by Cassandra Balentine
Part one of two
Photobooks and other photo merchandise are well suited for digital printing. Consumers obsessively take and share images on smartphones and many ecommerce sites have found a way to capitalize on this. With the help of digital print technologies and advanced imaging technologies with personal devices, the products possible with a single picture taken with a smartphone are vast.
Getting in on Photo Printing
Photo printing is a competitive market. In addition to commercial print providers and print for pays, retail stores like CVS and Walgreens offer photo printing services, along with traditional photo retailers and photo labs have evolved to incorporate digital printing technology.
Kent Dalzell, president, FastbindUSA, says photo retailers and photo labs make up the largest share of non-online retailers. “The growth is in traditional print shops that are looking for ways to grow market share with high-profit products, but as a part of their overall business, not their main focus,” he adds. From a print shop perspective, the cost to add in the finishing equipment to make hardcover books is so low, and their print quality is as good as most nowadays, then they can offer business to business or even business to consumer photobooks and add profit to their bottom line.
James Tressler, VP of sales, C.P. Bourg Inc., sees installs in many specialties, including expression and greetings producers’ facilities as well as commercial binderies, in-plant printers, and print-for-pay businesses. “Each producer has a unique ability to service clients and they can include retailers and publishers. In fact, the only similarity they all have is a need and desire to do more with less—that’s less labor, time, and waste,” he shares.
Carlos Martins, solutions manager, saddle stitching and hardcover production, Muller Martini, adds that numerous segments, from specialized companies in the digital book-of-one space to commercial printers produce photobooks for other suppliers like retails stores or web-based photobook providers.
Roger Serrette, Customer Experience Center director, Ricoh USA, Inc., says a variety of print providers produce photobooks, as long as they meet some basic requirements, including a way for consumers to upload large image files and strong workflows that keep things humming along in a more or less touch-less environment. “You should really have a web to print (W2P) portal to make the most of it. Ideally, these things work together to make the time between order receipt and job start—and job finish, shipping and arrival—as short as possible, with as few manual touch points as possible, to keep things moving.”
Simplifying with Software
In addition to hardware, simple and easy-to-use ecommerce tools are essential to attract younger demographics.
Like many other industry segments, it is important to remember that photobooks are subject to the Amazon Effect. “I can think about this thing, desire it, and lo and behold, it’s on my front porch—often within 24 to 48 hours. That convenience is fantastic, but it obfuscates the work and care that go into producing and delivering these,” says Serrette. “If I can press a button tonight to pick a pair of Ariat cowboy boots and be wearing them by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, it’s hard to grasp the complexity and craftsmanship involved. The photobook industry has that same sort of dynamic, with high expectations for strong quality and fast turn times. Efficiency and automation are crucial because they help deliver on both.”
Photobooks continue to gain popularity. Djawad Khorosh, CEO, layflat.com, says one reason for continued demand is the fact that the creation of these books continues to get easier, and they can be quickly created from both computers and mobile devices. “As photobook companies worldwide regularly promote and compete, consumers are becoming more aware of the availability of these memory savers.”
Bob Flinn, director of business development, Standard Finishing Systems, points out that the front-end software that consumers use to create their photobooks is more affordable than ever and some print providers have opted to integrate the software directly into their own websites.
Len Christopher, worldwide NEXFINITY and NexPress product manager, Eastman Kodak Company, adds that most photobooks come through web portals, so unless a print provider creates their own and markets it accordingly, a partnership with one or more web sites is a viable opportunity. “In a more local area, the ability to market to local clubs and sports teams is a way to start growing the application, and often establishes business contacts for other printing opportunities, as members of the clubs and sports teams work in many different types of businesses,” he comments.
A good infrastructure is important. “A company that creates their own workflow and online system may have their own print production processes, but may also work with commercial printers for remote production and overflow production,” shares Christopher.
Photobook and photo merchandise printing is an interesting market as it is open to small print for pays, as well as commercial printers, ecommerce giants, retailers, and traditional photo labs. One thing for certain, software—especially a consumer-facing, easy-to-use site or smartphone application is essential to capture many of the key demographics.
In part two we discuss the impact of COVID-19 in the photo printing market, as well as common trends and associated challenges. For more on photobook printing and finishing, a full feature and webinar on the topic appears in January. dps
Read part two of this two-part series, Photo Trends.
Nov2020, DPS Magazine