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Photo print products: How to compete in a mature market

 Views of four innovative vendors

[Scroll down for And a few more things… industry news highlights]

At the photokina Business Forum Imaging conference two weeks ago I had the privilege of moderating a panel with four innovative companies, who shared their perspectives on how to tackle the challenges they (or their customers) face in today’s competitive photo print product market.

The panelists:

  • Marion Duchesne, CEO of Mediaclip, a company that offers white label personalized product design solutions to retailers, photo labs and printers.
  • Stefano Cutello, CEO of PastBook, a company that offers solutions for consumers to instantly create photobooks with their social media photos.
  • Martijn Eier, CEO of Cloudprinter, a company that offers a global print API, used by a network of 160+ print service providers (PSPs) across the globe.
  • Francesc Hostench, General Manager of Jondo Europe, a photo print product company focused on wall décor products.

How do these companies manage to compete in what’s increasingly a commodity market?

Mediaclip enables catering to a more diverse type of consumers by offering a range of product ordering methodsMediaclip licenses its technology to an increasingly diverse set of partners, including SMBs and even party favor companies like Shindigz, who, in turn, offer their products to an ever-growing variety of end-purchasers.

How? Mediaclip’s solutions integrate with easy to configure e-commerce solutions, such as Magento and Shopify, so that even mom-and-pop shops or individual consumers who have a photo product to sell can easily do so. Another differentiator that helps their customers to stand apart and to stay away from competing with the mass photo print product providers is Mediaclip tapping into new ordering methods. For instance, Mediaclip built a white label solution for its partner Mimeo Photos to offer the creation of photo products straight inside the Apple Photos macOS software, thus facing fewer competitive offers inside that app than they would typically see if selling through a website or app.

PastBook makes ordering photobooks from photos shared on social media a breeze – while avoiding price competition. For the last 7 years PastBook has enabled consumers to order photobooks containing their Facebook photos through the click of a button. The result? An automated opt-out photobook: PastBook automatically generates a book with all of the user’s photos, say as a 2018 yearbook, while applying automatic algorithms to weed out duplicates or bad quality photos. PastBook customers can then remove selected photos from their book, but more than 90% simply order the book as is, generating books with 150-200 pages on average.

With few solutions on the market that offer tight integration with social media networks, PastBook has avoided price competition. Its marketing message is not “Buy a photobook from us” (and by compared to all the other photobook offers) but rather, “Relive your social media memories.”

Recently, PastBook has also started to promote an Instagram solution, which enables customers to order photobooks directly from within Instagram without needing to download a separate app, thus removing yet one other source of friction and in line with the company’s credo to create photobooks through as few clicks as possible.

Cloudprinter and Jondo cater to partners who need global fulfillment. Many, if not most, photo product websites and apps are offered in a number of countries. But printing photo products near where the consumers live can be a huge challenge, as different countries may require the use of different languages, output formats, measurement units (metric vs. imperial) or currencies. At the same time, overcoming this “print anywhere” challenge is also an important differentiator. The alternative is shipping the products from one location, which adds costs and delivery time.

Cloudprinter offers a global print API, which connects a growing number of print product services providers from all over the world (160+ at the moment). Not all of them produce photo products but roughly half of them are capable of printing photobooks; 1/3 can produce other photo products, such as canvas, gifts or various other personalized photo products.

Cloudprinter’s API synchronizes these regional differences, while offering routing algorithms so that jobs are fulfilled by the most optimal partners. A particular challenge (and the reason why other similar initiatives in the past didn’t succeed) is to assure quality, no matter where the jobs are produced. Cloudprinter does this through different methods: they hand pick the best of breed PSPs per country, while enforcing the selected partners to use standardized print preflight tools. In addition, the company regularly ghost-orders print products to check the quality.

Jondo, a US-headquartered printer of primarily wall décor products with 10 locations worldwide, has been expanding its global footprint by setting up overseas facilities in conjunction with local PSPs. Jondo now has print facilities in Australia, UK, Spain, Canada and Mexico. As Jondo also caters to cost-conscious retailers, tight standardization of equipment, workflows and routing software is a must to achieve the desired level of efficiency needed for producing high quality products at competitive rates. To that extent, the company has its own software engineering department to continuously improve its workflows and to integrate with third party systems.

While Cloudprinter’s solution for global fulfillment is most akin to a confederation with a sizable number of participants, Jondo’s is more like a federation of a limited number of a facilities that are highly standardized and tightly integrated.

In sum. In the photo print industry you often hear complaints about price erosion and discounting. While these are true challenges and inherent to a maturing competitive industry, our BFI panelists also show innovative ways to tackle these challenges: from diversifying ordering methods that cater to a larger variety of consumers, to making the creation of sizable photobooks as frictionless as possible, to tackling the challenges posed by serving a global end-user base.

And a few more things…

Insta360. Last year’s Visual 1st Best of Show Award winner is on a roll: Camera maker Insta360 raises $30M as it eyes a 2020 IPO. Founded in 2014, the company has been profitable since 2017.

Timebox. Timebox introduces Timebox Photo Galleries, an app that enables users to design and personalize realistic 3D/AR spaces that their families and groups can use to privately combine, organize, explore and enjoy the photos and stories of the things they do together. Currently in beta.

Polarr. Congratulations to 2017 Visual 1st panelist Borui Wang of Polarr, which received $11.5M series A funding to expand their on-device computational photography technology and products.

Qualcomm. You thought the Nokia Lumia 1020 was a big deal six years ago when featuring a 48MP sensor? Smartphone manufacturers have since opted for offering multiple but smaller sensors. But that’s about to change, according to Qualcomm. Expect to see smartphones with 100MP+ sensors later this year, if not in early 2020.

Instagram. It was only a matter of time, part 1: Instagram launches Checkout with Instagram with over 20 beauty and fashion brands. Users can shop, check out and manage orders directly within Instagram rather than being linked to the advertiser’s websites.

Twitter. It was only a matter of time, part 2: Twitter’s redesigns its in-app camera feature to promote visual-first communication. The camera can now be opened by simply swiping left from your Twitter timeline screen.

NVIDIA. Impressed by NVIDIA’s AI-created photorealistic portraits of people who don’t exist? That was apparently only the beginning. NVIDIA has also developed a powerful AI implementation that can turn your doodles into photorealistic landscape images in real-time.

Pro Imaging Connect. This new conference brings together industry leaders from portrait labs, vertically integrated studios, photo retailers, online service providers and vendors, April 12-13, in Florida.

Recoverit. Too good to be true? Fortunately, I haven’t had the need to try it. China-based software company Wondershare announces Recoveritsoftware that supposedly can recover your lost photos if deleted from any storage device, such as drone cameras, Android phones, memory cards, PC hard drive, or digital cameras.

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Best,

Hans Hartman

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