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Best Buy expands into photofinishing and digital printing: new imagelabs provide digital solutions.

Best Buy Co. Inc., Minneapolis, Minn,, has long been a major seller of photo hardware in the United States, and is making significant strides in its new stores in Canada. Now, customers in some markets can also have their film developed and digital images printed by Best Buy.

Of the 628 Best Buy stores in America, more than 100 now have imagelabs that offer in-store photofinishing capabilities, according to Brian Stone, program manager for the company.

"In our stores, we have the digital imaging area, where you buy digital cameras and camcorders; and imagelab is the branding we are placing around our digital imaging area in the markets where we offer photofinishing. We're trying to create a brand that resonates with consumers. We want to put more of a personality around this fantastic, exploding area from a consumer perspective," Stone says.

There are currently 18 Best Buy stores with on-site, traditional, one-hour photofinishing services. The rest of the stores boasting an imagelab have an in-store kiosk.

In addition, Stone says, "We are very excited that, as of Sept. 30, all Best Buy stores have the capability to receive web-based photofinishing orders with pick up in the stores."

Customers can place online orders through one of two websites: http://imagelab.bestbuy.com, or www.bestbuy.com\imagelab.

"Best Buy is all about trying to meet customers' needs. In terms of the imagelab, our goal is to deliver a solution to consumers that allows them to get prints from their digital cameras. We've offered the print-at-home solution previously; but what we haven't had before is the "we do it for you" print services, whether that is in store or online. With the imagelab, we're trying to fill in that missing pillar," Stone explains. "Our overall goal is encouraging consumers to print."

Chad Hague, consumer marketing manager for Best Buy, says company research indicates their customers would embrace the new services.

"Consumers have trust in us to be able to deliver photofinishing and digital image printing, in addition to the cameras we sell them," Hague says.

To help build on that trust, Best Buy stores with photofinishing labs are staffed by "photologists," lab coat-clad associates who have undergone extensive training in areas such as photo lab equipment operation, troubleshooting, and recommending solutions to customers. Most important, Stone says, photologists have a deep passion for photography.

"The photologists give us a level of professionalism; because when it comes to photofinishing, we're talking about consumers' memories, which are extremely important," he notes. "There is a much higher level of trust associated with that than with just selling hardware. Our goal is to meet and exceed consumers' expectations around that level of trust."

Best Buy sees itself as different from many other retailers offering digital and traditional printing services.

"We are often the first point of contact when people are learning about digital imaging and getting the hardware. That's a key differentiation," Hague states. "We've have them in front of us when they're really interested in learning the benefits a digital camera. Through the imagelab, we can deliver those benefits to our consumers. That doesn't happen in drug stores and other places offering photofinishing. They don't have the interaction with consumers we have in our stores."

So far, Best Buy is receiving high marks from imagelab customers, Hague says.

"We are seeing the imagelab has an ability to draw in people who aren't necessarily the purchaser of the camera. A recent satisfaction survey showed we have the ability to reach customers who are not necessarily in our store fight now, but who have an interest in the service," he says. "Our feedback has shown high satisfaction scores for the quality we are delivering in our output."

To spread the word about imagelab services, Best Buy advertises them in the store's Sunday circular, and is also doing direct mail, e-mail campaigns, and viral marketing campaigns in the affected markets.

As far as expanding imagelabs and on-site photofinishing into new locations, Stone says Best Buy is currently considering its strategies.

Expansion of company online service offerings, however, is a bit more certain.

"In terms of our web-based solution, we see a tremendous amount of opportunity as far as offering different print options and products for consumers," Stone concludes. "What we have today is just the beginning. There are also some opportunities for services around digital camcorders--another area where Best Buy is very strong, such as video editing and video transferring. We do see that as an opportunity as well."
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Publication:Digital Imaging Digest
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2004
Words:751
Previous Article:PMA 2005 Imaging Conferences mark debut of "all access" concept.
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