The Sad State of the UK Digital Camera Market

A new report by researcher Mintel Technology provides some insight into why the camera makers do what they do in terms of models and marketing. Or perhaps more accurately: what they should be doing. 

Before looking at the details I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the UK market being described is one whose GDP fell dramatically during the period being commented on, and which is in a double-dip recession at the moment. Thus, British citizens aren't exactly in a buying mood. Keep that in mind. 

A few figures popped out in the study for me:

  • The digital camera market fell by nearly one third from 2006 to 2011.
  • ~40% of digital camera purchases were upgrades or replacements.
  • About half of the cameras were purchased for a specific vacation or event use.

Couple that with the increase in smartphone acceptance and use and the downward trend in digital camera sales in the UK will be difficult to break. 

If you think about this from the camera maker's viewpoint, what product do you create and how do you promote it knowing those stats? The DSLR gang (Canon, Nikon, Sony) have some natural upgrade/replacement prospects to lean on, obviously. The m4/3 makers are slowly getting enough traction that upgrading might help them, too, replacement a little less so. 

But are the camera companies marketing correctly? Probably not. The natural marketing line here is something akin to "Got your son or daughter's graduation coming up? Upgrade your camera to something that'll get you the pictures you really want and that your smartphone can't manage." Change the line a bit over time with each type of event (June weddings, summer vacations, back-to-school, births (yes, they congregate into specific months more than you'd think), holidays, etc). Back it up with real demonstrations of the difference: "here's your child's graduation seen from the back row with your smartphone; here it is with the Whizzy Digi One." 

Another interesting tidbit from the Mintel study: what people in the UK do with photos and videos once taken:

  • 78% save on a computer
  • 53% send by email
  • 50% upload to social networks
  • 42% print at home
  • 36% burn them onto CD or DVD
  • 35% just leave them on the device

So let's see, how do you send a mirrorless camera photo by email or to a social network? Other than perhaps Samsung's latest offerings, you need a complex manual process through an intermediary. (Technically, Olympus has a Bluetooth product that works with a few smartphones, but it's decidedly awkward and doesn't work with the most popular phones here in the US.)

Note that "35% just leave them on the device" figure. The camera (or smartphone) itself is the display device for a lot of people. Why? Because the workflow required to do anything else is just too difficult. This has been a common theme I've been pontificating on for some time now. It's another reason why smartphones are winning at the low end and nibbling upwards at all camera sales as the smartphone cameras get more competent. Workflow (for email and social networking) is trending towards just being a convenient button to press on those devices. 

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