Leveraging tech to focus consumers on photo

Technology is moving ahead faster than ever, and photo processing is no exception. Technology is allowing consumers to do much more with their images; the challenge retailers face is how to communicate all those options to their customers.

“Consumers don’t really know what they want,” said Gary Pageau, group executive of content development and strategic initiatives at the Photo Marketing Association. “No one ever knew that they wanted Facebook before it existed. There’s a need for the industry to educate consumers about what they can do with photo processing beyond producing 4x6 prints.”

While there’s been continued growth in photo books, calendars and other specialty items, Pageau thought the industry could really expand those segments with increased retail-based suggestive selling. “Retailers need to tell consumers: ‘Here are all of the cool things we can make with your images; now which one do you want to do?’” he said.

New kiosks are making it easier for consumers to move beyond prints and produce fun products with their digital images. Fujifilm’s new GetPix II kiosk, which will be introduced at PMA 2010, between Feb. 19 and Feb. 23, and will be available to retailers in summer 2010, automatically folds and binds on demand to create books, cards and calendars ranging in size from 6-in.-by-6-in. up to 5.5-in.-by-8.5-in. The system, when combined with Fujifilm’s ASK-2500 and ASK-4000 dye sublimation printers, becomes a complete kiosk solution that can help retailers drive new revenue streams through expanded personalized photo products.

“Retailers and consumers alike are trying to do more with what they already have, rather than investing in new technologies. There’s a movement toward enhancing software rather than purchasing new hardware,” said Bing Liem, VP sales for Fujifilm North America’s imaging division. The GetPix II kiosk, he said, appeals to the spontaneous, impulsive side of the consumer and offers immediate output results.

The company also is introducing a new multiservice kiosk concept at PMA that will allow consumers to pay for domestic and international bills, prepaid tolls and cellular plans, and order ringtones, music and event tickets in the same place they purchase their photos. Additional services for the kiosks are provided through a partnership with PinServ.

“Without the use of the Internet, an ATM card or a credit card, consumers can pay their bills, download music and order photo prints in addition to a host of other prepaid services,” Liem said. “The drug store customer who might have stopped in for 4x6 prints will now be able to take advantage of those services.”

Another key challenge for the industry is finding a way to translate the growing number of images captured by cell phones into profit in the photo processing department. Younger consumers, Pageau said, are more open to new ways to use images—particularly since they are the consumer group capturing the most images on their cell phones. “There’s been an explosion in the number of images being captured on cell phones. While these low-resolution images are being shared on Facebook, no one’s making money on these shared images,” he said. “The challenge for the industry is to find a way to use those images in a lasting way.” Pageau said flipbooks or postcard-sized collages are two easy options.

Some Kodak kiosks allow consumers with Bluetooth wireless technology to develop cell-phone-captured images into prints. Consumers also can create mini collages of two to nine pictures on one print. The application allows consumers to crop, zoom and make other enhancements. CVS is among the drug chains currently using the application.

While the technology works well for printing one or two images, it can be cumbersome to use when creating a large number of prints or a book of prints. When ease of use is becoming more important than ever in the photo arena, there’s a need for additional wireless technology. “The trend will be toward more removable micro SD cards in phones that can be used in kiosks,” Pageau said.

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