale to the bottom line, help the retailer see their sales and profit picture grow,” he said. “The smart retailer isn’t cutting back on accessories; rather, they are expanding their offerings and stocking more accessory products. Profit margins are much higher on accessories than on cameras; therefore, savvy dealers will encourage add-on or attachment sales.”

What does the accessory marketplace look like—past and future? Do digital cameras foster fewer accessory sales than film cameras did? For example, do image stabilization functions negatively impact tripod sales? Are glass filter sales hamstrung by Photoshop-type image editors? Are built-in flash and good high-ISO performance stifling flash sales?

Both Tiffen and Manfrotto reported that 2010 accessory sales—partially fueled by a robust DSLR market—grew. And both companies are optimistic about the future.

“New technology, namely digital cameras and editing programs, may have impacted the need for certain accessories, but it also created a market for others,” Drysdale told us. “Accessories are still necessary to get the most out of any camera system, whether it is film or digital. With most digital cameras, tripods and flashes are still vital in order to get the perfect photo. As a matter of fact, with the growing sophistication of camera flash photography and its exploding popularity, many photographers are using multiple units to light their subjects.

“Another specific advantage of technology spurring accessory purchases is the video function of the new era of DSLRs,” Drysdale continued. “While the video technology within the camera is outstanding, it does require a high-quality tripod to really deliver the best performance. Manfrotto is now marketing dual-use tripods, where, with the flick of a switch, the user can adjust their tripod from photo use to video use instantly. It’s simple for the consumer to understand and see the benefits of using a tripod while in video mode, and the acceptance of these new Manfrotto products has been outstanding.”

Tiffen’s Hilary Araujo maintains that the fact the medium has changed from chemically based to electronic has not had a negative effect on accessory sales, though the mix can be slightly different. “Shooters still need high-quality tripods and camera bags, filters and lighting equipment,” he said. “Tiffen’s optical filter sales have increased substantially over the last five years because pros realize filters are one of the simplest, surest ways of upgrading their images, and they’re very efficient in terms of workflow.

“Likewise, image stabilization has not negatively impacted tripod sales,” Araujo said, “because all IS systems have certain limitations. Virtually all pros and most serious enthusiasts carry a tripod. There’s no substitute for it. We don’t sell flash units so I can’t speak authoritatively about flash sales, but we’ve seen a notable increase in the sales of Lowel continuous lighting equipment, especially portable location lighting systems. Since so many pros and prosumers are now shooting HD video as well as stills with the same equipment, this is an excellent crossover category.”

Take a word, or a few, from the wise: promotion and education are still the key to profitable high-margin accessory sales.