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Canon Australia launches Airbnb for cameras

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in terms of actual dollars, it could be worth many times that, once you consider the cost of all but the most entry-level DSLR cameras, lenses and other accessories.

But now, a hefty price tag need not be an obstacle for budding photographers, thanks to a new sharing platform launched by Canon Australia on Tuesday.

The platform, called Kyōyū, the Japanese word for “share”, aims to be the Airbnb for Canon cameras and accessories.

Camera owners can use it to rent out their gear and get a return on their investment, and would-be owners can use it to borrow or try out items without needing to buy them outright.

“At Canon, we believe in constantly innovating to create the ultimate user experience,” Jason McLean, Canon Australia’s director of consumer imaging, said in a statement.

“We don’t want ownership to be the only reason to experience our goods and services,” he told IR.

The platform was created in partnership with design agency, The Diner, and has been in the works for over a year.

According to McLean, Kyōyū is an extension of the brand’s long-held goal of building a community of passionate photographers, which saw it launch the Canon Collective in 2013 to bring like-minded people together for workshops and other events, and open its first experience centre in Melbourne in 2018.

“For years, we’ve been looking at our brand and how can we do more with the products people buy. We created Canon Collective and opened the experience centre for that reason, and this is the next evolution of that,” he said. 

The concept is currently exclusive to Australia, but McLean said it could be rolled out in other markets if it proves successful.

More than 230 members have already signed up to the platform, primarily across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and the company aims to have 1500 registered users by the end of 2019.

Canon charges a small fee on each transaction to cover the cost of managing the platform and providing up to $15,000 of insurance on every rental.

“One of the greatest concerns we heard through our early research was what happens if something goes wrong, if something accidentally gets damaged, or stolen,” McLean said.

Canon has taken this same “test and learn” approach to its other offerings, such as the experience centre that opened in Melbourne last year.

“It’s hitting the mark,” McLean said about the store, a 320sqm space where customers can touch and feel Canon’s product range without having to ask store staff to take them out of a locked cabinet.

“Customers love the staff, they love that staff are not pushy. What we’re working on now is building awareness. It’s the best kept secret in Melbourne,” he said.

Canon Australia will continue testing the offering in Melbourne for another six or so months before deciding whether to launch experience centres in other capital cities around Australia.

Meanwhile, the Canon Collective has taken on a life of its own. According to McLean, nearly 50,000 people are part of a closed Facebook group, where they share advice and support one another, without needing much moderation or guidance from Canon itself.

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