Mitsubishi Electric’s Visual Information Systems (VIS) Division is a world leader and outstanding innovator in the design and manufacture of high quality digital photo processing technology, which it offers to retailers alongside its market leading digital signage and retail security systems.
As the UK market develops for in-store digital photo processing services, Mitsubishi Electric Europe is supplying a growing number of UK supermarkets and convenience stores with state of the art self-service photo-processing kiosks, digital micro labs and stand alone digital photo printers, all offering maximum convenience for consumers living busy lives.
Mitsubishi’s latest digital photography innovation is its new Gift Kiosk retail solution. We’re all familiar with printing photos using in-store, self-service units. Gift Kiosk goes much further – it features a number of instant photographic services, all from one machine, allowing users to print digital photos quickly and easily, frame or edit images and design greetings cards, albums and calendars. Sean Kelliher, UK Account Manager for Mitsubishi Electric Europe’s Visual Information Systems Division, spoke to The Grocery Trader.
The Grocery Trader – Sean, first of all, what is your role in Mitsubishi’s VIS Division’s UK retail business? Do you personally deal with the supermarkets and other retailers? Do you service them direct or through resellers?
My role is promoting and selling our digital printing products to the trade channel and retail sector. I manage all enquiries we receive from retailers, whether large or small, regarding our digital printing products.
GT – We’re going to focus in this interview on the new Gift Kiosk units and your other digital photo solutions. But first, Mitsubishi offers a growing range of retail solutions, including digital signage and retail security. What different technologies do you offer these days? How are they going?
For many years we have offered a diverse range of solutions that are ideal for the retail sector. Our range of display hardware and system management tools ensures we can offer a complete end-to-end digital POI or POS signage solution, making it easier then ever to get customers’ attention. Our range includes 32”, 42”, 46”, 52” and a new 65” LCD option that benefit from high brightness and contrast, fast response times and motion shift. They have energy efficient features such as a screen saver and scheduling functions, and can be viewed in portrait or landscape format and tiled to create an eye-catching display wall.
Further complimenting our offering is a range of innovative Internet Protocol (IP) and Digital security solutions providing reliable 24/7 surveillance. By offering a complete retail solution we are confident we can satisfy many of the needs of today’s retailers, whether independents or national retail chains. We have seen steady growth in both areas for all our product groups over recent months.
GT – How do the different VIS business areas work together to address retailers’ different needs?
We tend to offer the different technologies separately, initially. If a retailer expresses interest in another technology in a call, we refer them to a colleague. Everything stays within the one company, which comforts the clients.
GT – Returning to digital photos, how big is the UK market for in-store digital photo processing (DPP)?
The Photographic Marketing Association values the total UK market for digital photo printing and photo gifts at £570M, split 50/50 between retail and online. About 20% or £120M is photo gift products such as personalised calendars, albums, mouse mats and so on.
GT – What share of this goes through supermarkets and C-stores?
The majority is currently with independent retailers and the high street photo shops, but the supermarkets are catching up. Major supermarkets in the UK recognise the growing opportunity and have made large investments recently in promoting photo gift products to order and collect instore.
GT – What distinguishes Mitsubishi from other DPP providers – why choose a Mitsubishi solution?
Mitsubishi is a trusted and reliable brand, delivering high quality products at very competitive pricing. We provide a personal hands-on service with the support of a major global corporation. We have a strong UK presence: our headquarters are in Hatfield, Hertfordshire with all servicing and technical support provided by Mitsubishi engineers based there.
Our media cost – the cost of making a print – is low compared with other manufacturers, because we produce for the global market and have very high production volumes and lower margin expectations.
GT – What digital photo solutions do you supply?
We can provide turnkey DPP solutions for any size retailer, starting from small convenience stores looking to offer instant prints and provide ID and passport photos. At the other end, we can supply full mass production dry lab systems for high volume printing for a photo shop or supermarket wishing to offer photo printing and photo gift printing services.
Recently we have had considerable success with the independent pharmacy sector, which has a long association with DPP. Mitsubishi is the preferred photo partner for Numark Pharmacies, the UK’s largest independent pharmacy group with over 1,200 members. Although you may not be able to see them, our printers are also integrated inside many passport photo booths in major UK supermarket and pharmacy chains!
GT – You’ve just introduced the new Gift Kiosk product. Can you talk us through its services?
Gift Kiosk is a new Mitsubishi product designed to satisfy consumer demand for photo gifts. It has a large touchscreen interface with simple walk through instructions on how to create and print different gift photo products like calendars, photo albums and personalised greetings cards and postcards.
With the calendar service, the customer can choose to produce a personalised calendar. Gift Kiosk offers a variety of different themes to select from, for example babies, nature and sport. The customer picks the photos they want for their calendar, and Gift Kiosk then prints 12 individual monthly pages for mounting on our new range of Easycalendar products.
Customers can also choose to design, print and mount a complete personalised photo album using Gift Kiosk. After deciding which size album they would like (6” x 4”, 6” x 9” or 8” x 10”), Gift Kiosk provides a variety of templates with 3, 4 or 5 photos printed on each page in a reportage style. Mitsubishi also provides Easyalbum for mounting prints and viewing afterwards.
After printing, images can be mounted easily into Easyalbum by peeling away protective paper to reveal adhesive on the album pages. Available in different sizes, the photo albums can be assembled by staff instore or by customers in the comfort of their home. Benefiting from a hard cover and bound edges, customers can enjoy their album over time with little wear.
Finally, creating and printing personalised greetings cards or postcards is an increasingly popular service, as demonstrated by the rise of online gift companies. Gift Kiosk provides a number of themed templates, which the customer further customises with text and messages to create their own greetings cards, party invitations or postcards.
GT – What are the print output options with Gift Kiosk?
Customers can choose a variety of sized prints from Gift Kiosk. Depending on which printers are integrated and the media inside the printers, retailers can offer print sizes 6”x4”, 5”x7”, 6”x9”, 8”x10” and 8”x12.
GT – What items of kit come “in the box” with a GiftKiosk solution?
The Gift Kiosk machine comes with an initial supply of Easyalbums, Easycalendars, frames and greetings cards and Easygift boxes. Various configurations of Gift Kiosk are available. We like to talk to retailers, understand their requirements and provide a solution specific to their business. That said, all Gift Kiosks come bundled with everything the retailer needs to get started – a Gift Kiosk touchscreen head unit, a dye sublimation printer, print media, a selection of Easyalbums and Easycalendars and full POS.
GT – How easy is Gift Kiosk to set up?
Gift Kiosk is easy to install and start printing. The kiosk comes pre-loaded with the latest software, and the installation guide makes easy work of setting up. Mitsubishi engineers are at the end of the phone to help if required, and we can also provide an onsite installation service if needed.
GT – How easy is Gift Kiosk for shoppers to use? How much on-the-spot assistance from staff do they need?
Gift Kiosk has been designed so customers can make prints and photo gifts easily. The onscreen guide gives step by step instructions on how to make their product, which are easy to follow.
Staff will need to be involved in taking payment from the customer and authorising Gift Kiosk to start printing. Although the customer can go through the process of designing their product, Gift Kiosk will not print anything until staff authorise it.
GT – What do the different Gift Kiosk photo services cost to the consumer?
The typical retail value of a personalised 12 month desk mounted calendar is £9.99: the cost to the retailer to make this using Gift Kiosk is less than £3.00.
If you order a personalised greetings card using an online service, typically the consumer would pay £2.99 for this service. Using Mitsubishi Gift Kiosk, the cost of making this card would be 10p. Hopefully these examples go to show that photo gift products are very profitable for the retailer!
GT – If retailers already have one of your Easyphoto digital photo solutions, is GiftKiosk a step up, or does it compliment Easyphoto?
Although not a complete gift kiosk, the Easyphoto may be expanded in the future and included into our Flexilab solution. This would allow the use of all gift kiosk functionality.
GT – What size and type of stores is Gift Kiosk aimed at?
Gift Kiosk is aimed at any size or type of retailer wishing to offer photo printing and photo gift type products. From a local convenience store wishing to increase their footfall to major high street retailers wanting to offer new services, we have a variety of photo printing solutions to suit.
GT – How much store space does a Gift Kiosk solution take up? Where in the store should Gift Kiosk be placed for best results?
Gift Kiosk can be mounted on a counter top, with the printer kept behind the counter. The touchscreen head unit takes up 400mm x 260mm of counter space.
Mitsubishi can also provide a floor standing pedestal with the kiosk mounted on top and the printer out of sight inside the pedestal. The pedestal takes up less than one sq m of floor space.
Ideally it’s best to put Gift Kiosk in an area where it can be seen, perhaps near the queue for the counter so it grabs attention whilst people are inquisitive, or elsewhere at the front of the store, not hidden at the back.
GT – Who are the target consumers for Gift Kiosk’s services?
Everyone is a target customer for photo gifts. More photographs are being taken now than ever before with the digital photo age – most people carry a camera on their mobile phone, and can send images from their mobile to Gift Kiosk via Bluetooth.
GT – What does Gift Kiosk cost the retailer? Do retailers buy the unit outright, or lease or hire it? How long does it take for a retailer to see a return on their investment?
Gift Kiosk pricing starts from £2999 plus VAT. At the moment we only offer outright purchase but we are investigating a lease option. The cost to the retailer of making a 6” x4” print is 10p, whether it is to become a photograph, personalised calendar or personalised greeting card, but if used for a greeting card the retail value of this individual print could go as high as £3. With that in mind I would expect the retailer to recoup their investment inside one year.
GT – What marketing support are you offering retailers for Gift Kiosk?
Supporting the retailer is paramount to us. In addition to technical support we would also look to provide marketing support with free point of sale materials, such as photo wallets, posters and in-store leaflets that help promote the services on offer.
In addition we are currently re-vamping our website and will shortly have a very clear and definitive retail section where customers can learn about the latest products and marketing support that is available. We want to work with our customers and support them, so we are also open to any suggestions they may have for possible joint activity!
GT – Where are the Gift Kiosk machines made? Are they available in the UK now?
Mitsubishi has developed the idea of gift kiosk at our main European photo site in Barcelona, Spain. Manufacturing remains in Japan and other parts of Asia. Gift Kiosk is available from September through our dealer network.
GT – What’s the working life of a Gift Kiosk machine? How often does it need servicing? How long is the warranty? Do you (Mitsubishi) service it?
Gift Kiosk comes with a 12 month return to base warranty, but the retailer can expect telephone support for the life of the product. Our technical support line is open during normal business hours, and many problems can be fixed over the phone. We are currently investigating the practicalities of on-site support for major customers, and hope to have some examples to announce soon!
Our products are very reliable and require little servicing. When the printer has done over 25,000 prints, it may require a service. Our engineers do all our servicing in house.
GT – How can retailers get hold of a Gift Kiosk machine? How long does it take to deliver? How quickly can you supply top up supplies of consumables?
In the first instance retailers should contact Mitsubishi Electric direct on 01707 278684 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We can talk customers through the product, offer advice and arrange a demonstration. Delivery is generally 7 to 10 days from ordering. Our consumables are available from our resellers for next day delivery.
GT – Is GiftKiosk available in other countries? How is it going there?
Kiosk Gift is available worldwide. As a relatively new product, actual country by country sales haven’t yet been compiled, but Mitsubishi is a huge company with over 25 European head offices servicing Europe, the Middle East and South Americas. We also have offices across the USA and Canada that are extremely successful in providing digital photo solutions to major retail chains.
GT – What are your predictions for Gift Kiosk in the UK?
With the major supermarkets making major investments in in-store photo gift products this would lead you to believe there is great growth expected for this type of product.
Also with the growth in popularity of personalised greeting cards, which you can see regularly advertised on TV, I would hope that in the future customers will sooner purchase a personalised greeting card over an off the shelf one.