Monday, June 23, 2008
Your eCommerce Solution
Partner with an online service that handles your orders, collects the money, ships the prints and leaves you with higher revenue
Efotolab.com offers a lab-based site founded by experienced lab technicians for online image hosting and sales. Event photography is its bread and butter, with an interface designed for simplified management of each shoot, including mail-outs to attendees and image subjects. "What we provide is an online storefront," says Eric Russell, vice president of efotolab.com, "a front end for photographers to make their images available to their customers for sale. They use our site to host their images, but we're almost transparent to the end user, in that the photographer charges their own prices. We don't dictate what they charge their customers. They manage everything, from the upload of their images to when they expire, and the products that they offer their customers."
"We do customer service for the photographer as well," says Russell. "In a nutshell, we're trying to service their back-office operations. The other thing is photographers don't like dealing with little orders here and there. I need a four by six of that, I need a wallet of that—little onesies and twosies. In such cases, photographers often spend too much time dealing with those customers for very little return. Now we can handle all those orders for them, and they're completely hands off. They can reap the benefits of those sales without having to get on the phone to call people and run down to the lab; we deal with all those annoying parts of their business."
Time is money, which is what the choice to outsource always comes down to in the first place. The typical cost for photographers to make their own prints includes the time spent learning, proofing and optimizing prints as well as printers, and also the incremental time and costs of making the final prints or bringing them to the lab. An online lab service is streamlined for fast and optimized production of images. There's usually a centralized, national location, which provides these sites or labs with the profits from a wide customer base, but without the expenses of maintaining a physical presence in more than one place. This saves them on overhead, and saves the photographer on printing costs. Plus the profit can be spent on resources, rather than rent.
"It's definitely a function of our size," explains Joe Dellasega from Mpix Marketing, "and it's a commitment to the workflow—the cooperation of the team, streamlined work between departments and cross-training of people. There's also a commitment to expectations. People don't go home until the bins are empty or down to a manageable level to ensure that all the orders will ship the next day. It's a relentless approach to turnaround."
Shipping And Uploading
Digital files can be uploaded through custom options, JAVA-based applications or FTP sites. Another advantage of online services is that they can almost always accept orders 24/7, allowing work to be posted immediately, even uploading while you're sleeping. There aren't a lot of 24-hour labs, and most of the ones out there are pretty expensive.
The one downside to ordering anything off of the Internet is the shipping costs, and the same holds true with prints and products. But the cost of shipping looks a lot more promising when you compare it to the amount of gas consumed commuting back and forth to labs, especially when shipping costs can be charged to the client, auditing is simple, and prints can be shipped directly in tasteful presentations.
"Once you upload an order," explains Dellasega, "the idea is really to be able to track an order once it has been processed, whether it has been shipped and has a tracking number. You also can click on the order, and it will actually pull up what's on that order. This is a nice way to manage order history at a glance."