Photo Industry’s Transitions from Film to Digital is Nearly Complete, Reports Photo Industry Executive

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But, Old-Fashioned Customer Service Still Tops Technology in Photo Industry

Photo retailers in the U.S. and abroad are reporting almost no traditional film orders. While this would have been an ominous strike against the imaging industry just a few years ago, acceptance of digital photography is eclipsing the lost film revenues with new products.

"Just look at the habits of today's soccer fans attending World Cup Germany 2006® to recognize that digital cameras are fully integrated and everywhere. Customers we heard from did not see a single film camera in the stadium or on the streets in Munich," explained photo industry expert, Mitch Goldstone. Whether it is at the world's largest sporting event or locally at retail photo centers like Goldstone's Irvine-Calif-based 30 Minute Photos Etc.®, the photo industry's transition from film to digital is nearly complete.

"Service is becoming as valuable a marketing tool as brand awareness," said Goldstone, who also operates the national online boutique photo service, 30minphotos.com. "The marketing capital that galvanized the industry for generations has shifted from manufacturers' brand recognition to personality and service. When picture-takers use the Internet for most online photo services, the texture of those websites is nearly identical. Machines do most of the work and there is little to differentiate one service from the next. Most are indistinguishable and the standouts specialize in old-fashion customer service."

It almost appears that the online photo brand leaders have shifted their business models from reputation to pricing. Could this shift commoditize themselves out of the picture? While they sell photo coffee mugs and pictures on tee-shirts, the independent photo specialty retailers are selling personality. Photo labs understand that it is not machines, but real people and service that matter most.

"It's the special human touch from traditional photo retailers that contribute to enhancing every order. The distant factories that mass produce photo orders in walled buildings are competing against local retailers with real store fronts. The latter are involved with their communities, see the customers, smile and hold hands," explained Goldstone.

It is all about old-fashion customer service and interacting with people, rather than relying on machines and computers. Picture-takers want to have a connection to the business they are trusting with their photo memories. This is why more photo retailers are creating their own online services as an extension of their famed personality and service to boost the buzz about their traditional retail stores.

Because technology in the photo business has moved at lightening-fast speed, it has also enabled single, independent photo businesses to compete effectively by offering their own online and in-store photo services.

Photography is an art rather than a science and consumers benefit from a real person with which to interact. Photo labs which embrace all the newest online and in-store technologies hold the advantage.

For instance, Kostas Mallios, director of venture integration for Microsoft® addressed the April Photoimagers Manufacturers and Distributors Association monthly meeting. Photo Trade News reported in May that Mr. Mallios wanted to see broad availability of online services to include not just the larger chain stores, but also the local retail photo labs too.

Six new business growth areas where retailers are using their personal customer service to explain new technology offerings are:

1) Kodak® high-speed photo scanning to preserve generations of family pictures; scan 750 pictures in 5-minutes. As the first online scanning service, http://www.ShoeboxReprints.com ® has designed a new business model to complement its parent service, http://www.30minphotos.com ®.

2) Lucidiom® electronic photo scrapbooking kiosks and Automatic Photo Machines with in-store photo gift ordering and instant file transfers from CD to DVD slide shows.

3) Redesigned retail stores offering unique destination to encourage people to stay and play with their digital images. Photo labs should sell all scrapbooking supplies, frames and offer customers Luci® professional scrapbooking templates. See "In The News" link at http://www.30minphotos.com ® for store redesign and other recent news profiles.

4) Instant online ordering with "24/7" live technical support and same day mail return or instant pickup service to strengthen local photo labs.

5) Partnering with Internet companies like Photogize® to provide the most complete end-to-end solution for digital photo finishers.

6) Modernizing existing photo lab equipment with printers from Noritsu® which has a rich heritage of photo innovation and pioneering digital imaging technologies and from other leading manufacturers.

Background: 30 Minute Photos Etc.®, founded in 1990, is regularly featured by the national media. The company's president recently addressed the International Photo Marketing Association's national convention to profile the new Kodak® document imaging scanning technology. The company is also lead plaintiff in the antitrust litigation against Visa®, MasterCard® and leading member banks for alleged credit card merchant interchange price-fixing. More info available at: WayTooHigh.com - The Credit Card Interchange Report® which Carl Berman and Mitch Goldstone co-edit. Website: http://www.WayTooHigh.com ®.

Contact: Mitch Goldstone, President & CEO, 30 Minute Photos Etc.®, 92 Corporate Park Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606, Ph: 949-474-7654, goldstone(at)30minphotos.com, website: http://www.30minphotos.com ®; and, http://www.ShoeboxReprints.com ®.

30 Minute Photos Etc.® - a certified member of the International Photo Marketing Association® since 1990. (All businesses mentioned are trademarked by their respective companies and are not affiliated with this release).

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