*Kodak Clicks E-Commerce Option

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Photography products marketer Eastman Kodak Co. has clicked a new e-commerce strategy to become an online destination for professional photographers.

Beginning in May, the company's Kodak Professional division will allow professional photographers to shop, submit and track orders, and pay online at its own kodak.com/go/professional store, or via links to its dealer network and online partners.

Through this move, Kodak not only hopes to offer professional customers an additional place to buy products online, but also grow the photography products category and improve integration with dealers and labs.

"This will ultimately integrate the whole supply chain from the end-user customer -- the professional photographer -- through the dealer network all the way to the manufacturer and our supply partners," Brian P. Keery, director of North America e-business at Kodak, said yesterday.

The Rochester, NY-based company's e-commerce strategy is three-pronged: one-to-one marketing using the Internet to build customer relationships; business-to-business commerce for closer integration with dealers and labs; and business-to-end user for greater ubiquity of Kodak Professional products.

Kodak's Pro-Products Network of authorized dealers will play an important role in this latest online foray. The marketer in the next two years expects that over 80 percent of its direct sales to labs and dealers will be conducted over the network.

"For professional photographers and end-users, we do not differentiate end-user sales between online and bricks-and-mortar," Keery said. "We view it as one market with no upper limit; there is no ceiling to the pictures business. The online experience will be integrated with the bricks-and-mortar, offering additional choices to photographers."

While the online store launch and integration with the Pro-Products Dealer Network is slated for May, additional features like communities and message boards will be added throughout the year. Kodak does currently sell online, albeit a small set of products, the company said.

According to data compiled by Kodak, over 95 percent of all professional photographers in this market have visited the Kodak.com site and continue to do so regularly. The site averages 300,000 hits a week, the company said.

Kodak will soon begin an extensive marketing campaign to draw attention to its new online retail initiative. It will offer specific promotions via direct mail, newsletters, advertising and integrate information through its online affinity and loyalty programs.

"Our objective is to integrate the bricks-and-mortar world and the online world into an efficient distribution system which adds value for the end-user and grows the category through new services as well as offering our products into new markets," Keery said.

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