Online Photo Processing Success Stories

Photo Marketing Association International
Annual Convention
Las Vegas, Nevada
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Online Photo Processing Success Stories

Presented by,
Mitch Goldstone
30 Minute Photos Etc.
3 Corporate Park
Irvine, CA 92606
Ph: 949.474.7654


Welcome and it’s a privilege to address you today.

It was just over a decade ago that I experienced the very first online photo processing success story. It occurred in San Francisco, where Kodak’s chairman, George Fisher explained how this new technology was going to transmit a picture from California to New York. Much has changed, and definitely at lightening-fast speed. This afternoon I will share what is turning into a substantial new growth opportunity for the photo specialty retailers and a huge benefit for consumers too.

In fact, it’s such big news that PTN’s “2003 Product of the Year” went not to a camera manufacturer or equipment manufacturer or leading supplier of imaging services, but rather to Photogize, one of the online service providers. That’s big and translates into why this session for online photo services is so important for our industry’s growth and suggests how we can all benefit from offering online photo solutions for prints from digital cameras.

Today, we are at the beginning of a revolution. This is a renaissance for the photo industry. And, we are just beginning to meet the expectations of digital imaging customers. Today, new technologies and the entrepreneurs leading the photo industry are positioning it as the hottest new trend. The little guys are just as big as the largest players today! While others talk about “incremental” growth from all the new digital output options, I’m interpreting the feedback I hear from my customer’s as being “explosive” growth.

Remember when our goal was to get consumers to take more pictures? Last year we witnessed the first part of what we all wished for; people were taking more pictures than ever before. The transition and broad appeal for digital imaging led to capturing more images than ever, but then people did nothing with those memories. It just stayed in their camera or on their computer.

PMA reported that in 2002, 84% of images printed from digital cameras were made at home. Now that number plunged 25% in just one year to just 68%. Prints ordered online, at retail and from digital self-service kiosks were just 14% of the total in 2002. In 2003, it rocketed to almost 30%. From 14% to 30% in one year! That’s great. That’s our future. The rapid growth in the volume of prints made by retailers has resulted – according to PMA – in a shift in the share of digital prints away from home printers and towards print options outside the home. The shift towards retail printing and using online photo services for same day pickup at retail and mail fulfillment is expected to rise as digital cameras move further into the mass adoption phase. People are understanding and valuing the convenience of having prints made in a retail environment and online. They are saving money, they are saving time, they are smiling and not getting frustrated. No matter how easy it is to print at home, the true monetary and emotional costs weigh heavily on their decision to print at retail and online.

Let me share with you what’s happening at retail. We are becoming transfixed by the success with offering online photo services. Here’s how it works: Consumers are returning to the photo specialty retailer again because we can best differentiate and specialize. Online orders today include such fast service that my customers press “send,” then get in their car to pick up the order. The race is always on to complete the orders within minutes; and that includes all the special customer requests, like: glossy or matte finish, custom back printing, sepia or b/w prints, sloppy boarders, year-round photo greeting cards, photo invitation and special announcement photo cards and a host of special requests that further differentiates our photo channel.

Online orders at 30 Minute Photos Etc. are always completed the very same day and fulfilled for pickup or packaged using postage or overnight FedEx service for return mail nationwide. By using the post offices’ Priority Mail service, you can use their boxes, which cost you nothing and provides added protection and value to each order.

I have more people today ordering upwards of 300 – 500 images online from their files — that’s the equivalent of more than 20 rolls of 24 exposures of traditional film. In 2002, only about 4% of my business was digital-related; in 2003 it was more than 86 percent. Today, everyone’s a winner. The manufacturers who sell paper, chemistry and digital equipment; retailers have renewed revenue opportunities and most importantly, the consumer. They get pre-edited, picture-perfect photographs, not marginal ink-jet copies that cost so much in time, hardware and ink cartridge investments and endless frustration and disappointment.

If you have an online photo service you need to be connected with your customer base. Use an email data management service to easily control your messages. Make sure it has an opt-out feature and tracking mechanism for every communications message you send. I send targeted messages every week!

Always send confirmation and tracking emails within minutes of receiving online orders. Make sure that customer service replies are precise and responsive. You can be on 24/7 with round-the-clock automated replies. Don’t just post ambiguous Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), but rather have phone and email support responsiveness too.

Differentiate and specialize your online marketing efforts. Make sure you are involved with your community. Be passionate and get involved with advocacy issues which leads to harmonizing and impassioning customers who become your cheerleaders. My company has established national accounts and contracts with many Fortune 500 companies to process their online orders. The orders come in from across the nation and are completed the very same day. We also are big supporters of diversity and social causes and value the business derived from supporting minority groups and diverse organizations, both local and national. Use your retail base to champion your online service. Make sure to have “live” Internet accessible kiosks available to demonstrate your online service to every customer. Hand them each a promotional card that champions your website and includes a special offer. Make sure that your larger commercial accounts and businesses get special treatment; quickly add a unique promotional code so all their fellow employees can access your site and receive a commercial discount. For instance, when the first Disney employee used our online service we designed a special promotional code for them to share on their Intranet site for providing savings to every Disney employee around the nation. Imagine that: One person adds you to their recommended list and you’re national in moments.

At 30 Minute Photos Etc. we make it so simple. The online service we use has no sign-up requirement, membership fee, registration or anything other than three, fast steps to complete the order.

Branding is also so important to 30 Minute Photos Etc. Since 1990 we have trusted only the leading brands, like Kodak for imaging solutions and IBM for technology solutions. Whether the image capture was from film or online digital orders, the output remains identical; customers continue to get real 100% Kodak-brand photographic prints from our Noritsu digital photo labs.

We have a seamless operation and the completed orders are packaged and presented to the customer within moments of sending the order. The in-house journey for processing an order begins when the order arrives and the receipt printed. Once the credit card transaction is completed, the order is transmitted to our digital lab. It is entered into the cue and printed within moments. The fulfillment and finishing process then delivers the order to packaging where all types of inserts are added, including pre-designed promotional cards for specific clients. Because we also do contract fulfillment for other online companies, their customized packaging is introduced to the completed order too. The contract fulfillment process is most appealing and a true “win-win.” The client does the marketing to bring in the customers. They have no infrastructure investment. We do the processing, packaging and mailing, they send a check and get paid. They also benefit from our 15-year’s of industry expertise without having to invest anything other than a few thousand dollars to get an account with Photogize and reimburse us for the setup fees. We even design websites and create a boilerplate online retail environment for them that is customized to their specific business niche. This is ideal for labs without an online presence. Let me know afterwards if you’d like more info on this service.

The quality of the orders is now exceptional. Our service has warning indicators if the image resolution is too low for printing and enlarging. Our Photogize Print Wizard feature enables customers to crop and adjust their images. They complete the entire transaction and then send the orders in minutes. Based on the file sizes and upload connectivity, it can take some time to transmit the order, but customers can walk away or minimize the screen. Once the order is completed, they receive an email notification that the order was received and moments later that it was printed and ready for pickup or in the mail.

We have many unique promotional codes for percent-off and specific discounts which all are calculated and adjusted on the invoices. Gift certificates for charitable events afford an easy way too win over new customers. The media, advertising and public relations are so important too. We have feature articles on our service written all the time. For instance, when the Chicago Tribune did a story on the orders from that region of the county spiked within hours of its release. Advertising on search engines and through the more traditional channels helps promote the service. Our national public relations and marketing campaign is constantly changing to address new trends and issues.

“ Your Photo Privacy is our Specialty” is a slogan we use to build customer loyalty from celebrity clients and political leaders concerned about preserving the integrity of their private lives. Ads in “The Hollywood Reporter” and “Daily Variety” proclaiming: “Any size picture can ruin your career even a tiny photo snapshot” helped cement a growing specialty customer base. Law enforcement and automotive manufactures’ marketing departments are also concerned about protecting the privacy of their photos. We make sure that not only are all credit card transactions and all data transmissions ecliptically secured, but also that their photos remain private too.

Each ping equates to more money. We even have the system linked to our personal computers to update us on the status of every order and to alert us by the moment as orders are arriving and being processed and mailed.

The Photogize online print management system lets photo retailers establish and maintain their own custom fulfillment website to download digital print orders from customers. We prejudge and correct for every image.

New Photogize business channels that are just being announced include 1) Publishing event and photographers pictures online for customers to easily view and place reprint orders. This Photogize event photography services will add a copyrighted watermark to each image to deter unauthorized reproduction. 2) Merchandising complementary products so customers can order items that have their favorite images on it — from key chains to coffee mugs and shirts. 3) New software will be added to enable ordering photos directly from camera phones, and 4) Retailers will host branded photo pages
for an affiliate program for customers to store their images in a photo gallery for sharing and ordering. This is ideal for attendees at events to submit their images for the entire group to view and order and create “buzz” and more traffic to your site.

A key point is that your entire online presence must be seamless. Other essential criteria are absolute customer satisfaction, convenience, price and perceived value, offering multiple services, ease-of-use, personal attention, education and, very importantly, fun. When you have all these components, you can command a higher price and not commoditize this service — where price becomes the sole selling proposition. As one of the earliest implementers to jump on this emerging digital imaging trend it has been an entrepreneurial dream to turn, which was just a local retail business into a national presence and gain market share.

And now, as an added bonus — because it’s always important to include something extra, here are a few samples from the email marketing campaign which is targeted to customers across the nation.

I hope my observations are helpful. Thank you for being here and enjoy the convention.