Every new year brings new opportunities and new challenges and 2018 is shaping up to be no different. After the hustle and bustle of the all-important fourth quarter, many photo businesses use this time to reflect and to plan. Let’s take a look at some practical ideas:
Know your value – Many business owners think they know their business, but in reality, what they really know is the operations. They really don’t have an understanding of who their customers are and, more importantly, who their future customers may be. As any retail lab owner what they do, and they’ll say “make prints” or “preserve memories.” But do they know why their customers chose them?
It’s this “why” that can lead to expansion. For example, the ability to make dye-sub prints and wide-format inkjet posters have naturally lead to lucrative commercial markets. This could not have happened if savvy retailers weren’t in touch with their customers’ needs and pigeonholed themselves into “preserving memories.”
There is also a trend toward a return to local businesses; make the most of it: “Shoppers will return to Main Street in 2018. This trend is fueled by the desire of the highest-potential and highest-spending customers’ passion for a new shopping experience that they can’t find online, at the mall, in the national chains or in big box stores. Owners of small retail shops often feel overwhelmed by the rapidly changing retail environment, with competition on all sides and most especially from Amazon. But small business retailers have a competitive advantage that none of these bigger, better capitalized and techno-powered retailers have: their personal touch. It is realized not just through the personal service that specialty retailers offer, but by being vital members of the local community. This trend will reshape the retail landscape over the next decade.” – Pamela Danziger, president, Unity Marketing
Make online photo your next store location
Go online in a big way – Many retail experts are predicting this is the year online and app sales will meet or exceed brick-and-mortar. This is certainly affecting online photo, as nearly every independent retailer now has an app.
The difference in 2018 should be the change in perception. Many independent photo retailers use their app and their website as a promotional tool and traffic-builder for walk-in customers. It’s time now to treat your app and website like it’s own store location. Give it a “store manager” who will be responsible for promotion, for merchandising, sales and profits. Some retailers have even turned their website into a regional brand.
Try something new – Everyone knows they should “think outside the box,” but they don’t even get the lid open. When it comes to industry conferences, with the demise of PMA, the only niche-specific solution are buying-group or user-group events. These conferences are wildly valuable to their members but, because their membership is limited, doesn’t always have a lot of new faces. Why not add a new event or conference to your business travel plans? There are lots of statewide or national events that could be worthwhile.
Don’t go with the intention of finding new products or services. Go with the intention of learning something new or becoming inspired. Is there a local TEDx conference? What about a business-building workshop put on by your chamber?
Brands matter, but do the ones you carry matter to your customers?
Build your brand – Consumers are more accepting of brands that fit their lifestyle. This may mean trouble to stalwarts like Canon and Nikon, but opens up the opportunity to upstarts like GoPro, DJI and YI Technology.
According to NPD retail analyst Marshal Cohen: “One way we’ll see new product will be through private label – it will take a giant leap forward again in 2018. Many retailers have been doing a good job with new private label offerings. These aren’t your grandmother’s private label products – they’re not generic and they’re unique. Private label is now creating an important point of differentiation at retail. In some cases, private label will replace the traditional brand, particularly where brands aren’t performing or delivering margin for the retailer. Beyond the importance of delivering a unique product, in order to ensure private label brand success retailers need to pay attention to price, replenishment, level of quality, and branding that can be shared. Private label brands need to be treated like a real brand.”
This trend is a great opportunity for buying groups to further differentiate their members from big box stores.
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Stop doing something – This is the hardest advice for business owners to take. Every operator has a favorite service or product they offer that’s long past its shelf life. Are you keeping a piece of equipment or product line for sentimental, not business, reasons? Do you automatically restock slow-moving inventory because you like the product or the rep?
“In 2018, the emphasis will be on experimenting with new business models, seeing what works, stopping what doesn’t and do more of what does — whether it’s FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) brands building or acquiring more direct-to-consumer capabilities/businesses or high-street retailers launching subscription businesses. Be it personalization of product or personalization of customer experience, this will continue to be a key retail trend in 2018. We know that today’s customers are placing a lot more emphasis and importance on experiences, and this doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.” – Rupa Ganatra, founding partner, Millennial 20/20
What are your ideas to improve the prospects for 2018?