In order to operate successfully in the modern printing industry which is influenced massively by digital developments, print shops have to develop their business model continuously and need to introduce innovative products – especially products which allow them to gain access to markets with strong growth and acceptable profit expectations.
The results of an InfoTrends survey – according to which the polled print shops achieved 40 to 50 percent higher profit margins on new products they offer – shows just how strong the correlation between new products and business growth actually is. Job print shops with electrophotographic digital printing equipment have the opportunity to enter one of the fastest growing markets: The market for special photographic printing products.
According to a study by the market research institute IDC, the worldwide market for special photographic printing products will achieve average annual growth of 23.5 percent by 2014. An important driver of this growth – consumer demand for new and improved products which showcase their personal photos – shows no signs of slowing down. At the same time, progress in electrophotographic printing technology is allowing digital printing presses to provide the uniform colour and image quality which today’s consumers expect. As a result, these digital printing presses are an ideal solution for print shops who want to offer special photo products.
Photo products which can be offered by commercial print shops can be divided into four main categories. A photo album is a custom compilation of images bound in hard or soft cover, often with the addition of image captions, stories, picture frames, and other effects. Photo albums are the leading photo printing application since they are popular with consumers who like to create them. Online or retail photo service providers make it easy for consumers to create custom photo albums with image effects, music, and personalized image captions.
A photo calendar is a calendar with pictures, captions, special data, frames, and other unique attributes. Similar to photo albums, creating a calendar has become a highly automated and easy task. A wide variety of format choices is available, such as calendar sheets with one or more pictures, spiral binding or wire stitching, or poster type calendars. Customers can also integrate their personal picture story or image collage into a calendar.The photo card category includes writing and collector’s items such as greeting, invitation, announcement, and similar cards as well as collector’s cards. These cards are typically available in a wide range of formats, and can be customized with personal messages, frames, background colours, and other effects. The fourth category of general photo products includes things like coffee mugs, puzzles, and mouse pads.
The popularity of photo products and the capabilities of modern digital printing presses provide commercial print shops with the opportunity to gain new customers and to retain existing ones. With their ability to reproduce a larger colour space, print on both sides of numerous materials, and output a variety of data, digital printing presses are ideally suited to the manufacturing of particularly valuable and personalized photo products. The latest innovations, such as applying a three-dimensional structure to the surface of a print inline in the printing press, support for printing extended sheet formats for larger calendars and posters, and the use of additional colours to improve image quality without sacrificing productivity are all value-added options which digital print shops can offer their customers.
In addition to printing quality and customization options, digital printing machines offer several other special advantages for serving the photo products market. As an example, the speed of these systems allows printing service providers to meet the short order lead times which today’s customers expect when they order their custom photo application.
In addition to a digital printing press, print shops also require at least three other technical prerequisites in order to enter the photo products business. Photo authoring software allows the end user to create custom photo applications with his/her digital photos, and to provide them to the print shop’s customer. As an example, a travel agency can provide their customers with software to design calendars, photo albums, or other products using their vacation photos. Then the customer generates on order which gets sent to the print shop. The print shop prints and processes the photo products and delivers them.
Finishing machines for coating, trimming, creasing, grooving, and binding are also required. Finishing options serve to improve the quality and creative impression of the photo products. A high gloss finish, for example, gives the photo product increased attention and makes it more appealing overall. Finishing options like inline brochure finishing or face and reverse printing in one pass through the machine can increase productivity.
Finally, an electronic infrastructure must be set up. An electronic storefront or website allows consumers to enter their orders, to upload pictures, and to pay for the products they have ordered. The last component required is a system for the management and transacting or billing of orders.
The right business model
If commercial print shops become active on the photo products market, then success largely depends on developing the right business model and implementing a powerful program to market these services. Working together with a supplier who can provide instructions and recommendations for handling the challenges of the photo products market helps the printing service providers achieve good results with this new product offering.
Since commercial print shops are interested in continually expanding their service offering with digital printing, photo services offer excellent potential for a new profit centre. Consumer demand for these items – from photo albums to calendars, photo cards, and highly customized photo products – is and remains unchanged. Print shops with flexible, high-quality digital printing technology and the necessary market knowledge for photo products therefore have immense opportunities to increase their sales, to gain new customers, and to improve customer retention.
The production of high quality customized photo products continues to be a growing market.
The Kodak NexPress 3900 Photo Press is a digital production colour printing press suitable for printing customized photo products.
Photo services offer excellent potential for a new profit centre.
The use of additional colours to improve image quality is a value-added options which digital print shops can offer their customers.