Finding Opportunities in New Imaging Market

Finding Opportunities in New Imaging Market

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EA research shows eight in 10 U.S. households own digital cameras. Along with that, 91 percent own cell phones, many of which have cameras, and 36 percent own smartphones with even better camera capabilities than regular cell phones. After reaching such a high plateau, it becomes inevitable that the market will largely be impacted by gifts and replacements, and can be difficult to see where new opportunities for growth can exist.

As consumers have become increasingly comfortable with digital over the years, many are interested in newer features, increased capabilities and learning to take better shots. This type of consumer should be a key target for marketing DSLR and Micro Four Thirds cameras. In 2009, two million DSLR units shipped to dealers and another two million were expected to ship in 2010, according to CEA. These cameras not only sell at higher price points than most point-and-shoot cameras, but can lead to more accessory sales with an endless amount of lenses, flashes, filters and more available.

With point-and-shoot models, it's important to focus on new features to drive sales of new cameras. A consumer might have a 10+ megapixel camera, but maybe their camera doesn't have face recognition, geo-tagging, HDMI ports, HD video, Wi-Fi or other new features. You can't expect a consumer to know why this is important, but instead you need to educate and show them why a camera with these capabilities can make the exprience better.

CEA member company Fujifilm, an active participant in CEA's Digital Imaging Division, conducted a Photo Retailer Study in 2010. It looked at how consumers are sharing and printing their photos and what opportunities can be found in digital printing. Their research showed retail photo market revenue from digital prints increasing to more than $2.1 billion by 2013 compared to $1.7 billion in 2008.

Still, the 4×6 print business was soft in early 2010, so the study asked why. It showed 23 percent of consumers planned to share less using 4×6 prints. Cost was not the issue as people are generally satisfied with the price of prints. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely satisfied, the major photo retailers (Costco, CVS, Sam's Club, Walgreens and Walmart) all scored above eight on average for consumer satisfaction with the cost of prints.

The decrease in sharing with 4×6 prints shouldn't signal doom and gloom for the industry. Instead, it shows a shift in how consumers are printing their photos. In fact, consumers claim to have spent more per order in 2010 compared to 2009 at each of the major photo retailers. The Fujifilm study revealed purchase interest in photo gifts and creative print products, including posters, greeting cards, calendars and photo books, continues to grow.

Many lament that digital sharing of photos is killing the print market. Yes, it's true that consumers are sharing via social networking sites (48 percent) at the same rate they share via prints (49 percent), and they are sharing via e-mail (66 percent) at an even higher rate. However, that doesn't mean that consumers have stopped printing. In all cases, consumers also printed some of what they shared electronically.

The study investigated which consumers are sharing less with prints, and it is actually consumers of all ages. Of those age 46 and older, 42 percent are sharing fewer prints than a year ago, and the most dramatic drop-off came in the younger demographic with almost 60 percent ages 15 to 46 sharing fewer prints. Consumers who are sharing less with prints are sharing images electronically significantly more than the total sample.

The good thing is that consumers who print less are buying other creative photo products, and show a higher interest in purchasing these types of products than the total sample. Photo books top the list as 41 percent of those sharing prints less often plan to purchase, compared to 27 percent of the total population. Calendars (43 percent versus 35 percent) and greeting cards (41 percent versus 32 percent) also showed increased interest from those who share less with prints.

The Fujifilm study points out important implications for photo retailers showing them how to continue to grow their business and find new opportunities. It's important to not only think about prints as a way for consumers to share their photos, but also as something that can be used for other purposes such as decoration or documentation to target the group that doesn't normally share with prints. With creative products, especially cards, books, calendars and posters, popular among both printers and non-printers, it's key to consistently promote these products. Reach out to the non-printers the same way that they are currently using to share their photos—via social networks. Build up your social media skills and develop a strategy to target the online sharing community.

Joellyn Gray of Fujifilm contributed to this article.

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