IN THE HOT SEAT: Epson makes moves on photo market

IN THE HOT SEAT: Epson makes moves on photo market

With a background working for niche distributor, Pericomp, and then a stint at IPL Oki, Toni Pensa says her IT experience has given her a good grasp on how to sell a product.

Today, she is in charge of a team of 20 - and the main point of contact for the Epson channel.

Pensa plans to drive business in the next 6-12 months in the photographic channel, rev up MFP take-up in the SOHO and SMB space, and get resellers excited about the digital home.

To get things moving, the company recently launched four multi-function printers (entry level and photo machines), as well as a 6 x 4-inch PictureMate photo printer at its annual Gallery tour product road show.

How did you get involved with Epson?

Toni Pensa (TP): I've been in the industry for 18 years. The last 12 of them have been with Epson. I've always come from a printer background. I started with Epson as an account manager and then progressed into managing the states. For the last three-and-a-half years, I have taken on the role of national sales manager, managing the whole channel across Australia and sales team for what we call the volume products division. That covers the entire inkjet range (not the very high pro-graphics products, but everything else), the scanner range, the ink and media products, the mono and colour lasers. And just recently we've taken on a few of the projectors into volume products as they've moved into the consumer market.

What are your top three goals to accomplish in 2005?

TP: Our big push for 2005 is ensuring Epson equals photo in the consumer, photographic professional and amateur markets. The second is to continually promote the use of genuine Epson ink and media. Another big push for the year is this huge growth we are seeing in the colour laser market. We want a piece of that. We have released a new range this year (which start from an entry-level right up to a network model). The line has been quite successful and we want to improve on that and reach a wider audience.

Looking back over the year, what are some of the main trends and shifts you've seen?

TP: The biggest one in the channel is the merger between Tech Pacific and Ingram. I don't feel that this will affect us too much because we have a really strong distribution base across all states.

We've definitely seen the end-user shift to multi-function models. The focus for printer vendors has been on creating PC-free machines to do everything you need to do with a photo. Another shift has been the price of the entry-level single function coming below $100. And obviously the affordability of photo printing at home is another trend, where the cost to print (and getting extremely good quality print the same as you'd get from a lab) is exactly the same price, but you don't have the time or expense.

How is Epson getting the message out to resellers about photo printers?

TP: We've been doing a lot of communication to the channel about printing photos at home (mainly the cost for a 4x6 print), and educating the market about how easy it is to use the printers. We've got two major online vehicles that we're using to communicate with the channel: one is stylus club (an incentive program where resellers accrue points to claim prizes, as well as get access to Web-based training) and the other is channel Epson (a new online site for the use of the retail and reseller channel). They can log on and get the latest product info, up to date price changes and promotions, pull down images (catalogue copy they want to use), and be linked up with the marketing and sales staff.

We want to give the channel things to talk about: mainly information about the technology and the fact it's different to other inkjet players in the market. We're spending time educating people about the pigment ink we've just released (which gives longevity of print, better quality, more water resistant).

In gearing up for the digital home, what products (in addition to photo printers) fit into this space?

TP: Projectors are a big focus area catering to this space. Epson now has a range of widescreen projectors (the 16:9), which tend to be used more in the home (because of the DVD format) whereas most business projectors need the 4:3 (computer screen dimensions). There is a lot of education to be done in this area, teaching the retailers and the resellers how to best display the product, how to show off its best features in their showrooms. With these solutions there are add-on sales that can wrap around it as well, which enhances their profitability. We have just moved our consumer range of projectors, the home theatre range, into the channel. The initial take-up has been great. We have been going to each of the retailers, and via distribution (with the larger reseller base), and training them about the product. The price point has got to a level now where they are interested - it's a much easier sale for them than it once was. We also have a specialised AV channel and they cover the entire range (and tend to focus more on the higher end projectors in business and schools).

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