Photo Imaging & Specialty Graphics Find Common Ground
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ISA Sign Expo 2018 in Orlando - we dare you


Photo Imaging & Specialty Graphics Find Common Ground

Photo imaging is not limited to any particular market segment. The market for consumer-personalized photoproducts has been rapidly growing in recent years.

By Don Franz, Group Publisher, Photo Imaging News

There are actually seven levels of printing enabled by digital technologies, from short runs of static content, to fully automated production of fully personalized materials initiated by an Internet inquiry.

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  • Earlier this year, while walking around a screen graphics trade show in Europe, I was confounded to see a large booth for Mitsubishi Electric, a photo imaging company that manufactures countertop dye sublimation photo printers, as well as kiosks and a standalone Instant Mini Album system. I asked the managers, whom I knew, why they were participating in such a "non-photo-imaging" show. Their reply surprised me. "We attended a similar show last year, and generated numerous sales from show visitors." This year, there were so many visitors at the booth that my friends could only spare a few minutes to talk to me!

    The SGIA Expo offers this same opportunity: Photo imaging is not limited to any particular market segment. Although the market for four- by six-inch prints has been declining for several years, the market for consumer-personalized photoproducts has been rapidly growing, as shown in Figure 1. Besides photo books and photo greeting cards, these values reflect posters/collages, mugs, calendars and some non-printed products.

    To inform all those who have printing systems, including large-format inkjet printers, about the opportunities within the photo imaging market, both consumer and professional, Photo Imaging News has been conducting conferences around the world, under the International Business Forumô umbrella. At the 2012 SGIA Expo, Photo Imaging News collaborated with SGIA to bring this informative and stimulating program to Las Vegas. Presentations at these events, while focused on photo imaging services, can also apply to a wide range of markets.

    Personalized Products
    At the International Business Forum - organized earlier this year in Mumbai, India - Sunil Chhugani, director of Print on Demand Services, asked the audience during a presentation, "Why do you need personalization?" Well, it provides high value products, which then leads to higher margins, and the products have a higher impact. You can offer services differentiated from competitors, and a personalized piece is one-of-a-kind and more meaningful to the recipient. Most people are suffering from "information overload," hence personalization enables one-to-one communication, and very targeted marketing.

    Personalization has been enabled by advanced digital production machines, which can print on a wide variety of substrates; can print as few as a single copy; offer quick turnaround, with variable data; and work with web-to-print. Advanced and cost effective software is available, offering a wide range of user-friendly color composition systems, easy-to-use template makers, and a digital storefront for online creation and ordering.

    Access to customer data and images is facilitated through digital cameras/mobile phones, empowering consumers, along with CRM and new media enabling corporations, with customer data.

    Personalization for consumers could entail duplicated prints, photo and portfolio books, calendars and greeting cards.

    These can be simple memories, or complete packages, as shown in Figure 2. The Party-In-A-Box includes almost anything needed for a party. PODS also works with playing cards, and Chhugani showed a unique deck of UNO cards.

    For corporations, an extensive range of personalized products was shown (e.g., a matchbook with the corporate logo/design on the outside, and a unique message inside, which could be different for every guest/customer). In India, the ability to personalize is also important because of the many localized languages across the country. This also applies in the US and Canada, where different ethnic groups can be addressed in their own native languages.

    As with the Party-In-A-Box for consumers, he showed a 'complete' personalized Conference Kit for corporations, consisting of badges, a welcome letter, a benefit letter, notepad, folder, "Pass Port," and even airline boarding passes.

    He suggested that there are actually seven levels of printing enabled by digital technologies, from short runs of static content, to fully automated production of fully personalized materials initiated by an Internet inquiry, as illustrated in Figure 3. All offer capabilities unavailable with traditional production methods. He emphasized that personalization requires data from the marketers in any given company.

    What can you really do with your data to target print communications? You can personalize the recipient's name, address and any other data available in your database; create different versions for different types of recipients, depending on age or gender; customize using the information you have about your customer to create a unique communication experience; and integrate transaction information with news and promotions to create new communication tools.

    Social Media & Photography
    During our conference held in Cologne, Germany at the end of February, Darren Johnson, Kodak's regional business director, spoke about social media and photography. "Retail will become the 'playground of the 21st century,'" he said.

    Shopping will evolve to become omni-channel. Bricks-and-mortar stores will be part of this omni-channel. Consequently, retailers, and even business-to-business companies, must develop an omni-channel strategy. How does "photo" need to develop? Business models may need to change, as companies honestly engage with consumers for their mutual benefit. Consumer involvement in the process will move from passive to active, and will be driven by experience. No more "hiding," and the chance will open to turn "bad" comments into "good" experiences. Social networking should be viewed as "currency," with employees engaging with people who are "interesting," and can attract followers. Prices and business practices will be transparent.

    This leads to ROI! "Photo" can provide an opportunity to become "friends" with many consumers. "Who wants to be friends with a white goods (freezer/refrigerator) company, with a sales cycle of 17 years?" Johnson asked. How you pursue a strategy depends upon the market category, and who/when you engage. Everyone wants to be engaged, but who wants updates numerous times per day? How many conversations can you have?

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    Brand Recognition
    Your brand is being discussed in online forums. Although the red Kodak "K" on a yellow background is widely known among consumers, it is still necessary to have consumers writing about it.

    Brand Loyalty & Evangelists
    People only "listen" if the "speaker" is passionate and has something to say. People's experiences are the social media currency. You should identify "influencers" who operate in favor of your company/product. He suggested a "4 E" program to work with influencers/bloggers: Engage, Educate, Excite and Evangelize. Kodak developed a community campaign with one of the largest UK parenting networks to reach British mothers about printer projects: 3,000 bloggers, reaching 32.5 million moms and dads. After two months, there were 70 original editorial blog posts, with 214 comments on parenting "mommy" blogs, and 541 tweets about #Printerprojects. This project reached more than 250,000 readers of blog posts, ultimately producing more than 1.1 million impressions of the Kodak Big App. As a consequence, Kodak was listed third and fourth in a natural search for the term, "Printer Projects."

    Sales: Coupons & Promotions
    Kodak ran a game on Facebook, designed to make consumers realize that they could print their Facebook photos. Thirty-seven percent of those who participated in the game took advantage of the free collage being offered. Commerce on Facebook (otherwise called F-commerce) is also being conducted in conjunction with JC Penney and Gamestop. However, Johnson noted that not enough of these promotions are being conducted.

    Customer Service Resolved Issues
    Every "relationship" is public, and read by many. If you have an unhappy customer, exceed their expectation to resolve the issue. Remember, every person in your organization is an ambassador for the company.

    R&D: Polls & Gathering Insights
    These can be useful in gauging consumer sentiment. When communicating with consumers, have your information "at your fingertips." However, Johnson warned to be sure that you talk to representatives of the customers for your specific products.

    Content Creation & Fan Interaction
    This is dynamic, and requires knowledge of the specific channels you're targeting. The goal is to excite and interest your consumers. There are more than 35 Kodak contributors on social media, representing 20 countries around the world. They also have a "Chief Listener," who oversees the social analytics program, which entails the collection, analysis and presentation of social media data to measure, optimize and recalibrate marketing programs and initiatives.

    Also at the conference, Alexandra Gebhardt, digital strategist at Human 1.0, presented a social media update. "I have never been comfortable with the term 'social media'," she stated, "It is not media, or even technology, but more about people and social behavior."

    Gebhardt spoke about Facebook, which is available in more than 70 languages. The world's population is just over seven billion, and there were 845 million monthly active Facebook users at the end of December 2011, roughly 12 percent of all people. Approximately 80 percent of these monthly active users are located outside the US and Canada. There were 483 million daily active Facebook users on average in December 2011 (seven percent of the world). The 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011 represent six percent of all people.

    In January 2012, the average time spent on social media sites per month (excluding mobile usage), in minutes per visitor, according to Comscore, was recorded as 405 minutes on Facebook; 89 minutes on Tumblr; 89 minutes on Pinterest; 21 minutes on Twitter; 17 minutes on LinkedIn; eight minutes on MySpace; and three minutes on Google+. She also showed a slide from Radian 6, which provides a platform to effectively manage the billions of posts created on social networks every month. In January 2012, social conversations involved photo sharing (75.3 percent), memories (14.1 percent), photo printing (5.7 percent), and photo gifting (4.1 percent).

    A key consideration in using social media is whether you are also adapting for mobile and for game consoles, with which three percent of US consumers are accessing the Web (the same proportion accessing via iPads), according to NM Incite.

    Offering mobile purchasing allows companies to accept impulse purchases, and take advantage of upselling customers who capture memories with camera phones. You can create apps, or partner with existing apps to allow for the purchase of photo gift items, enabling consumers to pay with mobile commerce or Facebook credits (i.e., upload image; order print; add to book; order gift).

    These are only a few samples of the type of information you may receive at the International Business Forum - Americas, one day before the start of the 2012 SGIA Expo. We look forward to meeting you there.

    Don Franz has been involved in the photography/photofinishing industry for more than 35 years, in the amateur, consumer and professional segments. As group publisher of the Photofinishing News International Media Group, he is responsible for five periodicals, various published reports and the Research Information Services forecasting activities. dfranz@photo-news.com

    This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, July/August 2012 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2012 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.

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