SPQR

March 18th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Roman legions conquered the known world carrying banners emblazoned with the letters ‘SPQR’ — Senatus Populusque Romanus, or The Senate and the People of Rome. It is the motto of the Eternal City to this day; it still comes as quite a surprise to see manhole covers emblazoned with SPQR.

I’ll come back to SPQR later.

Up till Version 4, fotoLibra offered a print service. You saw a picture you liked, clicked on the frame icon and had the choice of various sizes of print or other merchandise based on that image.

Unfortunately the company providing the service for us, PrintButton, couldn’t make it sufficiently profitable, so they stopped doing it just after fotoLibra Version 4 was announced. They gave us advance warning, so we didn’t build their API (Application Programming Interface) into our new system.

Since then we haven’t been able to offer the service because we haven’t found a supplier who can deliver what we need. We’ve had plenty of offers, but reviewing the latest one, from Peter Wright, it occurred to me that the ability to run off prints is perhaps the least vital part of the entire process.

Firstly, you need a huge selection of images. OK, fotoLibra has that. Then you need to get the following in place:
1. Someone (not us) needs to write an API to enable site visitors to order the goods with one click
2. A trusted and reliable ecommerce system has to be in place to collect payments
3. Fulfilment needs to be white labelled (as if “From fotoLibra”)
4. Packing and despatch must be sound and reasonably weatherproof
4. Delivery needs to be within 24 hours in the UK
5. A variety of products (mugs, T shirts, caps, mouse mats, plates etc.) need to be available as well as straightforward prints
6. A framing service must be offered
7. US delivery really needs a US-based plant to create the product
8. Deliveries need to be 100% reliable to at least 158 countries across the globe

In our experience, reliability and speed of delivery count for more than the quality of the finished product, assuming it’s reasonably good and fit for purpose. If there is a problem with the client’s perception of the quality, the printer must reprint and redeliver at his expense, and without argument.

All this need to be in place before the image is chosen and the print button is pressed. It’s a big hill to climb, and even thought they apparently had 400 customers like fotoLibra, PrintButton couldn’t make it work.

So who can?

Getting back to the Romans, fotoLibra adopted the SPQR motto when we started up. But for us, it stands for SPEED, PRICE, QUALITY, RELIABILITY (and now RANGE, as well). Concentrate on those aspects, then think about getting a product to sell.

Whatever it is, it will be secondary to the service you provide.

SPQR applies to everything you make or do.

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