Picture Business had the opportunity to chat with HP’s Vice President, Retail Publishing, Rohit de Souza. His insight into the future of how consumers will create and consume their digital content is intriguing and where retail will fit into this new frontier is a big part of the company’s vision moving forward.
Pic Biz: As consumers get more used to viewing images on various screens, creating online photo albums and generally learning to enjoy their memories without making photo prints, what is HP’s view of the future of the “physical” photo product?
de Souza: People are creating and consuming content like never before – from blogs, to social networks, photos, videos and other MP3 files. In 2007 alone, the volume of content created was equivalent to about three million times the information in all books ever written. The opportunity now exists to harness this rich media that today largely remains untapped.
In order to meet customer needs, photo providers need to move beyond the traditional 4×6-inch print model and help consumers enjoy more of their content by creating exciting new publishing opportunities. HP is helping to make some of that happen today by enabling consumers to mash personal images with professional content online to create a personalized memory.
Additionally, HP recognizes that increasing role that online photo services are playing in fueling printing at retail. In 2007 alone, the Snapfish network of online photo sites generated more than one billion Web-to-store prints. Today, we’re driving similar growth for photo products, such as posters that are available online for pick up at Staples Copy and Print Centers, offering consumers expanded Web-to-retail options when it comes to publishing their content.
Pic Biz: How has your previous experience in the retail industry helped you in your role in HP’s Imaging & Printing business?
de Souza: I’m very excited to bring my industry experience and insights to HP to help retailers manage the changing digital photography and personal publishing landscape. I have been fortunate to be a part of several industry and company transformations in the past. Prior to HP, I worked at Intel, helping transform the production of semiconductors from “black art” to scalable, more traditional manufacturing, which helped drive Intel into retail more broadly.
I also spent time at Oracle when it transformed from a database company into a broad software firm that more completely addressed the applications requirements of a broad set of industries, including retail.
Prior to that, I spent a decade at the management consulting firm Booz Allen and Hamilton, shepherding the organization, customers and partners through several periods of change.
Now at HP, the transformations underway in digital photography are quite significant, including analog to digital, wet to dry retail photo processes, and traditional prints to photo products. On a deeper level, we’re seeing a transformation in how digital media is managed and utilized broadly—from hardware at its core to a software driven business, from individuals to communities, and from printing photos to sharing memories. In this transformation, the lines between user-generated content and licensed material become increasingly blurred.
Pic Biz: What’s your vision for the future of retail photo printing?
de Souza: HP’s vision is to help transform retailers’ traditional photo labs into publishing centers, moving beyond prints to rich digital media, including creative photo products and eventually much more. We must focus on enabling consumers to publish their personal content in new ways – turning the digital files on their hard drives into digitally printed keepsakes.
Pic Biz: How has the digital revolution changed the retail photo industry? How can retailers remain competitive in this new environment?
de Souza: The digital revolution has completely changed how retailers deliver the core traditional photo prints—and that’s just the beginning. We’re seeing leading retailers evolve how they can effectively deliver the traditional prints with lower labor involvement and increased use of customer self-service for both order placement and order fulfillment.
The digital revolution has also delivered strong growth of creative photo products such as photo books, posters, calendars, and greeting cards. The spectrum of the types of products that can be completed in-store in a matter of minutes and delivered in an hour or less is growing rapidly.
Retailers will find many additional opportunities for differentiation by accessing a broad spectrum of content sources and tying in different service models for delivering output that uses that content. This will also enable retailers to further differentiate through merchandising and other communications. Retailers who do this are going to be a lot more successful. The more a retailer can inspire consumers—let them know what they can do, and give them ideas—the more they are going to be able to sell these products.
Pic Biz: What are the primary drivers of success for imaging retailers in the immediate future?
de Souza: For retailers to be successful, they will need to look beyond the world of traditional 4×6-inch prints and expand their photo centers to offer new publishing capabilities like dry, digital printing, expanded creative offerings and multiple product order points—adapting to meet evolving customer needs.
It’s critical for retailers to invest in industry-leading dry retail photofinishing hardware and software assets that will leverage the growth of online-to-retail publishing. HP delivers these assets through our new HP Photo Center, a complete, end-to-end digital print solution that can also be plugged into a retailer’s existing lab infrastructure. Our Photo Center incorporates robust solutions that enable retailers to offer a suite of new products and services.
Retailers can also see success by tapping into the creative product ecosystem—from in store offerings to remote gifting to consumer ordering of products at home through online services for in-store retail pick-up. This offers customers more options when it comes to publishing their content.
Lastly, to drive the sales process, there’s also important value in generating customer awareness of these photo center offerings. New dry printing solutions allow store associates to spend less time behind the counter operating equipment and more time engaging customers by aggressively and passionately advocating for creative products.
Pic Biz: How is HP working with retailers to increase photo center revenue and helping to meet customer digital photography needs?
de Souza: We recently unveiled several new additions to our line of retail photo printing solutions that are not only designed to help retailers increase revenue and maintain efficiency, but also empower consumers with new ways to personalize their photos and publish creative output.
HP works with retailers like Meijer—who has implemented HP’s complete digital Photo Center in all of its stores—to grasp new growth opportunities and give their customers a unique photo center experience. The HP Photo Center incorporates our new minilab printer, the HP Photosmart ml1000—the fastest dry minilab on the market today—the HP Photosmart pm2000e Microlab printer and the HP Photosmart cl2000 Creative printer for the production of creative output such as photo books, calendars and collage posters. This system lets Meijer customers do more with their photos, while opening the door to new margin opportunities.
Pic Biz: What do you see as future growth opportunities for the retail photo business?
de Souza: By addressing the shift in the retail market beyond prints to rich digital media such as creative photo products, retailers have tremendous potential to capitalize on the growth that the next generation of technology will provide.
This will move beyond photo products like photo books, personalized calendars and greeting cards to new types of content such as event-oriented correspondence, customized travel guides, marketing collateral for small businesses, signage, and more. It will allow consumers to mix personal content with third-party professional or licensed content. More importantly, when you think about people in community groups, schools, or business professionals who need to create communication materials, there’s immense opportunity for growth.
Pic Biz: Photo storage and organization is becoming a big problem for today’s consumer as their image libraries continue to grow. How big a role do you see this problem playing in the future of the retail print market and what do you think the imaging industry can do to help alleviate the problem?
de Souza: This is a big behavioral driver in the retail photo market, and it’s something that we’re serious about addressing at HP. We work to help our customers close the gap between the content that is created and that which is actually published.
We are committed to finding new ways for consumers to create, access, manage and publish their content by generating new venues and ways for them to express their creativity. This can be achieved by creating a personal publishing ecosystem which includes the Web, services like Snapfish where customers can not only store their photos but create personalized photo products; as well as retail, where, dry, digital printing solutions offer new possibilities for compelling creative products.
The end goal is to make it easy for customers to take the photos stacked up in shoe boxes and stored on their hard drives and turn them into creative projects that will truly bring their memories to life.