By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE: How are the demographics changing for a camera buyer today?
Pepple: The Hispanic population is the largest growing market in America, and so I think companies need to acknowledge that, they need to embrace it and there are certain retailers out there that cater to that. Certainly, the traditional retailers like Best Buy cater to it with a Spanish Web site. RadioShack has always had a very strong relationship in the Hispanic sector, and like what we have experienced with La Curacao and a few other regional distributors, once you meet and acknowledge your product within those sectors, you develop a respect from those consumers and they stay with you. I think there's something we can learn from that as an industry.
TWICE: How about in the younger market segments? Are customers going for digital still cameras to use with social networks, or are they relying more heavily on the cellphone today for that?
Flagg: It's interesting because when you look at the demographics of our tough cameras, and these are $299 and $399 products, we tend to skew a younger demographic then an older one, which is exactly the opposite. So people are seeing value in the flexibility of crush-proof, heat-proof, waterproof and using them in ways that immediately take those images and send them back out to their friends and people within their social-networking environments.
But I also think some of it is environmental. If you are going on vacation and you are going to go somewhere special, you'll take your camera because you will want to send those images of higher quality. So I think that it's more inspirational in terms of what is going on and what's going to inspire somebody.
Weir: I think it is also behavior. Years ago the notion of visual communication was proposed in an early study — the notion that instead of communicating with words people would communicate with pictures, and it caught on in Japan very early on. I think it's widespread today in youth in this country. But the notion of communicating with pictures, the images that are captured in many cases are transitory. They don't capture them to save them, they don't capture them to archive them, and they capture them to send them. So I think that the kind of behavior they are engaged in really determines the device that they are using. What do they want to do with their pictures?
Troy: I agree that a lot of the difference in age that we're seeing in terms of how consumers share online are pretty interesting, and Facebook sharing or Twitter sharing is sharing with a community where younger consumers maybe interested in the gee-whiz value of this transitory picture, as Mark noted. Older consumers are also sharing online — they just tend to share with a more immediate, more closed, more private circle via email. We see both email sharing and printing growing proportionally with age. There are also some challenges around bandwidth where camera phones are capturing relatively low-resolution images that are more feasible to send up to a Web page with a 3G cellphone. Clearly, there are a lot of variables that are going to come into play in terms of connecting digital cameras.
Pellegrino: I think another really interesting aspect of social networking comes from the manufacturer side. For the first time we can now use social networks as a way to reach out to customers and really zero in at a micro level on a particular group of customers, really in a mass type of environment. It's a great place where you can actually educate customers, you can provide support for them and even drive a product sale from that. I think it's a game changer. At the end of the day, it's about communicating with these groups in a venue where they are receptive to hearing what you have to say.
Zani: I think social networking in general, as Lucy said, is a game changer. From everything — from what you take your photo with, to how manufacturers are getting the message out. One of the things that we are undertaking is a viral tour where we are taking our product to the streets in 10 to 12 cities in August, and we are communicating where we are going to be on Twitter and Facebook. Our president also knows how to blog, since 1998, and that's how we are getting the message out.
Weir: Certainly the communities that are online and the opportunities for visual communication really drive reasons to capture images because you can share them so much more easily and quickly than before. But from a different direction, if you think about it, cameras, quite unlike any other consumer products, are creative products, and that kind of creativity drives community interaction in a way that other products don't. What we find are communities that will sort of band together to offer up their ideas to manufacturers and it's a wonderful source. We listen a lot because it is where we can really touch and hear the customer's voice.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.