In an industry that is all about telling stories in the form of picture books, we thought we'd borrow a page, so to speak, from that mission statement and put together a little visual tale of our own.
With the Picture Business Retail Look Book, we have gathered stories and pictures from retailers around the country that focus on what they do best—catering to their customers. For some it's all about merchandising while others excel at promotion. You'll see that great customer service still reigns supreme as well. In many instances it's technology from the manufacturer that spells profit for the dealer. You'll see all that and a bit more on the pages that follow.
While putting this issue together, one thing became abundantly clear and that's the already well-known fact that there are many facets to running a retail business correctly and it's important to tend to all of them. Also—it's sometimes the simplest ideas that yield the greatest gain. So you don't always have to shoot for the stars with your thinking.
This year we have even added a look at the goings-on outside of imaging retail to offer a peek at what some clever retailers outside of our world are up to. After all, you are often competing against all of retail for your customers' attention these days.
So then, have a “Look” and hopefully you'll take away a few ideas that you too can implement.
Speed Thrills at L.A. Cam
With 10 in-store ordering kiosks, customers at L.A. Cameras rarely have to wait for service. “We find that speed is king, even over price,” says Fred Kuhn, owner. “Speed sells. Customers who are in a rush often select express service instead of one-hour, even at a premium price.”
Consequently, L.A. Cameras has recently invested in equipment that allows them to provide prints in minutes, with less than three minutes elapsing between kiosk and the finished product—a very popular service.
“Our fast service provides one of our most fundamental assets: great word-of-mouth,” observes Kuhn. “We use a constantly-changing storefront and creative ideas to keep people thinking outside the box.”
One creative idea has been an Internet station on the front counter, allowing staff to give guided tours of the Lucidiom-powered online photo ordering. Often, new website members can be signed up on the spot.
Other ideas include displaying colorful MonsterPrints, “Stickums” stick-move-and-restick photo decals and photo blankets brightly on the storefront walls. Anything to help customers expand their imaginations and keep them talking. Other services, such as movie and video transfers to DVD, slide and negative shooting, and business printing stay very busy and allow L.A. Cameras to fill needs for many different types of clientele.
Respected for 30 years of good business, many local business owners visit the store to pick Kuhn's mind about ideas for promotion and increased visibility in their fields. “We just keep trying new ideas,” says Kuhn. “Eventually you find some that work.”
Social Media Maven
Orange County, Calif.-based ScanMyPhotos.com International is an avid user of digital platforms to engage customers worldwide and introduce them to the creative opportunities available on Kodak Picture Kiosks. In addition to its full-service website, www.scanmyphotos.com, the company operates a blog: “Tales from the World of Photo Scanning” and uses social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/scanmyphotos) to highlight new products and services and share interesting information on photo-related topics.
Scanmyphotos.com has devised a clever way to use Twitter to drive traffic into its retail store and get people to experience the Kodak Kiosk.
The company tweets whenever a Kodak Kiosk is available. The tweets are coded with hash tags to target Orange county photographers and local customers that follow scanmyphotos on Twitter.
According to Scanmyphoto.com's President Mitch Goldstone, the strategy has been highly effective. “We'll put out a tweet and people will be at the store in minutes to get time on a Kodak Kiosk. The customers really appreciate the Twitter notice because it's more intimate and they know they'll have access to the kiosk when they come in. Our employees like the fact that they can work with customers who are already engaged at the kiosk, so they are open to new creative possibilities.”
Scanmyphotos.com is also building a loyal fan base on its Facebook page and it's easy to spot customer testimonials among the page's posts. Goldstone says the key to using social media successfully is to know what your customer wants and update frequently with a good mix of interesting stories, valuable tips, service information and promotions.
A few years ago Dan's Camera City in Allentown, Pa., began hosting a yearly mixer as a very inexpensive and very effective way to get business people into their store to promote to them. Dan's has always felt that their store and their staff are the best marketing tools they have. While most Chamber of Commerce Mixers are pretty dry affairs, Dan's designed an interactive mixer plan instead: Chamber guests received a “Passport to Dan's” at the registration desk, and were directed to six areas of the company's operation it wanted them to experience: DigiPrint Lounge and HP Studio; The Studio at Dan's; Dan's Photo University; The Photo Lab; Custom Framing; and Business Products Center.
Once they got their passport filled out, visitors were eligible for over $1,000 worth of prizes, for which they had to be present to win.
The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce was thrilled with Dan's Mixer concept and promoted the event well helping to attract over 110 business people to attend the mixer.
The team at Dan's claims their thorough planning prior and coordination the night of the mixer made it work flawlessly and were directly responsible for the successful results. A classic example of bringing the people to the mountain rather than trying to bring the mountain to the people.
Rental Biz Going Strong
The online imaging equipment rental business is going strong and BorrowLenses.com is one of the largest online camera gear and lens rental stores in the U.S. And, as they like to explain, “We are here to make your rental experience go as smoothly as possible.”
They recently told us that business was going well and were happy to list a few of the main reasons they felt that is so:
• We pride ourselves on customer service. We work with our customers on pretty much anything, as long as it is reasonable. If they need special arrangements, we are here for them and we always make sure we get back to people within a few hours.
• We offer custom lens rental periods. Whether the customer needs to rent a lens for a long vacation or a weekend getaway, we can provide it for them.
• We take reservations. If the customer needs a lens for that special occasion or trip, we will save one just for them.
• Quality. We test and clean every lens before it is sent to the customer. The equipment is ready to use as soon as the customer receives it.
• We offer local pick-up. If the customer is in the San Francisco Bay Area, they may not have to wait for the lens rental at all. We also arrange pick-ups in San Mateo, San Jose or San Francisco at a time that's convenient for the customer.
BorrowLenses.com also keeps its e-mail newsletters relevant and adds new products and specials as frequently as they can.
Willoughby's Imaging Center Adds Boutiques
Set within New York's oldest photographic emporium, the Leica and Pentax Boutiques at Willoughby's Imaging Center provide a new source for information on all Leica- and Pentax-related topics and offer both companies' full product portfolios, from point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras to rangefinder and medium-format systems and binoculars. This unique retail setting within the Willoughby's Manhattan, New York, location utilizes premium design and materials to offer a memorable and interactive experience for their customers.
“We are proud to offer the clients and fans these two distinctive brands a new venue to explore their products,” the owners of Willoughby's explain.
Both brands celebrated the grand openings of their boutiques in style. Leica invited photo enthusiast and actor Matthew Modine, renowned event photographer Patrick McMullan and Alex McCord of “Real Housewives of New York,” to host a VIP “cocktails and cameras” party.
“Sticking” With a Good Idea at Elm
Okay, we're cheating a bit here as we featured this one in last years' Look Book, but we liked it so much for its simplicity we couldn't resist adding it again. Waterville, Maine's Elm City Photo has invented a creative kiosk tool that saves customer's arms from aching, while also reducing the spread of finger prints and germs on the kiosk screens—it's called the Elm City Klick Stick.
Owner John Goodine says, “The idea of the Klick Stick was born when a customer said she would have to quit ordering for the day because her arm was aching from sorting through about 2,000 images on one of our kiosks. We determined a 12-inch dowel with a soft rubber tip would be ideal solution to this problem. We went online and found a school teachers' supply store that sold exactly what we needed—a lightweight pointer stick complete with smiley faces and rubber tips.
“We also find them extremely handy when pointing out the kiosk's features and products to a customer. It makes the instructional session look more professional and you are not invading their personal space by leaning over them,” he added.
While the inventive Klick Stick impresses consumers, Goodine says absolutely nothing beats good old fashioned customer service.
“When a customer sits down at an APM, I have a clerk greet the customer within 10 seconds and check on them again after a few minutes. I find that is the Achilles Heel of my competition and I am not about to let them top me in customer service,” Goodine explained.
The “Skinny” From H&H
Raytown, Mo.-based, H&H Color Lab is an imaging retailer that offers a complete product catalog for optical and digital printing and finishing services. To help consumers and businesses alike, the company developed Skinny Mini Cards. The unique 2.75″ x1.12″ cards are printed with static information on one side and variable images on the reverse, using the Xerox 700 Digital Color Press and DocuColor 250/252.
Many of the company's wedding photographer customers use the Skinny Mini cards as a marketing tool. The photographers take a number of engagement photos for a bride and groom. The photographer prints their business information on the front of the cards and multiple engagement photos on the back. These customized Skinny Mini cards are placed in a fish bowl at the wedding reception table for guests to pick through and find their favorite photo of the newlyweds. Now all of the guests not only had a memento of the evening, but also the photographer's contact information.
The Skinny Mini is extremely versatile. H&H Color Lab has had students use the Skinny Mini for senior rep cards, while companies have used them for hosted e-commerce events, business cards where employees have multiple roles and responsibilities and for tailored marketing communications.
Quality Smartphone Prints
London Drugs, which has garnered accolades as Canada's highest-quality photofinisher, is using the new Noritsu D1005 to get their customers excited about printing their camera phone images. The chain regularly runs specials on cam phone prints but, more important than that, adds CEO Wynne Powell, is the quality level they can now offer on these images.
“Even using a garden-variety smartphone image from an iPhone or Blackberry, the results are 'wow!' You can get stunning quality in 5×7 images from a smartphone photo file on the D1005,” he says.
Perhaps the message here is about simply being ready for the sea change that is already happening in the way consumers shoot and relate to the images they capture today.
“The imaging business is changing dramatically,” Powell reflects. “There's a huge change with consumers. What used to be that social moment – the 'emotion quotient' after taking out the film canister and rushing in to print from it, then picking up and opening that envelope—that moment is now experienced right after customers take a picture. It's been moved from viewing an image print to viewing the LCD on a camera. Also, people are not as careful about what they shoot—there are a lot more images being shot. They might shoot 1,000 images instead of perhaps 200 on a holiday.”
A result of these changing behaviors is another interesting service—sorting through their customers image libraries (for a fee) and selecting the best-quality images for printing and/or gifting.
The Give & Take of the McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange
There is perhaps no better source for clever and creative imaging retail ideas than Bill McCurry's Marketing Idea Exchange. No need to go into great detail about who Mr. McCurry is as he has undoubtedly been in your store at one time or another over the years. His retail marketing sessions have become “must attends” at PMA and he was gracious enough to direct us to a few of the interesting “exchanges” that take place daily on his very popular online newsletter: http://www.photoimagenews.com/mcarchive.htm – check out these gems on pages 18 and 19 (top).
The Give & Take of the McCurry Marketing Idea Exchange
There is perhaps no better source for clever and creative imaging retail ideas than Bill McCurry's Marketing Idea Exchange. No need to go into great detail about who Mr. McCurry is as he has undoubtedly been in your store at one time or another over the years. His retail marketing sessions have become “must attends” at PMA and he was gracious enough to direct us to a few of the more interesting “exchanges” that take place daily on his very popular online newsletter: http://www.photoimagenews.com/mcarchive.htm – check out these gems on pages 18 and 19 (top).
We Do Prints Better
Sometimes a simple, well-done sign can be the best idea for your location—particularly if it tells it like it is. That's the idea behind the sign pictured here from Chris Lydle of Chris' Camera Center, in Aiken, S.C. Lydle very matter-of-factly claims that all imaging retailers should be pounding home the message that their prints are better, last longer and cost less than what their customers are doing themselves at home. He very plainly asks, “Who's doing that?” We're not so sure many actually are. It's a simple message but one we think makes a very strong point.
Dog Days at Wormser
Wormser Photography and Custom Framing in Redlands, Calif., owner Steve Wormser tells us of a fundraiser that takes place on the last weekend in July every year during one of the store's slower periods.
People in the surrounding community pay $50 for a photo session for their pet. Half that total goes to our animal shelter. The customer receives one 5×7 photo from the session that the store picks.
“The sessions are scheduled every five minutes with the exception of the last 10 minutes of the hour. The 10 minutes gives you a little break, plus helps you if you are running late. The pets are photographed on a white vinyl background. It is easy to clean up if something happens,” Wormser warns.
They place all of the photos they take for each client online. He tells us that around 20 percent of the customers order extra photos of their pets. They also offer note cards, bookmarks and coffee mugs.
“We also produce a 12-month calendar for the animal shelter with the profits going to the shelter. The pets for the calendar are picked through online voting,” Wormser adds.
Last year they collected 500 e-mail addresses just from voting. They then throw a big party to introduce the calendar.
“The mayor announces the winners one month at a time. The average person who has a pet in the calendar buys 10 copies. They are also the same people who buy a lot of the extra photos, note cards, bookmarks and mugs,” says Wormser.
The book mark pictured here is 2×7 and Wormser tells us he scanned a piece of mat board to come up with the background. They can print them on a 5×7 print and then laminate them. “We sold 67 of them last year—almost one for every dog we photograph,” he explained.
E-Mail Marketing Magic
Dean Lawrence of Hooper Camera in Chatsworth, Thousand Oaks and Woodland Hills, Calif., has e-mail marketing doing its thing for his locations.
“Our e-mail newsletter is working well for us. We've gotten really good at collecting customers' addresses for the list, and we're giving them content they find worth reading,” Lawrence said. “We want to lead each issue with a how-to article by one of our own associates. [One recent month] we led with Pointers for Pleasing Portraits by our own Bruce Stein.”
Lawrence explains this makes the letter, and by extension, the store, seem more personal and friendly. They also add a dynamite special of some kind to reward their subscribers. As you can see from the sample below, they played with a free print special to tie into the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.
“Only our customers who read down that far get to see the coupon, and they have to print it out to take advantage of it,” he added.
They also post a link on their home page and Google Blog-spot after the initial e-blast. This shows them tangible results of their marketing efforts by the coupons they collect.
“It is important to give some kind of offering back for taking the time to sign-up. We do this in two ways. First, we put an offer on the sign-in card or stuffer, and also by offering these great deals to e-mail subscribers only,” Lawrence told us. “I personally get positive feedback from customers via e-mail, phone or in person. A recent customer told me, 'I read every word and look forward to each reading the next e-mail.”
Printing Money at Elmhurst Camera
During the holiday shopping season, Elmhurst Camera (Elmhurst, Ill.) sweetens their sales pitch by adding what they call Elmhurst Camera Bonus Bucks to equipment sales. Printed in high quality on their own Fuji/Xerox machine, the Bonus Bucks bring the perception of getting monetary value to their customers and the idea has been well received.
“We were very careful to be consistent, offering these to every customer, who then tucked them into their purse or wallet to be reminded repeatedly about Elmhurst Camera and that they needed to come back to get a deal,” said owner Rich Rosenberg.
Rosenberg is quick to point out, “Notice that the redemption period was January 15 through April 15. That was to ensure that nobody just turned around and completed the initial purchase using their bonus bucks. If they wanted to buy a filter for their camera, they had to pay for it then and come back in the new year to redeem their bonus bucks on yet another purchase.”
He tells us that redemption rates have been very high, which means that the time shift worked for them in getting customers in to the store during a typically slow period and “that these same customers must have appreciated the extra $s off their purchase.
The Keeper of Memories
Christine DeCocker of AccuPhotoLab & Studio in Charleston, S.C., stresses ways for her customers to keep their memories, “nice and tidy…very organized.”
Her location offers the Memory Keeper CD on both her in-store kiosk and online print ordering interface.
“Have you ever been frustrated holding a CD in your hand and wondering what is on it?” she asks. “The Memory Keeper CD includes the CD, a booklet with thumbnail images that fit right inside the CD case, 'keeping' it all together for you.”
The Memory Keeper CD lists for $10.95 and DeCocker has offered it free as part of special in-store print offers during lower periods.
There is no link on the digital imaging chain weaker than the storage one, and DeCocker is not only helping her customers organize their image collections with the Memory Keeper CD idea—she is making it easier for them to eventually print them.
Event Photog Happenings
Lots happening in the event photography space and both the improving quality and flexibility of today's mobile printers are opening up this market to a much wider range of retail players.
SnapLab & Sons
The owners of Capitol Photo and Sons in Fairfield, Conn., are all about the importance of helping other families document special events with unique and lasting photo memories.
Co-owners Jacob and Daniel Madwed are using Sony's SnapLab digital photofinishing system to help their customers document special events in their lives and deliver the prints on-site moment later.
The pair have branched out from the use the SnapLab system to create photo party favors at events such as bar/bat mitzvahs, fundraising events and local holiday parties. Along with printing the images on-site, they are mounting them on festive frames that commemorate the special occasions.
The output options in this market have come a long way over the years and Sony's SnapLab produces a full range of sizes in just seconds and also features a variety of editing tools, which include zoom, crop, rotate, color adjustment, red-eye reduction and sepia or black-and-white transformation. Feature sets like this are lifting the event photo category to new levels, and many retailers are looking to expand their operations by including this service. Capital Photo and Sons would be quick to tell you it's a winning play.
Speed, Reliability Fuel Jensen Imaging
Since 1958, Jensen Imaging has been delivering on-site photos to vacationing families at their ski resort and amusement park locations using the latest in imaging technologies. From development labs to instant photos to photographic printers, the company has united quality with speed—and optimized its business practice—as printing tech continued to evolve. Now, with a combination of Mitsubishi printers that includes eight CP-9800DWs, 15 CP-9550DWs and more, Jensen Imaging has the power to quickly and reliably print thousands of high-quality pictures a day.
Today, Jensen Imaging has eight different ski resorts and amusement park locations in five states around the country. They use Mitsubishi printers, “for picture quality, clarity and texture and its reliability, which comes thanks to the jam-free roll type mechanism. Also, the edge-to-edge printing with each of the four different output sizes offers maximum versatility,” explains owner Robert Jensen.
“Our printers were made specifically for companies like Jensen Imaging, where speed, quality and reliability are of paramount importance,” said Darla Achey, marketing specialist at Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America. “Whether you are using one Mitsubishi printer or a whole fleet, they can save time, money and optimize business practices.”
Elsewhere in Retail
It's never a bad idea to occasionally take a look at what retailers outside the imaging industry are doing to engage their in-store customers. We did just that with a few of these Look Book entries that we thought, with a tweak here or there, might make sense in our neck of the woods.
A Long Island-based furniture retailer dubbed Out-of-the-Box Furniture has gotten creative in an effort to tackle today's tough economic times. They recently added a tarot card reader to give free readings during the store's nighttime hours.
“It's working well,” began Rita Greene, the location's weeknight manager. “The customers are getting a big kick out of it and it has certainly separated us from the pack.”
Green has also started a rewards program offering a 20 percent discount for every $500 a customer spends.
Focusing on Health/Wellness
Tamara Lee, owner of Brooklyn Mercantile, a home goods and crafts store in New York, is teaming up with a local nurse practitioner who is conducting free breast cancer and blood pressure screenings, as well as free nutrition workshops in the store.
Lee has regularly conducted sewing and craft workshops but claims those have suffered as the foot traffic in her location has thinned the last year or so. She is now also planning to enlist a career coach who will offer guidance to customers. She added that her shop had actually become a local gathering place for those interested in do-it-yourself activities, but that has waned of late as well.
“Because of the economic climate, people are worried about their work lives, they're cutting back on extraneous spending and looking inward,” said Lee. “They want to do things to fix up their homes without spending money.”
It's in the Bag
Perhaps the ultimate gift accessory for the imaging retailer can be found with Horizon Worldwide Corporation's Picture Gift Bags. Your customers can now present gifts they buy in your store (or any store for that matter) in a custom gift bag with their favorite photos printed directly onto the bag.
The Picture Gift Bags program features hundreds of templates with over 5,000 possible design combinations and an infinite number of possibilities for a product you can offer in-store or sell as a do-it-yourself photo craft item. There is a design available for almost every occasion and theme including all major sports, weddings, anniversary, baby, birthday, congratulations, holiday, party themes, pets, create-your-own and many more. The bags are available in four convenient sizes consisting of small, medium, large and wine, which are sure to accommodate all of your customers gifting needs. www.picturegiftbags.com
Rethinking Your Odds & Ends
Jim Brewer's Odds & Ends store in New Jersey has also suffered during the economic downturn but he's quick to add, “You can't just accept the climate as such and proceed as you always have. You have rethink what you're doing.”
That rethinking has involved the sending out personalized birthday cards, which include a 25 percent discount certificate, and offer Odds & Ends Dollars and a rewards program that gives 5 percent back on every five items bought.
“The birthday cards have really struck a cord and I think many customers are just coming back in to say 'Thanks, that was really nice,'” he added. “I think a lot of people just want to feel that we are in this recession together.”
From the furniture retail industry comes the story of the Miller House, a Stephens City, Va.-based store. It's easy for customers to feel at home at The Miller House as the building is the actually the childhood home of Brenda Miller, who owns the store with husband, Brad.
They're also the only employees, which guarantees a personal touch—Miller writes each customer a personal card after every purchase. And the store is getting the word out.
“We offer great customer service through our personal delivery, thank you postcards, special events and an appreciation gift certificate given to selected customers over the holidays,” she said. “We also mail Christmas cards to many of our customers.”
Special events include the “Harvest Fair in the Valley,” which features local artisans' wares and a bluegrass band and attracts more than 500 visitors; and a Christmas Open House every November, in which Miller herself creates all decorations and vignettes. This year's open house, she launched a decorating tips and techniques workshop that was originally limited to 15 participants but ended up with more than 25.
This one has traditionally made sense for a few of the larger chains but the cost of Pop-Up Retail has gotten so cheap it's worth another look for even the smallest mom-and-pop locations out there. From Singapore comes the Venue VBOX, a portable store in a shipping container, which can be set-up temporarily, any place, any time. The VBOX enables a specific brand or retailer to follow an event they wish to align with, or pop up where consumers least expect it.
Tag along with a photography exhibition or set up shop temporarily at a large sporting event. Brands can even showcase items that consumers may not otherwise be able to purchase elsewhere: just fill the VBOX with one-offs or special items and you're off. A nice way to stand out in today's crowded market place.
The iPad's Role
As the many applications for Apple's iPad device continue to be uncovered, an interesting one for retailers has surfaced. For many, the iPad has become an ideal device for capturing e-mails at the point of sale. E-mail service providers (i.e., Constant Contact, Blue Sky Factory, Mailchimp) are even going as far to create applications that allow a retailer to quickly add a new customer onto their e-mail list right there at the point of sale.
These providers now offer iPad apps that allow the retailer to create a quick capture form that can live on the iPad that will even automatically send your customer a branded welcome message. Everyone is talking social media today, but e-mail is still king when it comes to driving traffic to your website and connecting with your customers. The iPad makes it a lot easier to build a list that will help you strengthen your relationship with your customer.
A Six Pack of Ideas
Okay, we'll close with something we thought was pretty clever that comes from the website www.suburbiaadvertising.com, which offers an interesting way for retailers to go about evaluating ideas before they hit the store floor. They call their plan R-E-T-A-I-L as it lists six key suggestions that begin by using words that spell out the word “retail”. They are as follows:
R is for Relevance. Relevance is about making sure the creative reflects an idea that is important to the target—something that is meaningful and has a role in their lives. A relevant idea is the foundation for achieving your objective.
E is for Easy to understand. You should be able to “get” the idea quickly and easily. If you have to work at it, something's wrong.
T is for Truth. The statement or claim being made in the idea should be credible and believable coming from your organization or brand. Consumers are skeptical and cynical—they can spot an imposter quickly.
A is for Achievable. Is the idea achievable with the resources available? Do you have the budget, time and manpower necessary to deliver the idea in its best form? A great idea poorly executed quickly becomes a bad idea. Make sure the idea is within the realm of possibility.
I is for Insight. Does the idea reflect an underlying truth or understanding that is relevant to the target? Is it presented in a fresh, original manner?
L is for Likeable. Is the idea likeable? It's no big secret that people and consumers gravitate toward things that they find pleasing and appealing. Likeable is really a form of being relevant—and that takes you back to the top.
The folks at Suburbia Advertising “guarantee that if you use RETAIL it will help you to sort through your thoughts, make decisions with greater confidence, have more productive meetings with your creative team and, ultimately, help you get creative ideas that meet and surpass your objectives.”