The Promise of Instant Print Cameras for Retailers
Whenever I tell an e-commerce entrepreneur that print is a largely untapped market with lots of opportunities for them to develop profitable OEM and white-label partnerships, I’m often met with a bewildered look. Their confusion is somewhat understandable. After all, we’re living in the digital age, and stats citing how much digital media is being stored in the cloud and “consumed” on mobile devices is staggering. But, it’s exactly these very trends — the proliferation of digital photos and smartphone usage in particular — that are driving the instant-photo trend. Allow me to explain.
A brief history of film-based cameras (and their demise)
Between the late 1800s and the late 1980s, film-based photography was the de facto standard for taking photos. In the 1990s, however, digital cameras gained popularity and since 2003, digital cameras have outsold film cameras. Anyone who’s had the experience of sending a roll of film to be processed and waiting several days (or weeks) to receive prints can attest to the many downsides of film ranging from out of focus shots to entire portion of the film being ruined from overexposure. Using a digital camera, one gets an immediate confirmation of what the photo will look like. You can keep what you want on your memory card, copy your files to the cloud for safekeeping, and you never have to wait for results or worry about film overexposure again.
Why instant-print photography is eating digital photography’s lunch
Today’s camera phones feature megapixels in the double digits and boast such bells and whistles as optical zoom, red-eye erasure, and the capability to shoot panoramic photos and HD video. Although it’s now easier than ever to capture high resolution shots, and just as easy to share these images on a variety of social media platforms, Instagrammers from the “selfie generation” want instant-prints to create lasting memories.
Accordingly, smartphone photography accessories that allow enthusiastic Snap Chatters and Instagrammers to print photos for lasting memories are in high demand. Handing someone a printed photo is much more endearing than merely sharing a post on Facebook, too. And, when you add in the flare of social media—hashtags, emojis and filters—to the prints, the end result is even better.
Why inkless is winning big in instant-print
Compact, home photo printers have been around since the 1990s and remain a viable niche market. But the scaled down printer technology is always a compromise, especially when awkward, small capacity ink cartridges are factored in. A technology that encapsulates the entire printing process in a truly mobile package was needed, and that technology was ZINK Zero Ink. Originally developed in the Polaroid labs and spun into an independent company in 2005, ZINK is a "zero ink" printing technology. It bears some resemblance to the photographic process Polaroid became famous for, with everything needed to print an image embedded in the ZINK paper itself.
Consumers are drawn to devices like the Canon IVY Mini Photo Printer and the Kodak PRINTOMATIC for quality and convenience: they don’t require ink and allow devices to maintain their compact size to fit in a pocket; and printed photos don’t need to dry before handling. Again, all the user needs is ZINK paper; ink cartridges, toner and the like are not required. And with an initial retail of 50 cents per print regardless of quantity purchased, the attraction of affordable, consumer-friendly instant printing is understandable.
Canon and Kodak aren’t the only manufacturers packaging ZINK Zero Ink printing technology in their devices to capitalize on the growing demand for instant-print photos. HP, LG, Polaroid, Lifeprint, and PRYNT are also utilizing it.
ZINK technology is a bridge to the Instagram generation who not only share and enjoy their everyday experiences, but also want to create lasting memories.
The convenience and portability of mobile photo printers and instant-print cameras, coupled with the immediate gratification of printing photos in less than 1 minute, creates compelling value for both consumers and manufacturers.
Chaim Pikarski is Chief Executive Officer of ZINK Holdings LLC (ZINK), a privately-held company headquartered in Billerica, Massachusetts that invented ZINK Zero Ink® Technology. ZINK is a full-color printing system that eliminates the need for ink cartridges or ribbons - all the color required for printing an image is embedded in the paper itself.