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PRESS RELEASE: PlanetFoto Launches Global Online Photo Service Based on Innovative Business and Technology Model
BOULDER, Colo., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- As a digital camera aficionado with an international career, Lance White knows first-hand how difficult and inconvenient it is to find a way to print digital pictures while traveling and working away from home. Convenient and affordable services for printing digital photos don't yet exist in many countries, and using online photo services from the United States elsewhere in the world meant paying lots of money for shipping.
At the same time, digital cameras are becoming more affordable and mainstream, with worldwide shipments of low-end digital cameras reaching 17.7 million in 2001 and forecast to represent 63% of the total worldwide camera market by 2006, according to InfoTrends Research Group.
Many of those cameras are being purchased outside of the U.S., as well as by U.S. consumers whose families may prefer to use a language other than English. So how best to serve so many people in so many markets and capitalize on their use of digital photos? And since the answer seemed to somehow involve the Internet, what business model would best incorporate the lessons of the dot bomb debacle, when Internet hype temporarily provided a smokescreen for weak business acumen?
After much study and armed with his convictions and personal experience, Lance pulled together a multinational team of entrepreneurs and software developers to embark upon what may be one of the most ambitious Internet projects since the crash of the dot com era: PlanetFoto -- the world's first truly global online digital photo processing company. After nearly six months of intensive development, PlanetFoto (http://www.planetfoto.com) launched on October 24, 2002 offering services on six continents and in five languages (currently in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and English, with work already underway to add Japanese).
The PlanetFoto concept is simple: Create a central, multilingual website to which users can upload digital photos into online photo albums to share them with friends and family; Allow customers to order prints and pay for them in any of eight major currencies; Route the orders to a network of regional print labs to print the photos closer to the customer and cut down on shipping times and costs.
"We decided the best approach would be to build a central technology platform where we could provide users with multilingual and multicurrency capabilities, and from which we could route the orders to regional labs to print and ship the photos in the most cost-effective manner, based on the customer's shipping address," said Lance White, President and CEO of PlanetFoto.
"From a business perspective, this model allows us to aggressively pursue three large and untapped consumer segments: international consumers in markets where no alternatives exist, U.S. consumers such as Hispanics that prefer to use a language other than English, and a new market that we call 'cross-border' printing." He added, "The regional print labs are really central to our model. We strategically set up our labs close to the local and international shipping providers or shipping lanes for each region, and this allows us to serve markets that no one else can."
The PlanetFoto management team believes this strategy will be critical for their success. "We made a conscious decision to keep a lid on costs, and on Internet hype," said White. "Our technology platform and our business model are highly scaleable, so while we can quickly adjust to handle whatever volumes we experience, we don't need huge numbers on Day 1, or even Day 181, to turn a profit. That's the difference from 1999, when people placed huge bets and needed totally unrealistic sales volumes to even dream of getting out of the red."
PlanetFoto uses the latest technology to manage and print digital photos and provide customers with easy-to-use tools to manage their online photo albums, including photo editing tools and a multimedia jukebox. Sending an email invitation to friends and relatives to view an online album is as easy as clicking a button -- they can even order their own prints from the album and get them delivered right to their door, transforming the email invitations into a very effective form of viral marketing.
PlanetFoto was conceptualized, designed and developed by a multinational team including members from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, Spain, France and the United States. It is headquartered in Irving, Texas.
(First posted on Sunday, November 3, 2002 at 15:58 EST)