By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE:Printing at retail continues to be a topic of concern and focus for both vendors and retailers. What's the outlook for this market?
Peck: The key to this is making it faster. How much time do people want to dedicate to print out all their vacation pictures themselves where before they could drop them off at the department store, camera store, or drugstore and pick them up an hour later. How much time will people dedicate, no matter how simple it is, to print all those pictures out?
Schaffer: We're starting to see the shift toward women being actively involved in the selection of the camera as well as using the camera much more quickly than we had originally anticipated. And connecting it to the printing issue is critically important. Consumers have basically set the model in the past twenty years, they want to be able to walk in, drop off the film and get pictures in an hour. And that's why we see the biggest growth trend in the industry is not the camera itself, but retail printing.
Carr: That's exactly right, we need to educate the consumer about all the choices they have. There are times when I want to print at home because I've got a family member there that I want to share a print with. There are times when I've taken 30 or 40 pictures and I don't want to be bothered and I send them over the Internet and have them shipped back to me. And then there are other times when I'm on vacation and I want to drop them off on a kiosk and get my prints back. That's the whole advantage of digital, control.
We have to, as an industry, build that eco-system for consumers so that no matter where they are, they're going to be able to get their prints, and the retail model is absolutely one of the strongest plays.
Sienkiewicz: We seem to be making the assumption that we're going to continue enjoying prints for a long time. And I propose that may or may not be true. Already people are sharing and enjoying them in more ways than a print and that opens a whole new host of possibilities. E-mail has replaced the backyard fence for exchanging gossip, as well as exchanging images, and those don't have to be very high resolution. We're able to take pictures and never even think about printing them. Simply looking at them temporarily and sharing them broadly with a few keystrokes among family members is considered just as valuable and valid a photographic experience as having an envelope full of pictures.
Young: I agree with you 100 percent on that. I think we're all talking about printing and we all agree that we want to encourage people to have many options, whether at home, retail, kiosks, on-line, whatever. But we're still seeing only about 5 percent of digital images captured actually being printed. And I don't see that percentage growing dramatically over the next few years. However, the number of pictures taken is going to grow exponentially and that still affords lots of opportunities for retailers to sell paper, media and self-services.
Grossman: I think that the primary reason that printing is at such a low percentage of pictures being taken is because it's not easy to do and not readily available. I think that if you jump ahead five years, depending on when the infrastructure's in place, and you can take a Compact Flash card to your photofinisher and get a replacement card back and you can come back in an hour and get prints back, I think people are going to respond to that. I think people enjoy prints. But it's critical for the infrastructure to get into place quickly so that people have options, because if they don't, then you're right, printing will stay at 5 percent and it won't be good for the industry.
Young: I don't know that consumers don't have the options today, though. Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreen's, every mass merchant in the world has [the ability to develop prints from digital files] or is very close to having it. The technology is already there. The awareness is not there and that baffles me. For some reason, consumers don't seem to be aware that they can do this, despite the fact that it is already broadly deployed.
Schaffer: I don't think we can consider that the print-making activity based on digital camera ownership today indicates a consumer's connection to prints. There is over 95 percent household ownership of point-and-shoot cameras and SLR film cameras and according to our research, people are still using them, in addition to their digital cameras and are still printing from them. It's not a matter of digital replacing film cameras in 2003. I think it is the total range of options that are available to consumers that we have to evaluate before we make the decision that in 2002 consumers decided that they were not going to print.
Carr: It goes back to consumer satisfaction and in the film environment, the ecosystem is there and consumers are very satisfied with the prints they get back. We in the digital world have to go to that consumer and try to match that benchmark that we've already set in the film world. And it's not there.
Maciag: I do think there is room for expansion in home printing and in the photo specialty and CE channel, there is definitely some opportunity for expanding printing capabilities this year.
Arnette: If there's an inhibitor to the growth of this industry, it's the back-end of the process. Yet we're still seeing our photo printers continue to explode, I mean, every month, it continues to go up and paper supply and inks are just going through the roof.
Carr: Easy printing will be solved in the next year and a half. Just as, when we sat here a year ago, it was about making the camera easier, making it easier to get images uploaded to the computer. We solved that. This year we're all concentrating on easy printing. It's what's next. After that, it's tackling the digital shoe-box.
Peck: You know there's one other dynamic that's going to happen in the second half of this year and that's the PictBridge technology, which addresses that ease-of-printing issue. Canon has cameras that can direct-connect to a printer. That was a closed system and it was great for us but it didn't address the millions of other digital cameras that are on the market. The PictBridge technology will allow member companies to connect any digital camera with any output device and make the process simple. I think that once this officially hits and the industry gets behind this, and spends the necessary money and does the marketing campaigns, I think you're going to see a quantum leap in the ease of creating output.
Young: We have a similar closed system with our cameras and our printers and we agree, as soon as it becomes an open standard it opens up a lot of doors.
Carr: We just ran a test in Atlanta called Digital Printing Services and as soon as we announced it, there was this pent-up demand among digital camera owners who had all of these pictures stored on their Compact Flash cards because they didn't know what to do with them. It goes back to thinking of our retailer in this space, what are they doing as far as services? What are we doing to provide them services that they can use to extract some sort of value from the consumer? That's where the business is.
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.