They communicate through text messaging and social–sharing websites like Facebook and Twitter. Their phones double as still/video cameras with fast access to the Internet. They are more likely to browse through an iPad than a photo album. They are the Millennials and the Internet generation. So how do photo retailers appeal to these digitally astute generations?
Most experts agree that the profit center in photofinishing is with personalized photo products, which offer significantly higher profit margins than prints. And like digital photography, personalized photo gifts continue to evolve—adding sophisticated new looks, faster, simpler ordering processes, and new product categories that appeal to the digital generations.
Today’s photo products are divided into three main categories: personal publishing; photo lifestyle; and photo novelty. Many photo retailers offer personal publishing items with a basic kiosk setup—products like the increasingly popular photo books, greeting cards, stationery and other paper-based gifts that can be printed in-house. Photo lifestyle products are “functional” gifts that are likely to be found around the home or office and likely to require off-site printing—i.e., clothing, desk accessories, kitchenware and home furnishings. Photo novelty items are also likely to be printed off-site and include more familiar items, like photo snow globes, mugs and Christmas tree ornaments.
Steve Giordano, Jr., president of Lucidiom, notes that photo retailers who offer both photo lifestyle gifts and personal publishing products typically realize the greatest success. “Sales data show that the appeal of one, whether a photo gift or creative product, has a ripple effect on the other, so retailers offering both gifts and creative are coming out on top.”
Indeed, the competitive kiosk companies like HP, Kodak, Fujifilm and Lucidiom have leveraged the convenience of in-store photo kiosks with the power and reach of the Internet—providing consumers with direct access to the company’s own photo gift site, like Kodak Gallery, or partner fulfillment companies like Liberty Photo (see sidebar “Photo Gifts: What’s Online”).
HP links its kiosks to one of the earliest and largest online photo gift sites, Snapfish. Customers can choose from hundreds of products—from greeting cards (English and Spanish) and photo books to specialty gifts, like personalized notebooks, kitchen gadgets and custom skins for popular electronics, such as cell phones, laptops and MP3 players. Products can be shipped to the customer’s home or to a local affiliate retailer for pickup.
HP has taken the standard online photo gift model and added a two-way dialog with creative and technical designers. Snapfish has established two beta sites—Snapfish Publisher and Snapfish Lab—where up-and-coming talent can sell their card designs (Publisher) or applications (Lab). The Snapfish Publisher Beta site invites artists to submit their original card designs and, if approved, they are added to the greeting card designs available to Snapfish customers. Participating artists earn a commission each time their designs are used to print cards.
Snapfish Publisher also solicits developers to submit their original image enhancement applications to the Snapfish Lab beta site. Snapfish Lab is a technology preview site where customers can experiment with some of HP’s emerging imaging technologies, such as Magic Poster Creator or Fisheye Visualization. Developers can also earn commissions when a customer uses one of their applications to edit a printed order.
Photo retailers can become Snapfish affiliates whether they have HP or competing kiosks brands. For information, visit the Snapfish Affiliate Center at snapfish.com/snapfish/affiliate.
Eastman Kodak introduced a new kiosk feature that simplifies the often-frustrating process of creating and framing a photo collage. The new Kodak PYNK Smart Print system—introduced last month at photokina—is a design tool that allows Kodak kiosk customers to order photo collage layouts that fit perfectly into the company’s new PYNK Smart Print picture frames and mats.
Customers simply bring the digital pictures or prints they want framed to the store, pick an appropriate PYNK frame or mat, and scan the barcode (or enter the six-digit ID number) into a PYNK-ready Kodak Picture Kiosk. The system automatically crops, sizes and arranges the images on a single sheet of 8×10-inch paper that fits perfectly into their chosen frame or mat. To see a video describing the PYNK process, visit pynk.kodak.com.
Kodak also announced a new feature that expands customers’ access to digital images when ordering prints or photo products from an in-store Kodak kiosk. The new Kodak Picture Kiosk software V4.0 includes links to the popular social-networking website Facebook and to Google’s photo-sharing website Picasa Web Albums, enabling kiosk customers to access images from their Facebook and Picasa accounts when ordering products from the Kodak Gallery website. kodak.com
Fujifilm North America is tapping in on the rising popularity of photo books with a new on-site photo book solution—also introduced at photokina. The system requires just three devices to make complete softcover photo books: a kiosk terminal with Fujifilm Image Intelligence Version 4.0 software; a Xerox Phaser 6280 photo book printer; and a thermal bookbinding device.
The compact Phaser 6280 is a low-cost printer designed by Fujifilm and Xerox to work with the Image Intelligence V4.0 software, which automatically analyzes photographic or subject conditions and optimizes them for the printing media being used. Retailers can choose between a compact perfect binder and a fully automatic booklet finisher to round out the system. The resulting softcover books have title pages, interleaf sheets for insertion between the front and back covers, and wraparound book jackets. The Xerox double-sided printer also opens up other opportunities to offer on-site personal publishing products. fujifilmusa.com
Lucidiom provides flexible OEM photo kiosk solutions that focus on photo gift printing on several levels. Its APM kiosks can be customized with software packages that link customers with the company’s partner fulfillment sites or they can be configured with complete hardware and software programs designed to print personal publishing projects in-house. Profit-building print bundles and premium content surcharges are also offered.
Lucidiom’s photo software—which can also be installed in other photo kiosks—includes two levels of output: standard APM kiosk 4×6-inch prints and enlargements, passport pictures and index prints; and EQ Pro, which adds photo books, calendars, scrapbook pages, cards and other personalized paper products to its standard photo selection. EQ Pro retailers can purchase individual add-on modules, like the personalized wrapping paper package that prints lightweight bond paper in 24×30-inch sheets. They can also opt for a free module that adds more than 700 personalized photo gifts to their inventory. The products are managed by Lucidiom and provided by more than 20 Lucidiom product fulfillment partners. Finished items can be shipped directly to the customer or to retailers for pickup. Photo retailers that are not equipped to output personal publishing products in-house can test the market using Lucidiom’s fulfillment partner, Swan Photo, which offers more than 100 single- and multi-page personal publishing products online. lucidiom.com
Businesses interested in a smaller self-contained system for printing personalized publishing products can try the Sony portable UPC-R20L SnapLab digital “mini-kiosk” system or the free-standing PictureStation kiosk system with Sony’s UP-DR80 dye-sub printer. Both the systems provide a suite of basic editing tools and can be loaded with decorative frames, greeting cards and announcement templates, as well as custom-designed borders. The scalable PictureStation can also be configured to access the Internet, allowing retailers to add online services for their customers. sony.com
Photo Gifts: What’s Online
As the 2010 holiday season approaches, an increasing number of consumers are expected to look to the Internet for their personalized photo gift giving. Younger shoppers (30 years and under) are increasingly drawn to the convenience and cost savings of online shopping. Vendors are going after online customers by linking their sites to social networks like Facebook and accepting photo uploads from customers’ mobile phones.
CashStar, a digital gifting and incentives platform company, reported that sales of its “virtual” eGift Cards for retailers were extremely successful in 2009, especially during the week before Christmas, according to Business Wire. And, more than one in 10 consumers who purchased the cards took advantage of the personalization option by uploading their own photos for use in their gift card design.
Photo gift cards are just one example of the growing popularity of personalized gifting. Zazzle.com has been offering customized postage stamps for several years now—the perfect touch to holiday photo cards. Kimberly Clark now offers personalized tissue. For less than $5 each, consumers can have their photos printed on an oval box of Kleenex tissues (mykleenextissue.com) and choose from several design themes, including weddings, pets and babies.
The Kodak Gallery offers a wide variety of photo gifting options, from collages, stationery, photo books and cards, to key chains, jewelry, ornaments, puzzles and blankets. The site also provides photo storage and online access from Internet-connected computers. kodakgallery.com
Even photo apparel has evolved beyond the square picture on a boxy T-shirt. Walgreens introduced a series of trendy performance-wear “sports-mom” T-shirts designed to flatter the female figure. The drugstore’s exclusive new designs include Swim Mom, Soccer Mom, Baseball Mom and Volleyball Mom, plus two generic layouts with palm trees and flowers. The T-shirts are printed by Liberty Photo, a photo lab fulfillment company, using dye-sublimation to dye the photo right into the fabric, thereby avoiding the “heavy” silkscreen effect. Walgreens customers can order the T-shirts using the drugstore’s photo kiosks.
Photo retailers interested in adding personalized photo products to their on-site kiosks do not have to sign exclusive contracts with one fulfillment company. Many suppliers—whether they offer a broad spectrum of photo products or just a few specialty items—are eager to sign up affiliates to sell their goods. Based on predictions for online sales, it could be very lucrative to link some of these suppliers to your store’s own website.