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Online clicks with snappers!

March 31, 2010: A recent reader survey of readers of leading Australian photographic magazine, Photo Review, indicates a far greater level of online buying activity than is generally assumed.

Photo Review is a newsstand quarterly and website (and sister publication to Photo Counter) with a strong emphasis on camera and accessory reviews. More camera gear is reviewed more extensively in Photo Review than any other publication in Australia.

Around 20 percent of magazine subscribers responded to the survey, an extraordinarily high rate of engagement, giving the results added credibility.

While the survey was primarily focussed on seeking reader input to tailor Photo Review content, a series of questions about purchasing preferences are of relevance to the entire industry: Of those surveyed, 31 percent said they regularly buy their photo equipment online from an Australian-based company, while almost nine in 10 respondents occasionally bought online from Australian companies.

(The survey did not distinguish between local parallel importers and retail websites sourcing from Australian distributors.)

‘…Australian retailers and suppliers could be bleeding well over $100 million to overseas sellers.’

The Photo Review survey saw 15 percent of respondents saying they regularly purchased their photo equipment online from a company based outside Australia.

If this holds true for the entire industry, then based on the PICA estimate of the the entire industry being worth $2 billion plus, and conservatively attributing less than half of that to hardware sales, Australian retailers and suppliers could be bleeding well over $100 million to overseas sellers.

Last week in Photo Counter, Canon general manager, consumer marketing, Darren Ryan. estimated that around 10 percent of purchases were made online. He wouldn’t hazard a guess on sales lost to parallel imports.

Almost 50 per cent of Australia’s total online spend is directed towards international purchases, according to the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA).

GfK, the industry-preferred supplier of sales data to consumer electronics and photo equipment suppliers, does not measure the online channel at all. As this channel expands and others contract, the GfK figures will be a less reliable base for making marketing decisions.

‘The photo industry seems to have a blind spot on online sales,’ observed Photo Review publisher, David O’Sullivan.

‘According to these responses – and when you look at the success of a business like Digital Camera Warehouse – there is no equivalent blind spot among knowledgeable consumers.’

Four out of five respondents indicated an intention to purchase camera gear online over the next twelve months.

‘While keen photographers are swarming all over websites like Photo Review for objective, third party information on photography and photo equipment, as far as we know, not one major Australian distributor has run a significant online display ad campaign so far this year.’

While the survey pointed to increased levels of purchase online, the opposite was true of purchases from ‘bricks and mortar’ specialist retailers. While 59 percent purchased regularly from specialists in last years’ survey, this had dropped to 51 percent in 2010. The good news is that nine in 10 of respondents occasionally bought from local specialists.

Of those who responded, 64 percent were either advanced amateur, semi-pro or pro, and 62 percent said they shot more than 2000 photos per year. Seventy percent shoot in RAW, which underscores their advanced status. Seventy two percent of those surveyed are asked their opinions about things photographic by their friends on a monthly basis.

Organiser of the Online Retailer Expo and Conference noted in a press release that ‘Australian consumers are voting with their wallets when it comes to shopping online.’

Expo organiser Mark Harvey asserted that a lack of big local brand retailers selling online is forcing shoppers to buy from overseas competitors, and that this could provide a window of opportunity for well-respected local specialist brands.

However, he said, ‘it’s only a matter of time before manufacturers start selling direct – that’s going to be a real game changer.’

In a recent interview with Photo Counter, Digital Camera Warehouse’s Sharyn McKissock called on reputable specialist retail brands to wholeheartedly enter the online channel in Australia. She deplored the practice of some retailers in setting up ‘no name’ websites which didn’t harness the strength and legitimacy of their existing shop front brands.

Key findings:

– 31 percent purchase photo gear regularly online locally (nine out of 10 purchase online ‘occasionally’!);
– 15 percent purchase regularly online from overseas-based retailers;
– 78 percent intend to buy online in next twelve months (up from 59 percent in 2009);
– Over one third of those surveyed spend more than $2000 annually on photo gear.

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