HP gains sharp with Snapfish free prints
(China Daily)
Updated: 2008-06-23 15:02

Hewlett-Packard has made an offer the hundreds of millions of Chinese shutterbugs can't refuse: free prints.

The US technology giant launched the online photo service Snapfish, or Kachayu in Chinese, in China last October. To entice registered customers, Kachayu offers the first 20 46-inch photos free of charge. Additional prints will be charged 0.6 yuan each.

The marketing ploy has apparently worked. Kachayu has registered 450,000 members as of this May since it went online in China last October. HP's own market studies show that China's consumers printed out 4 billion digital photos in 2006 alone, and the number is expected to reach a higher record in 2007.

"I was intrigued by its Internet ad banner giving away prints for free," says Shen Zhengbin, a 30-year-old IT manager and amateuros photographer. Shen ordered 20 photos on Kachayu, and had anticipated their delivery via courier for three days when they arrived.

"The printing quality is not bad, but not as good as I expected," Shen sighs with a little disappointment, waving the color pictures he just received. "I will not strongly recommend this website to my friends, to be frank," he admits, although he suspects he will use Kachayu's service again if he needs more prints.

Others were attracted by the convenience. Zhang Yang, a 34-year-old web designer, says he printed out pictures of his 1-year-old son on HP's Kachayu website, for half price.

"I'm quite a click potato and not willing to go to photo stores twice just to have 40 pictures printed out. Kachayu saves me the trouble," Zhang says.

According to Dan Reardon, Greater China general manager of Snapfish, HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG), there are more than 40 million Snapfish subscribers across 20 countries worldwide, and about 3 billion photos are stored online. Through that website, customers are offered comprehensive choices for sharing, storing, printing their photos online.

"About 1 million new subscribers join our website every month," Reardon says in a statement to China Business Weekly.

Kachayu intends to aggressively expand its Chinese market share for the service. "We were fully prepared before entering into this country, and will explore this emerging market step by step," Reardon says, indicating that their confidence is mainly due to the rapidly increase of online users in China.

According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Industry and Information (MII), China has surpassed the United States as the world's largest Internet market, entailing 221 million netizens by this February, up 5 percent since the end of 2007.

Kachayu is indeed doing well in terms of visitor volumes. Among the domestic top 4 online photo service providers monitored by online market researcher iResearch, HP's Kachayu was visited by 28 million non-repeated users in this March alone, outnumbering more than 250 million figures to its closest competitor Kodak Gallery.

As one of the most significant portions of HP's new Print 2.0 strategy stressing wireless printing in high-volume individual markets, Kachayu aims to "provide first-class digital printing experience for families and beyond", Reardon says.

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