Friday, November 02, 2012

Online Digital Printing: Zoomin Review

I have been using Zoomin online digital printing service for around 4 years or so and have found their products awesome and gradually improving over time. I got introduced to Zoomin via reference from a friend and at that time in 2008 they were starting business and offering 4"x6" digital prints for free. Starting with their free offering of digital prints I tried various other products like photo books, calendars etc. and was really impressed by the quality of their products.

Recently they launched very exciting offers for Diwali (the offer continues till 8th November 2012) and I tried some of their costly products (hard bound photo books and canvas prints) and I was more than happy for my decision to stick to Zoomin for all my digital photo printing needs. I therefore felt the need to describe my experience with Zoomin and thus this post came into being.

I have tried to describe my experience based on following factors:
  • Quality of Products
  • Pricing
  • Ease of Use
  • Ordering
  • Shipping
  • Customer Service
Quality of Products
Zoomin has an exciting range of products starting from normal 4"x6" digital prints to large size (36"x36") canvas prints thereby offering products for almost every occasion. Some of the products which I have used are: photo prints (all sizes), photo books (hard and soft cover), calendars, photo magnets and canvas prints

I have to say that the product quality is really awesome. The colors are faithfully reproduced and look almost real. The material used for printing is of the best quality available. Local shops which offer digital printing tend to use cheap photo paper and I was first impressed by Zoomin's photo paper quality. Recently I tried their photo magnets which use some magnetic material attached to the photo prints. The best thing about the magnetic material is that it is not strongly magnetic, but if you attach to a surface like fridge door then it binds to the surface very strongly.

Another very great product (I think it has been launched recently but I am not sure) is the LayFlat Hardcover photo book. The best part of this photo book is that it uses the photographic paper of large size (8"x8") and is designed in such way that the pages of the book open flat without any bending of the pages. This makes it very convenient to use and there is almost no chance of wear and tear. The paper used on the hardcover is not photographic, but still the printing is done so well that I am unable to find any pixels in the images (normally in any image printed in magazines you can very easily spot dots/pixels) which probably means that the printing is of very high quality even on non-photographic paper.

I also used their canvas prints for the first time recently and I was really amazed when I had a look at the canvas prints. In my opinion this is the best product Zoomin has to offer. It really turns personal photos into works of art. This product is somewhat costly compared to other products, but when you see it you feel it deserves this price.

Rating: 5/5

To the best of my knowledge the prices offered by Zoomin are less than the competition (like Snapfish, or local shops) if you take into account the quality of the products. Apart from this Zoomin keeps on sending offers on various occasions from time to time. Sometimes they even waive off the shipping charges making digital printing very very economical. Even when there is shipping charge involved, it is much less if you see the speed of delivery (mentioned below in Shipping). Zoomin is a clear winner when it comes to pricing.

Rating: 5/5

Ease of Use
We next examine the Zoomin Online experience. Overall I must say that their website is well organized with clearly visible navigation elements. However there are two points where I think there is room for improvement.

First is the overall uploading mechanism of photos from the desktop to their website. This is based on Adobe Flash and is bit slow on my old laptop from 2006. But in this case I think it is the problem with Flash rather than Zoomin. I guess I need to buy a new laptop for a better Flash experience. Apart from the slightly slow response of Flash based UI, there is also the problem of network bandwidth. If you want to upload large number of large images (like 5MP or above) be prepared to have a very good network connection (say like 1Mbps or above). Zoomin does not try to resume failed uploads so the connection should not break when the upload is ongoing.

Next is their Creations page where you can customize your products by choosing various themes, resize or crop your photos and place them properly in any fashion. This is also a Flash based application and it requires lot of time to customize. Zoomin should try to add more templates and themes for various products and also have tools to align the photo elements in desired locations (like left, right, center). In my opinion this is a big hurdle for those who don't use computers too much. By adding more templates based on existing creations by various users, Zoomin can greatly reduce the effort involved in creating a customized product.

Competitive services like Picsquare don't have any customization available for end user for any of the products. Also they don't show any preview. Zoomin on the other has gone to great length to allow complete customization of a product, but sadly this customization process is cumbersome because you have to drag and drop photos from album into the product. A better approach like Picsquare (where you active a picture element in the product by clicking and then click a photo from album so that it is mapped on to the selected picture element in the product) can help Zoomin a lot in terms of usability.

By the way their Creations page offers a good number of designer fonts if you wish to include them in your product. This greatly enhances the charm of products like photo books or calendars.

Rating: 3.5/5

The process of checkout and payment is almost smooth. The shipping address entered is automatically stored in user's account for future orders. Any promotional offers are accessible via coupons which can be applied during the checkout.

The online payment is received and processed via a third party named CCAvenue. This is where I feel that Zoomin can improve. Either they can have the infrastructure to receive payments directly without using a third party or they can make the interaction with CCAvenue totally transparent to the user. For example, currently when I try to make payment I am taken to CCAvenue webpage for entering various details (name, address, name of bank etc). Here Zoomin should fill all this data directly from user account settings and straightaway forward the request to the bank's website. This is exactly the way Airtel does for its mobile bill payments even though it uses a third party called BillDesk to receive and process payments.

Sometimes (actually it has happened with me two times, so its quite in-frequent) there can be a problem during payment where the money is deducted from Bank, but does not reach CCAvenue or Zoomin. This is normally resolved in 24 hrs from CCAvenue's side. By avoiding a third party this problem can be done away with.

Rating: 3/5

Zoomin uses FedEx for shipping all its products to the destined shipping address. The packaging used by Zoomin for all shipments is great and there is no chance of the product getting damaged during transit. Anyway all the products are covered under transit insurance.

I remember when I first ordered a LayFlat Hardcover photo book and when the package was received it was in form of a 12"x12"x3" box whereas the actual product is of size 8.5"x8.25"x0.5". To my surprise the actual product was hidden under 5 layers (2 boxes, 1 bubble wrap, 1 padding, 1 translucent paper) and this guarantees that the product can not be damaged (except in extreme cases where the box catches fire).

The delivery time is actually 24-40 hrs and in my opinion this exceeds normal expectation by a wide margin. The pricing of this ultra-fast delivery is very very reasonable (Rs 125 for say 2kg 12"x12"x4" box). Zoomin however mentions the delivery time as around 4-7 days, but I have never seen so much delay in practice.

Rating: 5/5

Customer Service
Zoomin has got the kind of "Customer Service" who actually want to serve its customers. This is very very rare in India. I had a chance to interact with them 2 times (during the payment failure from CCAvenue). One time I called them up (its not toll-free by the way) and the other time it was through their helpdesk. In each case there was Zoomin employee receiving my request rather than a call-center employee.

This is such a relief because normally call-center employees kill all your time in useless verification process and unnecessary formalism ("What can I do for you?" kind of stuff) and have practically no idea about the company business for whom they are receiving the service request. When I get a response on the Zoomin help desk it is signed by an actual employee name which makes the response look authentic. Normally they are able to service a request within 24hrs and there is a feedback system where you can say whether you were satisfied or not with the customer service response. Overall I would say a very customer friendly customer service.

Rating: 5/5

Overall Rating for Zoomin: 4.5/5