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Photo specialty can compete – and win – against big players

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Guest post by Steve Giordano Jr., president, Photo Finale.

I spend my day talking to photo specialty retailers. Many share their triumphs and challenges being an imaging industry entrepreneur. One common thread is frustration over the apparent competitive advantage enjoyed by Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens, and other large-scale photofinishing brands.

I say “apparent” because, the truth is, an independent retailer can beat a Shutterfly on everything from service, to price, to convenience and to delivery. From a technology viewpoint, most of their platforms are very rigid and is not as flexible as that of the typical web-enabled photo specialty retailer.

Here are five ways your independent photo business is already better than Shutterfly:

  1. Location. Your store is the most convenient printing service in your region. That is your value proposition as much as your actual retail location is. How far can you ship next day with standard USPS? How far can you ship in two days with standard USPS? Do you have enough margin to offer Free Shipping locally? Shutterfly cannot deliver a book, canvas, or a metal print in one day to your state. You can. A canvas order can come in overnight, and you can have it out USPS by 2 pm. “Convenience” has to be a marketing item in everything you do.
  2. 24x7x365. Your website is open for business, but are you letting anyone know? This is where your online website investment needs to be to make it work. Millennials – primarily women aged 25-35 – are now your market, and they are most comfortable ordering products at their convenience.
  3. Mobile. Every customer communication – even print ads – need to have a “mobile accessibility” message. We recommend native applications for iOS users and browser-based for Android. It matters to moms how elegant your website or email looks on a smartphone. The call-to-action in an email needs to be linkable to a mobile action easily completed on the phone. Don’t link to your “Home Page.” Link to the action you want that Millennial mom to take.
  4. Delivery. A customer should be able to purchase a canvas print and have it delivered next day. Don’t think FedEx or UPS. Think Uber Delivery, Postmates, or even local company. Imagine if your messaging is “Order today, Hang it tomorrow.” The cost of Uber Delivery varies, but it is normally $2.50 + $0.20 per mile + $3.00 drop off. So, within a 20-mile radius of your store, you have about $9.50 same day or next-day delivery cost. Shutterfly can’t do that.
  5. Pickup. Stop waiting for them to bring the negatives, prints, slides or restorations in. Pick them up. Send Uber Delivery to pick up that shoebox scan box and save those busy moms time. Saving Mom time is worth money.

None what I am saying is meant to minimize the difficulties of photo specialty retail in 2018. I know how hard it is out there. Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walmart and so forth have no chance against a motivated and properly aligned Independent.

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