Strategy Session: Kodak—Adapting Retail Printing in the Mobile Era

Strategy Session: Kodak—Adapting Retail Printing in the Mobile Era


Darren Johnson is the managing director, Growth Initiatives, of Kodak’s Personalized Imaging Business worldwide. He joined Kodak in 1997, spending five years running their Process R&D group before moving to the UK Consumer Business. He is now responsible for Kodak’s global growth strategy for personalized imaging. I spoke with Darren about Kodak’s strategy in the U.S. and where he saw the growth opportunity for retailers.

JG: There’s some confusion out there about where Kodak is right now, so can you give an update to our readers?

DJ: We’ve seen an explosion of the number of images taken with mobile devices. Kodak is very strong in the retail space with more than 100,000 kiosks worldwide, and we’re a very dominant player within photo services. The growth of mobility opens up a tremendous opportunity for us to open up our infrastructure and make it more accessible to those images. That’s one of the things we’re looking to do: make it as easy as possible to make the most of those images.

We’re seeing the decrease on the point-and-shoot side going to mobile; people are taking many images on their smartphones.

Mobility and the growth of smartphones are the most dominant forces in changing the way people shop, and the way they connect with each other. This changes the dynamic of how retailers and customers connect. It certainly changes the way retailers and brands and Kodak interact.

It’s been a point of much discussion over the last years that we’re seeing some big changes within the retail space. What we’re living through is much broader than an evolution of photo. If you consider the broader retail space, it’s going through some big changes itself. We’re seeing shopping move from pure brick and mortar to more of an omni-channel path—driven by connectivity in its broadest sense. So you can see not only the barriers for information sharing, but you also see the explosion of the movement to a more mobile environment.

Are you seeing that people want to print from their mobile phones, but they just don’t know how to do it?

For sure. A study by Hans Hartman suggested that there is a pent-up demand for people who use photo apps, because it’s difficult to get images from those apps to print.

Are you worried about the quality of the images being printed?

Going back a few years, you could say that quality was an issue. I think with today’s smartphones, we don’t see quality as an issue at all. And all of the barriers to connectivity are one by one getting knocked down. For example, mobile connection speeds are moving from 3G to 4G, bandwidth is better, so this movement really benefits photo.

Is your model expecting people to walk into a retail outlet and connect to a kiosk with a mobile device and start printing?

We still see that retail is a key pathway for printing for sure. But people need to access that pathway from a number of different routes now. So you see shopping in general move to omni-channel shopping. Photo is no different than that. You see people shop for photo on their tablets, iPhones, desktops—and we need to provide them with the pathway to do that simply and easily.

If I’m a retailer and I have a Kodak kiosk in my store, does this mean new investment, or new software? How should retailers adapt their kiosks?

The biggest thing we need to do is to make sure the kiosks are connected. If they’re connect to the Kodak infrastructure, then offering the retail pathway is something we can facilitate very easily.

Are all Kodak kiosks already connected?

Most are already connected, but we’re working to get them all connected. And, of course, we have the Kodak apps available today on smartphones. Consumers can use one of two mobile apps to easily transmit their images. Using Kodak Kiosk Connect, consumers can wirelessly transmit images from their phones in stores that have Wi-Fi enabled Kodak Picture Kiosks. These are available at CVS/pharmacy, Target and Bartell Drugs in the U.S. Consumers can also use the My Kodak Moments app, which enables the same in-store experience but also allows consumers to order prints and create quick photo books out-of-store and pick up the products at a local Target store.

If I’m a consumer and I have 40 images on my smartphone, how would I print at retail?

You’ll be able to access the images quickly and easily on your smartphone. You’ll be able to choose the products you’re interested in on the apps, and you’ll be able to choose which retail outlet you would like to produce those products at for immediate pickup in-store.

You don’t have to be in the store?

No, the Kodak app makes the connection, but there are in-store options as well.

What’s your message to the photo specialty retailers about where Kodak is going and what the brand will stand for going forward?

Kodak clearly values all of our retail partners, and the photo specialty channel is very important to us. If you think about where the industry is moving, the opportunity for growth is there. We don’t see growth limited to a particular channel. But the retailers have to be connected, and they have to move their touch points to that omni-channel space. The single most important thing they need to do is to make sure they move their touch points to that space—working with Kodak. We want to help them do exactly that.

Do you have a dedicated sales force that speaks with this channel?

Depending on the country, we have a range of channel partners that we work with, including distributors and channel partners, to make sure we’re addressing their needs. In the U.S., we work directly with large retailers and with distributors to support smaller businesses.

From the technology front, what are Kodak’s real strengths?

We are the most dominant player in retail printing, so we have some great assets; we’ve got more than 100,000 kiosks, which are all consumer touch points, and we’re converting that to potentially millions of touch points as it moves onto mobile devices. So Kodak is very strong in connectivity, in retail printing, in image science—and it still has an incredibly strong brand synonymous with photo.

How are you connecting with consumers and educating them as to this new push on mobile and personalized printing?

We work with our channel partners and retailers directly. We launched our apps earlier last year, and we’ve been pushing those. It’s really working in conjunction with our retail partners and distributors to get the message across.

Where do you see the growth in printing on the retail side? Where should they be focusing their printing programs?

We still print a vast number of 4×6 prints. But if you look at where the market is moving, it’s certainly moving to a more customized product range. Of those, one of the areas we’re still seeing very strong growth in is photo books. Kodak has a range of options in printing on-site photo books. Recently, in Germany, we had a nationwide rollout of our Kodak Picture Kiosk multihead solution at dm-drogerie markt. The multihead setup offers onsite premium quality photo books with our D4000 printer, and calendars and double-sided greeting cards with the DR2100. Taking that retail in-store environment and creating some inspiration for our customers is something we’re trying to do. Within that mix, the movement to premium products stands up as being a key area for potential growth.

Is that a Kodak-branded store?

No, it includes Kodak-branded products within the dm store. We are very proud of the Kodak brand, and the retailer is very keen on that synergy.

It seems like the message here is that Kodak is alive and well, and you’re really focusing on that mobile market as a key growth area.

Yes, mobile is certainly where the growth is, and photo retailers need to recognize that and take the steps to make mobile printing more accessible and easier for consumers. We need to make sure we offer people easy, frictionless methods for getting their photos from their devices. If you can encourage people to do more with their photos in a fun way, that’s a huge potential area. And Hans Hartman’s research backs this up.

Are you also talking about connected cameras, and the fact that more and more cameras are web connected and social network connected?

For sure. It’s about the convergence of devices. Whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, camera or even a smart TV, these are all becoming an interactive portal. And within that portal, you can do many more things with social networking and connectivity. It offers a whole new range of opportunities.

Photo has changed from just a way of recording memories to being almost a digital fingerprint. It’s so pervasive the way people use photo; it infiltrates the way they run their lives. So to offer people the opportunity to do more with those pictures, and to make them special is a fun way, is a huge opportunity for the future.

I agree, but the toughest part of this to overcome is the consumer education piece. Getting people over the hump and getting them back into the habit of printing is very important, because people have clearly gotten out of the that habit.

We need to make photo fun. If it isn’t fun, then people aren’t going to do it. Just take a look at the way image manipulation apps have grown massively, and the way people are using the images beyond just taking pictures for memories’ sake. Fun is a fantastic place to be.