The Spotlight Is on … Ecce Terram

The Spotlight Is on … Ecce Terram

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When I asked Frank Simon, founder and president of Ecce Terram, to explain his business to me, his first question was: “Do you want to hear about Ecce Terram 1.0 or Ecce Terram 2.0?”

Ecce Terram 1.0 started around 1996, when Simon and his team were developing content management systems for large magazines like Der Spiegel in German—just as they were embarking on this new thing called the Internet. Their clients didn’t see much opportunity as publishers on the Internet, and they stuck with services like CompuServe. But when the light bulb went off, they came running back looking for a solution. “They said to us, please make it happen; you have six days! So we did.”

This content management workflow business did very well with a number of publications across Europe, until the Internet bubble burst around 2001 and their business almost crashed along with it. “We went from 30 employees to three in a very short time,” said Simon. So it was time to look for new opportunities.

With their experience in back-end production, they identified photo labs as an interesting business challenge. Many of the labs were in the transition phase from film to digital, and labs like CEWE were looking for new opportunities to capitalize on the transition.

CEWE and Kodak, among other labs, were searching for ways to deal with the transition, and with Ecce Terram’s experience in integrating existing workflows and merging in e-commerce processes for printing, those kinds of labs became their first clients. Offering desktop solutions enabled many labs to offer new services to their photo retail partners, and the old film photo printing business was once again viable as a digital business.

“During the process, we came in touch with many photo labs,” said Simon, “and we noticed they were trying to use their old technologies. So we showed them how to give the power to the customer—let them order photo products online and have them fulfilled in the store. And that became a very popular model.”

Today, Ecce Terram’s approach is to bring state-of-the-art techniques into the photo printing business, to adapt to the speed that the Internet offers. “Retailers need to be able to introduce new products all the time—and to test which products are working and which are not. They also need to deliver products to customers at the speed in which they want them.”

But Simon also sees the need to adapt. “Our goal has always been to see what was on the horizon—three years out or more—to be able to take advantage of new tools on the market. For example, this gave us the push in 2008 to develop the first iPhone app worldwide that can help a consumer produce a mini photo book on their iPhone. We tried to show how a desktop client could work to make it more convenient for customers and dealers to order and deliver product. And now, with so many photo customers getting used to integrating their photos onto their tablets, we have solutions that make it easy for them to create and order photo products on their iPads.”

So who can Ecce Terram help? “We are looking for two kinds of customers: first, the customer who has an existing photo service on a high level; for example, They have 1,000 products, but from month to month or year to year they lose customers. They go to Shutterfly or to other services, because how they deal with photo services is not state of the art. Why shouldn’t customers be able to make a photo book on their iPad? Why do they have to upload to Facebook to share with their friends? And then they have to do the same to create a photo book for their parents, instead of doing it all in one step. Those are the kinds of solutions we can offer.

“Also, you may not be in the photo business, but there are other photo applications that we can help you with. If you’re a furniture store or a home design store, we can help you design photo canvas prints to hang on your customers’ walls. If a nonphoto business is looking for an uncomplicated solution, we can help,” he said.

Ecce Terram has existing relationships and solutions for front-end or back-end needs. Their systems already integrate with many photo printing companies in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia. So if you’re looking to become more state of the art, or you want to keep your relationships but just make them more integrated, they might have the solution for you.

“It’s more important than ever to provide your customers with solutions that are right for them,” said Simon. “If they want you to help them create a photo book or other gifts in your store, then you should provide that. But if they want to sit on their couch at home and work on their iPad, or create from their mobile device, you can easily provide them with that solution as well. It’s what Ecce Terram does.”

You can contact Frank Simon at fs@ecce-terram.com.

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