Buying a professional camera never comes cheap. Prices go anywhere from $400 (USD) to $3,000 (USD). Which results in consumers doing extensive research to find the most competitive offer online. And this can lead to an uninformed consumer falling under the hands of a gray market camera seller.
A gray market camera is a camera that has fallen in the hands of an unofficial seller. These cameras are generally imported from another country with different, usually cheaper selling conditions. It is not an illegal product, however it is not a product that the manufacturer can protect with a warranty, as there is a likelihood it has been modified in some way.
Modifications of these gray market cameras include fake software, genuine accessories being replaced with lower quality chargers, as well as modifying or removing the serial number so it becomes untraceable.
US search results for “gray market cameras” currently average 110 intentional searches per month. And with the 177 million web pages that appear in the search result, it’s safe to say that there are plenty of people in forums, blogs, and marketplaces who are taking a real interest in these products.
Photography aficionados who think they’ve simply found an unmissable discount experience big disappointment when they find out and are unable to do much about it.
This consumer may have no knowledge of this market when looking for their next digital camera. And while there are some tell-tale signs, they can go unnoticed until unboxing the new purchase.
Usually, the first suspicious sign for unknowing consumers is finding the instructions in a different language. Perhaps the charger isn’t the right electric adaptor, or quite simply the software CD doesn’t contain the same look and feel as the last software CD used from the same brand.
A gray market discount can end up costing much more than the discount’s worth itself. These disappointed photographers are left without much option other than to figure it out by their own financial means.
Like all gray market products, the biggest disappointment for consumers is that the official warranty doesn’t come with their purchase. Only official distributors have the ability to give a warranty. For gray market cameras, the repair costs can be either very costly or inexistent due to a modification of the product made by the seller previous to selling it.
For those aware of what a gray market camera entails, the discount factor still steers many consumers into choosing the gray market camera option. There are so many accessories to buy along with the camera body itself, that taking a risk on the warranty doesn’t seem like a major issue, for some that are trying to save money on their purchase but don’t want to buy second hand.
The discounts can reach over the $500 (USD) mark, which is a huge chunk off the official retail price. For photographers who haven’t had to use a camera’s 5-year warranty in the past, it can prove to be a convincing option.
The availability of these imported cameras online is easily accessible to anyone looking for a bargain. Whether it’s an intentional search for a gray market camera or not remains the main issue. As mentioned before, many first-time gray market buyers think they’ve just landed a good deal. This results in brands being blamed for the customer’s dissatisfaction. They may feel cheated by the brand for not giving more information on the issue.
The most important factor for brands to detract consumers (both those that are aware of the issue and those that aren’t) is to communicate the risks involved. It needs to be viral enough so that consumers don’t end up blaming the brand for not giving enough information on the issue.
For consumers, the risks involved with buying a gray market camera are not always clear. The 5-year warranty might not be the biggest priority to this consumer, so it’s up to brands to give as much information as possible to protect both their photographers and products.
Brands that speak out about the issue ensure that consumers looking for quality products with a renowned after-sales service will steer clear of the gray market.
After all, one of the justifying factors of buying a digital camera from an official source, with its full price tag is the excellent service provided by the brand.
Proof of this can be found on social media and photography blogs. While there are many relatively unconvincing arguments in favor of gray market cameras, it is largely arguments against them that can be found.
Brands keeping a close eye on what is said about their brand and on gray market cameras are able to better communicate it to their audience. Contributing to blogs and forums with expert insights may prove to be an effective strategy.
There are many online forums related to photography, which lead onto discussions on the gray market. This one in particular gives clear consumer perspectives, such as a professional saying that a gray market camera “generally isn’t worth the stuffing around”. Inviting experts in your industry to give first-hand advice and experience of these gray market products could detract consumers further from buying gray.
A brand’s reputation is what gets hit the hardest with gray market products. Recovering from unhappy consumers sharing their views on social media and forums can prove to be a long and laborious task, not to mention expensive. To counteract its effects, communication on the matter should be in place to guide consumers and warn them of the risks. Considering a tech-based solution for the problem that can monitor a product online is now a strong option for brands. By tracking who is selling the product, at what price, and on which online platform, camera brands can keep their grey market problems at bay, and remain in full control of their online presence.