The digital imaging industry has gone through huge changes over the past few years. That goes without saying. It is also accurate to say that digital imaging retailers have been dramatically impacted by technology changes over the past 10 years. With retailers numbering less than 5,000 locations nationwide, owners and managers need to take stock of their most valuable resource: their customer base.
Understanding your customer base is one of the single most important parts of doing business and a key to success in a new retail environment. The danger comes when customer needs and expectations move more quickly than our ability to respond. At the same time, technology continues to outpace our sales teams’ ability to keep current with new products and the applications of those new products for different segments of our customer base.
Certain stats illuminate our need to examine our product mix, merchandising, sales process and go-to-market strategies. The latter suggests the need to be more proactive in our approach and our product portfolio. Being reactive and waiting for business to come to us means losing sales to the Internet and more savvy retail and B-to-B competitors vying for your customers’ attention. Digital imaging retailers who continue to conduct business might as well plan for their upcoming Going-Out-Of-Business Sale because it’s only a matter of time.
Consider the following stats/trends that will impact your profits in the coming year.
Over 90% of wireless subscribers carry a camera-equipped phone. Are you selling Mobile Imaging (cellular) products and accessories to your customer base?
19% of cell phone users now use their camera phone as their primary picture taking device. Do your reps ask every customer/prospect if they are currently taking and printing pictures from their cell phone?
The percentage of consumers that reported printing camera phone photos at retail over the counter nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008 (InfoTrend). Are your employees equipped to demonstrate to your customers how to save their cell phone pictures to a memory card and then transfer them over to a printer?
So the real question that arises is, “Why haven’t imaging retailers taken advantage of the wireless market given the sales and profit potential?” What’s your excuse? Many retailers tell us it’s a training issue. Training employees on digital imaging and film is a task in and of itself. Adding wireless into the mix seems overwhelming to some, essential to others. We hear from retailers on a fairly regular basis that they’ve thought about incorporating wireless into their product portfolio but that the investment on training their employees has been the road block. The cost of incompetence could be much higher. Consider that the average wireless phone sale yields $75 to $275 in gross profit and creates hundreds more in repeat sales and referrals than the average digital camera sale. Oh, did we mention that virtually ALL of your customers purchase wireless products and services?
Don’t underestimate your customer base! Many retailers don’t realize how far along their customers are in regard to their knowledge of technology. We live in an era where customers talk to their friends, research on the Internet and come in with a good idea of what they want. It used to be that customers came to your store to learn more about the products you offer and then made an educated decision based on your knowledge. Now, many customers are the experts!
To remain profitable in the long term, retailers must leverage the existing customer base. Almost every customer that walks through your door already owns a cell phone. The wireless and imaging industries are steadily merging with an enormous potential for growth. For example, take a look at the new Nokia N95 with a 5 megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss lens or Motorola’s Motozine ZN5. Motorola teamed up with Kodak and produced a phone with a 5 megapixel camera that uses Kodak-designed software. In fact, Kodak’s premise was for the handset to be a camera first, phone second. Photo-savvy customers are going to be asking for these devices. If your store doesn’t carry them, or your reps don’t know anything about them, you lose a customer and all the revenue associated with them and everyone they show off their new device to.
Don’t be intimidated by wireless technology. Embrace it and introduce it to your customers. Let them know you carry Mobile Devices and invite them in to see your line. Consumers and business customers are ready for the convergence of imaging and wireless. Forward-looking digital imaging retailers are capitalizing on this trend by training their sales teams and offering mobile imaging products in their stores. The questions are: how long will you wait? How many customers will you lose? And, how much revenue will you forfeit waiting to take the first shot?
The Mobile Imaging move is inevitable. The question is not if you need to be in this market, but how much money you will lose before making the commitment.
Our advice – Get in now…it’s your call.yy