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Manufacturers Stepping Up Efforts To Support Retailers

TWICE: What changes are taking place in retail distribution as the point-and-shoot business erodes?

Christopher Chute, IDC: Best Buy’s struggles are indicative of the challenges facing dealers and CE vendors, including those that offer cameras. We expect the omnichannel strategy, which is based on competitive, standardized pricing across environments and mobile-based promotions, to be more the norm as time goes on. We also expect retailers to rely more on the CE brands than before, vis a vis the store-withina- store concept (Samsung Store, Apple Store, etc.).

Ben Arnold, The NPD Group: I think the store-within- a-store concept — as well as revamping the camera section at retail to emphasize the lifestyle elements of imaging — are real opportunities for camera manufacturers to work in concert with retail. I would also say that photo output at retail is an opportunity to engage consumers during times when they aren’t looking for a capture device. What the industry doesn’t want are consumers who only think about the camera section when they are buying a camera. I think the goal should be to engage consumers throughout camera ownership.

Stefan Guelpen, Panasonic: We already see assortment reductions in major retailers across the country. As the camera business is shifting more toward higher-end point-and-shoot and ILC, retailers have to make sure they remain or become a destination for such cameras. This requires professional displays and educated sales staff. We are not certain that all retailers will make that investment or, rather, decide to exit the category over time.

Scott Hardy, Polaroid: We have found that with limited sales support, consumers are taking to the Internet, specifically YouTube, to find out how to operate the products they are purchasing in traditional retail environments. To better assist these consumers, we have begun creating product demonstration videos that are posted on the webpage and Polaroid YouTube channel to show consumers how to use Polaroid products.

Mark Weir, Sony: Sony has invested significantly in retail execution – to help our retail partners benefit from consumers’ interest in our innovative products. We believe that improving the benefit proposition to consumers is what’s required to drive growth, and there’s no doubt that supporting the retailers’ ability to convey the advantages of innovative products is key.

Masahiro Horie, Nikon: As an industry, we need to support and educate consumers about how they can take better images and videos at every skill level. Consumers are constantly documenting their lives, and there is a leadership role that Nikon and retailers can play in supporting this consumer behavior. Better supporting consumers helps create brand loyalty and drives awareness and purchases. Creating positive online and offline experiences and offering strong customer service are important for retailers to retain customer loyalty and build their customer base. The experience online should be consistent with the experience at the storefront. Consumers should feel supported and engaged with the products and with their salespeople. Additionally, education has always been a significant opportunity to engage consumers, while new technologies enable retailers and manufactures to better serve consumers and help them get the best out of their purchases.

To help better arm the salesperson, Nikon has initiated a Cyber Scholar training program to help the person working the counter to better engage with their customers.

Eliott Peck, Canon: Canon has a long history in the imaging industry and has not only brought new technology and cameras to market, we have also invested heavily with our business partners to help them be successful. As technology evolves, and consumer shopping habits change, we remain committed to supporting our dealers who directly touch the consumer. We will continue to invest heavily in education programs, promote photography, the advantages of superior optics, and create campaigns to help consumers unleash their creativity — just as we are doing with our “Project Imaginat10n” film contest, partnering with two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard.

Jim Malcom, Ricoh: As the point-and-shoot market erodes, what still matters to the retailer and the customer is the opportunity to change lenses. So offering full-featured products that are compact with interchangeable- lens options is paramount. In order for retail distribution channels to benefit in the new photo economy, they must be prepared to sell an ecosystem of product. With that comes the critical requirement for the retailer to understand the lifestyle of the consumer and the benefit that interchangeable lenses and an ecosystem provides. Retailers, especially ones with limited sales support, must align with manufacturers that take an active role in online commerce by generating educational and informative content that stimulates the consumer’s passion and desire to buy more products and accessories in the category.

Ron Gazzola, Samsung: To bolster our in-store experience, Samsung has focused on its overall product ecosystem to help convey feature-benefit messaging and help consumers see the tremendous capabilities of a connected smart camera. With regard to cameras, customers can expect to see similar rollouts in-store where cameras will be featured alongside other Samsung products like tablets or laptops to highlight their interoperability. Samsung has also released a number of education-focused apps for mobile devices, allowing both retail staff and customers to get information about our product line at the point of sale and enabling them to make a more informed purchasing decision.