The State of the Industry Is Strong and Getting Younger!
Our annual State of the Industry issue has always been among our favorites. We turn to our leading industry experts to talk about what’s driving their brands and businesses into the future.
There is an ongoing theme this year that continues the momentum we’ve seen from the past few reports. Our customers are getting younger, and we’re well positioned to get younger along with them! But customer relationships across the entire spectrum remain vital to our growth.
These new “content creators” are a welcome addition to our history of photo enthusiasts and professionals. They are young and enthusiastic and are becoming YouTube and TikTok stars overnight by using our equipment! Our industry is no longer stuck in the past. We’re recognizing this new demographic as vital to our current success.
Fujifilm’s Bing Liem and Victor Ha see “Gen Z’s unique purchasing behaviors and need for personalization.” They comment, “Empowering storytellers to share their authentic and unique stories is now a huge part of our DNA.” Furthermore, Delkin recognizes the new demographic as “young and energetic.” They strive to give this “fresh group of creators almost limitless opportunities.”
The good news is that our loyal photo enthusiasts, who tend to be older, continue to drive the high end of our businesses. And of course, our professional photographers will always raise the bar for the rest of us. The welcome news is that our businesses continue to have potential at all ends of the spectrum.
What’s more, key to driving this new demographic, while keeping the old, is relationships. Our industry has always prided itself on our one-to-one relationships with our customers—from those walking into our stores to those buying online. Sigma’s Mark Amir-Hamzeh notes, “Sigma has always valued the personal experience and recognizes the importance of strong, positive relationships, both with business partners and consumers.” And Nikon’s Jeff Abler relates that “consumers also want a brand to be a part of their lives in a meaningful way. We are responding with a variety of community engagement initiatives.”
“This is how it’s always been just doesn’t cut it anymore,” adds Hamzeh. And he’s right about that! We live on our relationships. However, the true future of our industry is about innovation, which has always been the hallmark of the imaging industry.
In addition, Sony’s Yang Cheng notes: “As our industry continues to shift, if we can all collectively focus on driving innovation, adapting and being nimble to meet our customers’ needs, creators will respond positively.” And Canon’s Brian Maher states, “With new advances in technology, we are focused on creating long-term personalized experiences and relationship nurturing to help ensure customers’ desired outcomes and satisfaction are fully met now and into the future.”
These are just a few snippets from the contributions we received, which I encourage you to read. I’d like to thank our contributors this year for taking the time to offer their expertise to our industry. We welcome your comments.—Jerry Grossman
Digital Imaging Reporter’s State of the Industry 2023
Brian Mahar, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon USA
Customer Service and Satisfaction Is Paramount
Rapid advancements in imaging technologies are driving digital imaging companies to create boundary-pushing offerings that will help define the industry’s future. At Canon, our focus in 2024 will not only be on building innovative products but also to refresh and reimagine the ways we serve our customers. We’re pioneering a new era of service as well as support that will bring forth an enhanced customer experience in the new year and beyond.
As we all know, the stakes are high for enterprise customers. That’s why, in addition to our Enterprise Canon Professional Services (CPS) program, focused on organizations that own large amounts of Canon equipment—including Fortune 500 companies, universities, broadcasters and government agencies—we’ve developed Professional Solutions Support.
This new program will provide an elevated level of care with managed services that can help deliver added convenience, peace of mind as well as speed. We’re also introducing “Total Care Agents” who have received more in-depth and advanced training. Consequently, this will allow these agents to deeply understand the industries, products and unique use cases they are supporting.
Moreover, with these new initiatives, each customer’s unique needs and internal structures will be met with personalized solutions designed to create undeniable satisfaction. Ultimately, the support Canon offers will create an unparalleled experience for our customers.
Our outlook for 2024 is to not only focus on engineering and development but to remember that bringing our humanity to the forefront will ensure that our customers feel comfortable and prepared when faced with this changing and challenging environment. With new advances in technology, we are focused on creating long-term personalized experiences and relationship nurturing to help ensure customers’ desired outcomes and satisfaction are fully met now and into the future.
In 2023, Delkin is happy to celebrate 37 years of business, predominately, in the photo and video industry. You simply don’t last for 37 years in this business if you don’t make customers happy!
We believe the industry remains strong, despite the background noise and challenges facing our country as well as the world. The economy, at times, has been painful—even catastrophic. However, the need to record stills and video persists despite these changes to our business. New technology continues to innovate, including the expansion of CFexpress Type B 4.0 cards.
Further, memory card capacities keep increasing. Speeds are also surpassing camera requirements, all while utilizing the latest in flash technology. These advances all work to support existing shooters as well as give the fresh group of creators almost limitless opportunities in photo, video, security, outdoor and more.
We need to embrace new customers with enthusiasm and grit. We can no longer run a sustainable business based on selling still cameras and lenses to hobbyists. This demographic revolves around well-off customers and expensive equipment. However, the customer is the same. The very oldest generation values walking into a store to talk about photography. Some of the younger demographics do not.
Selling to Content Creators
What is the new demographic and how do we sell to them? For lack of a better term, they are content creators. They are young and energetic. They shoot for a myriad of uses—online and other, documentary and fiction—to sell and to mobilize and to engage and to excite their audiences. Some of them are making a living on YouTube. Others are famous for their TikTok videos. And others are celebrities due to their thrilling short films and commercial work. To sell to them, we need to change our staff, our merchandising as well as our product mix to better serve them.
We’re all here to support the magic-making process! Delkin continues to stand behind our industry-leading warranty on memory cards—our world-known 48HR Replacement Guarantee. We continue to support this changing industry with the latest technology, thorough testing processes, fast memory cards and the best support!
Bing Liem, President, Imaging Division, Fujifilm North America Corporation
Victor Ha, Vice President, Electronic Imaging and Optical Device Divisions, Fujifilm North America Corporation
Committed to Empowering Digital Content Creators of All Types
There’s no denying that the last few years have been full of change, compromise and transformation. As a specific example, Covid-19-related supply chain headwinds created operational challenges as well as product distribution complexities for companies of all sizes. Conversely, a “silver” lining to the pandemic was that quarantining inspired many to dust off their gear and rediscover the absolute joy and art of photography.
For example, at Fujifilm, we’ve seen Gen Z’s unique purchasing behaviors and need for personalization and choice propel the film business. They comprise approximately 68 million consumers in the U.S. We’ve seen these brand-loyal, hyperconnected and tech-addicted digital natives challenge us to continue to create powerful, personal and productive “offline” connections through our one-time use cameras—like QuickSnap—our market-leading Instax products and the use of mainstream film products.
Strengthening Brand Relationships
For 2024, we plan to continue to adapt our R&D investments as well as our marketing spend and social media engagement activities to strengthen our brand relationships and the value we provide across all demographics and generations. This starts from “Gen Alpha” to our centenarians who are part of “the Greatest Generation.”
When it comes to digital content creation, we’ve always said, “If you have a story to tell, Fujifilm wants to be there when you tell it.” Empowering storytellers to share their authentic and unique stories is now a huge part of our DNA. As a result, we’ve seen our digital cameras and lenses embraced by some truly incredible content creators.
For our consumers, our color science heritage is what sets us apart. Moreover, we keep that in mind with every product we create. We’ve learned that developing gear and technology for creators to make content development and sharing as seamless as possible, from creative vision to final output, remains essential to their (and our) success. Looking toward 2024 and beyond, we remain committed to empowering digital content creators of all types, from photographers to vloggers and cinema producers, to continue to find their voice with Fujifilm.
Jeff Abler, Senior Director, Sales & NPS, Nikon Inc.
Adapting to Rapidly Changing Markets and Customers
One of Nikon’s greatest assets will always be the strength of the brand and the fortitude of the established user base. The last 18 months have been a testament to that. Professional and enthusiast users turned out en masse to purchase the Nikon Z 9 and Z 8, two high-end full-frame mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless adoption has surged among Nikon users because of these two models. This proves that a winning formula of the best technology, unmatched performance as well as legendary reliability will prevail.
We have released an unprecedented number of lenses that demonstrate the capabilities of the Z mount while increasing production to keep pace with our customers’ mirrorless transition. These include the brilliant 85mm f/1.2 and the most appealing selection of super telephotos at multiple prices, like the 180–600mm, a compact 800mm and a 600mm with a built-in teleconverter.
We won’t stop to rest, because markets and customers are rapidly changing. Users are moving to video, which we have fully embraced with the Z 9 and Z 8. The younger, more multimedia-centric customer is noticing Nikon as a serious contender. They are recognizing our superior hybrid capabilities and color science. Moreover, consumers also want a brand to be a part of their lives in a meaningful way. We are responding with a variety of community engagement initiatives.
As global inflation and uncertainty increase, consumers want a deal more than ever. This has led us to rethink the current promotional environment to nurture the customer during their purchase journey. We are working with our retail partners to adapt and create new strategies and customer touchpoints like our touch-and-try program.
Despite the challenges, we are confident we will maintain this momentum well into 2024. We are just getting started, and the best is yet to come.
David Haueter, Director and Founder, Rise Above Research
Rise Above Research Bullish on Photo Merchandise Market
Rise Above Research is bullish on the prospects for the photo merchandise market over the next few years. The market has shown a lot of resilience over the last few years through the Covid-19 pandemic and, more recently, challenges from inflation and an uncertain economy.
We also saw in our research that some consumers were buying less this year because of financial concerns. However, most have kept buying photo products even amid these challenges.
One of the great things the photo merchandise market has going for it is that there’s a high percentage of repeat customers who often plan to spend more than they have previously. Although the overall percentage of consumers buying these products hasn’t changed much over the last few years, we see first-time buyers coming in to replace those who may not be buying any longer. This includes a surprisingly high percentage of teenagers.
Despite the sharing of photos on screens and via social media, printed photo products still have an intrinsic value that is appealing to a broad range of consumers.
Even with the continued threat of financial instability, we believe the photo merchandise market has the stability to withstand these influences. Photo products could end up being a smart choice for gifts during inflationary times. They cost much less than other gifts and have high emotional value. There’s also the potential for new technologies like AI to make it easier than ever for consumers to create and order printed products, as finding the time to go through scores of photos to decide which ones to print has still been a barrier.
Mark Amir-Hamzeh, President, Sigma Corporation of America
Escaping the “Business as Usual” Trap
One of the unanticipated side effects of the global pandemic was the necessity of trying new things and adapting swiftly to an ever-changing landscape. Many tried-and-true sales and marketing methods that were the standard for the past several decades simply weren’t possible in recent years.
Furthermore, as the world has reopened, Sigma America has taken this as an opportunity to reevaluate how, where and why we are dedicating sales and marketing efforts, both in-person and online. The emphasis is on maximizing impact, having measurable results as well as practicing financial prudence.
“This is how it’s always been” just doesn’t cut it anymore. We are looking for tangible results, whether it’s sales from an in-store promotion, lead generation from a workshop, or A/B testing e-commerce campaigns. Further, all teams are taking a much more active and analytical approach to justify time and spending.
At the same time, some things never go out of style. Sigma has always valued the personal experience and recognizes the importance of strong, positive relationships, both with business partners and consumers.
Our team also prides itself on having a reputation as a company that’s always helpful, knowledgeable and forthright in our interactions across every communication channel. Whether it is face-to-face at an expo, telephone support for a new product or online interactions on emerging platforms such as TikTok, the Sigma team prides itself on making that personal connection that consumers feel toward our brand.
Yang Cheng, Vice President, Imaging Product and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics
Innovation Remains Our #1 Priority
In 2023, our industry continues to evolve in exciting new directions while still maintaining a strong core of imaging enthusiasts, hobbyists as well as professionals. While photography remains our key focus, we are committed to supporting today’s many types of creators. Across our entire lineup, Sony’s goal is to provide products and technologies that allow them to capture, create and share in ways that have not been possible before.
Innovation remains our #1 priority. For modern hybrid creators and core photographers, our lineup continues to expand in size and scope. This is reflected in the recent addition of the compact A7CII and A7CR full-frame cameras. Within the cinema industry, we’ve also just announced the new Burano camera that appeals to a wide range of cinematographers, production companies and owner/operators. Further, it pairs nicely with our Venice and other Cinema Line cameras. For vloggers, our ZV line offers many compelling choices. This extensive lineup of camera bodies is supported by our E-mount lens lineup, which now offers 74 different lens options for our customers.
We continue to drive marketing innovation as well, with a strong focus on community building and brand engagement via events, online content and many other avenues. Programs like Create Action and Alpha Female demonstrate Sony’s commitment to remain true to our brand values. We are always listening to our customers voice, actively taking feedback to better serve their demands in the future.
As our industry continues to shift, if we can all collectively focus on driving innovation, adapting and being nimble to meet our customers’ needs, creators will respond positively.
Rick Voight, Chief Executive Officer, Vivid-Pix
Photo. Memories. “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”—Mark Twain
As smartphone cameras outpaced and then replaced traditional cameras, many foretold the end of the photo business. Did it have dramatic implications? Of course. However, consumers have delighted in using pictures in ways never imagined as well as in ways imagined but unfathomed in size and scope. And the rapidly expanding volumes of cell phones has resulted in double digit declines. However, photo capture and sharing memories continue to grow year after year.
At Vivid-Pix, we continue to embrace memory sharing. In fact, “memory” for us is synonymous with a photo or the cerebral invoking of past events . . . memories. We enable this through Vivid-Pix Memory Stations. They combine scanner, simple-to-use software and various ways to share memories, together or as individual components.
As our economy and consumer sentiment ebb and flow, businesses must determine which products and services will entice and/or help customers. By focusing on the core of our business—capturing a moment in time—the photo business will continue to live on. As will our memories.