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TWICE: So how has retail changed? Last year there was a lot of discussion about the Internet and one of the challenges was communicating the features. Does the Internet help you in that? Can it hurt you in getting your message out to consumers and reaching your audience?
Lubell: We strongly believe that the Internet is a valuable tool. Our online presence has increased and consumers are coming to our Web sites for education. I think the retailers have also embraced that too, and they're [using the Web] and educating consumers on the features. We're strongly behind the Internet as a good communications form because you could tell your story and explain things in detail, so much so that we've created those assets and we've shared them with our retail partners as well to make the customer experience overall better for everybody.
TWICE: Do you all find that your retail partners are asking for that kind of support?
Maciag: Yes, I think that the Internet is a viable option for the information flow of your products and your technologies, no question about it. It's also important that we maintain a consistent message from our collateral materials and our branding message through the retailers. It's a unified approach. We don't want to go from our message to a Web site and find it's a different message about our product. One of our goals for this year and next year is to unify our message along with our retailers' message and create a branding image for what's on the Internet.
Cordova: [There's] a lot of misinformation out there and I think that it's the manufacturer's responsibility to try to police the Internet as much as possible, and make sure that the branding message and the specs and features are not misleading to the consumer.
Lee: We see training for retailers as well for the consumer very, very important on the Internet. That's an area that will continue, I think, to see more activity by the manufacturers. How do you get solid training to the retailer and their associates so the consumer can have a better experience in the store?
Rubin: Nikon has also had a strong direct-to-consumer campaign with the Nikon Town online and TV campaigns as well.
Lee: Yes, we've really tried to tap into the end consumer. We started with our Flickr campaign where we took a camera before it was introduced and put it into some photographers' hand. So we found that very powerful. And our next step was to have a more approachable d-SLR like the D40, and we went to a small town and it really turned out great for us.
Pepple: Fujifilm has actually stepped up our online education portal processes. We are continually expanding our education teams within the company to reach retailers. And also, we've significantly beefed up our presence on the Internet, and we'll continue to do that because we see the Internet as the first step in the education and learning process for the consumer. And with that being the first step, it's important that we put it together properly and that we educate properly.
Rubin: In terms of channel share, we really haven't seen a major difference this year over last year. But, again, as more of these fashion-conscious products come into the channel, it could be interesting for mass merchants.
Magee: That's where we're coming out and saying that we have to spend our time educating the consumer before they get to the store, because when they get to the store, they've made their decision. And why have they done that? Because they've done their homework on the Internet. They've maybe traded off and looked at a competitor, or looked at a review site and looked at side-by-side comparisons. So our efforts are very strong there.
We wouldn't know how to do our job today without [the Internet], because we don't get the time with the retailers to train them the way we did years ago. And we don't do those seminars. It's all about five-minute messaging at best. And it's probably two or three — I'm exaggerating at five.
TWICE: Is the Internet a bit unwieldy in terms of your messaging, or are you confident that your brand position is where it needs to be at this point?
Cordova: I think there is room for improvement.
Lee: Consistency is really what we have to try to strive for. Is this message the same from the manufacturer to the retailer, and then, how are those reviews delivered and how are they monitored so they're accurate and appropriate?
Pepple: We try to drive portals to many of our retailers and we will help them brand their style along with ours at the same time, so that the information we push through our servers into their servers is seamless to the consumer. And it retains both the branding on the retailer's site and our site. It provides consistent information we can update very quickly on a mass scale.
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.