Vendors tackle a mature scanner market

As corporate IT spending continues its modest path, organizations look for new and innovative approaches to increase revenues. One mature product segment that is experiencing a renewed interest because of strong market acceptance of digital imaging is the flatbed scanner market. Scanners come in different

forms, most popular being the flatbed scanner. Sheet-fed, film, slide and handheld scanners are also available, but are considered niche products because of their speciality applications.

To increase the competitive advantage of scanners, vendors offer flatbed units with value added incentives. For example, a sheet-fed adapter enables the user to feed documents into the scanner easily. A film or a slide adapter may be included for more “photo-based” archiving uses. These adapters are appropriate for occasional use only. Target markets for standalone sheet-fed scanners include offices with large document management requirements and file-intensive environments, such as accounting, law firms or schools. Professional or amateur photo enthusiasts are among the target markets for film or slide scanners.

Canadian vendors are faced with the task of marketing and selling their products in a mature market. According to Evans Research Corp.’s 2002 Scanner Annual report, in 2002 vendors shipped an estimated 506,752 pieces, which represents a decline of 14 per cent over 2001. A moderate nine per cent decline is forecasted in 2003 as well. The saturated market hasn’t prevented vendors from introducing new products. With approximately 125,000 units shipped per quarter, an estimated half-million Canadians either enter the scanner market or upgrade equipment per year. With a lack of consumable revenue stream available, scanner vendors target both new users and the replacement market to increase interest in the products.

A method of building interest in scanners is to tout the advancements that enhance the scanning experience. Software and component developments, in combination with average retail price points hovering below the $200 mark, are key selling features. As such, the flatbed scanner does not represent an intimidating capital expenditure. Applications that drive purchases include digital imaging and photograph storing on the consumer side. In corporate environments, digital imaging and file management are significant applications. The combination of digital imaging and document management translates into useful tools for marketing, corporate communication, advertising, creative and design departments or organizations. The success of leading vendors such as Hewlett-Packard Canada and Canon Canada include a commitment to digital imaging, boosting user knowledge and technological comfort.

The flatbed scanner is often considered a retail product. However, it is through partnerships with IT distributors, resellers and dealers that many vendors, including HP, Epson and Umax, bring scanners to market.

Although the market is mature, the flatbed scanner segment is a dynamic environment.
Vendors improve product lines continually trying to update and educate users on day-to-day applications for their products. Both office and consumer productivity and file management can be improved through scanning. The key factor for vendors are educating users on how much easier a digital file is to manage than a piece of paper or photograph.

Michelle Warren is a market analyst at Evans Research Corp. in Toronto.

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