The Lensrentals Podcast Episode #29 – How Lensrentals Picks New Gear
Each week Roger Cicala, founder of Lensrentals.com, hosts conversations about the art and science of capturing images. From photography to videography, film, history, and technology, the show covers a wide range of topics to educate and inspire creators of all kinds.
How Lensrentals Picks New Gear
Today on the Lensrentals podcast, we speak with Video Product Development Supervisor Ally Aycock Patterson, Product Page Supervisor Josh Richardson, and Photo and Lighting Product Supervisor Bryce Robbins to discuss what goes into selecting products within Lensrentals inventory. With nearly 320,000 individual products available to rent within our inventory, it’s certainly no surprise that a lot goes into selecting which products to carry and how many copies. So let’s talk about it.
Generally speaking, gear ends up in our warehouse in three different ways. The first way is the most apparent – basic market research. If Canon, Sony, or Nikon release a flagship camera system, it’s no question that we’ll carry that system. The number of copies is usually determined based on how well the previous iteration rents and the order is placed for the new camera system.
How The Lensrentals Staff Determines The Inventory
As something we’ve written about before, so many of the staff members at Lensrentals.com are also videographers, photographers, and Digital Techs themselves. The perk of free weekend rentals makes it a nice incentive to work here when you’re also trying to launch your creative career on the side. Because so many of the staff members are also working on their own productions, one of the other ways we determine which products to carry, is through their own insight. Like so many other businesses, Lensrentals has a companywide messaging system, where people can pitch ideas, communicate with staff, schedule their duties, and equally important – suggest products for the inventory. These suggestions will then often get voted upon, where other staff members and offer their support, or disinterest, and if a product receives enough attention, usually a few demo copies are ordered for a trial period.
How Customers Suggest Products for the Inventory
The final way gear will get added to the inventory is through the suggestions of our customers. Hopefully, you’ve found out by now, but we have several members of our staff who answer emails and phone calls, and help customers build out their carts and assure they get all the things they need for their production. These relationships also mean that we often will get suggestions for things to be added to the inventory, and when a product generates enough interest, it’ll be purchased and added to our ever-growing inventory.
And if there’s anything you want us to carry, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more info you can provide on an item the better!
Gear That Surprised Us
Every now and then, we reluctantly agree to rent some gear, expecting it to be a failure, and it ends up being a huge success. One of these items is certainly when we started to rent sandbags. We’re a shipping company, so the general idea of shipping sand (or in our case, shot bags) never seemed to make much sense. But still, we eventually agreed to rent these, and they’ve been quite the hit. And with the foresight, it makes sense. Production companies don’t want to get their cameras from one place, their grip gear from another, and their sandbags from a third vendor, they’d be willing to pay a little extra in shipping to make it a one-stop-shop.
Another product that surprised us when we started carrying them was drones. It’s without question that drones have become incredibly popular in recent years, but there was always concern on our end for two things – insurance, and liability. However, we were able to find an insurance company to help us carry drones, and much to our surprise, most of them arrive back into our inventory without any damage. A few years ago, we offered a single drone model as a trial run, and now we have a half a dozen different drone models, with dozens of accessories available.
Gear mentioned in this episode:
- Outsight Creamsource Lights
- 1TB SD card
- Venus Optics Laowa 24mm Probe Lens
- Impact Sandbags
- Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio Pro 2
- Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio Mini
- Spider Pod System
- Axler Portable Medium Duty Shooting Riser
- Inovativ Voyager 36 EVO Equipment Cart
- ARRI Alexa Mini
- Sony VENICE
- RI Phantom VEO 4k
- Ikelite Underwater Housing
- Sony CBK FS7 BK -the ENG build for the FS7 or FS7 mkII
00:45 – First up, new releases are the bulk of the new gear we develop, if there is a proven product we already carry that has a new accessory or update, we’ll likely carry it. And as a has been immortalized by one of the supervisors, “If it’s Sony, we’re buying it.”
2:30 – We’ve worked hard to get pre-order pages up earlier over the past year, so customers can get in line for a new product ASAP.
3:00 – Customer requests are the other important process by which we gauge interest and acquire new gear, we want to know what you want us to carry so if you have anything in mind, let us know. (Link w email)
4:30 – Want a new product as part of a larger order and aren’t sure if it’s going to be available to ship on time? Go ahead and place that order and put a note in that says “Don’t bill me until you have (or can add) X product”
5:10 – The third place we get new product ideas from is each other! We discuss the best and worst products we’ve pitched, and what qualifies as good or bad. Some ideas are slowly received but still prove to be really successful.
8:30 – Testing an underwater drone, gimbal RC cars, and Creamsource lights, on my! Not every idea we’ve ever pitched has made it or been a rental hit. We discuss some of the items we’ve learned from, or that never made it onto our shelves.
9:20 – We savor the items we got excited about, and then customers rented the hell out of too! From the Lawoa Probe and Blackmagic Hyper Pro 2, to even sandbags, some of our popular items surprise even us!
12:50 – Our “Spitballing” Slack channel is where suggested new items are preposed, live, and many die. If preposing something you better bring your a-game and have done your research!
16:40 – We wish we could carry everything, but we can’t. Here are some of the things that prevent us from being able to carry every cool piece of gear we see in sight.
19:50 – Special shoutout to Manfrotto and Wooden for their amazing online resources! If we can’t get spare parts, or can’t get spare parts reliably it makes it really difficult to commit to a product.
20:20 – Shipping feasibility- We can’t ship just anything, yet, even though we’ve been trying! Sometimes products are too fragile, like telescopes and astral gear. We try to source items that will hold up to our standards so it arrives in the same pristine state as it left our warehouse.
22:00 – Break
22:45 – Guiding questions when figuring out if we want to buy a new product to rent: Does this product solve an existing problem? Or do we have a comparable alternative already?
24:10 – Licenses also come in to play when considering higher-end rental gear. We tend to wait and see when a customer needs that added and are always happy to do so when we can.
25:30 – Pre-order pages for new inventory items go up ASAP so you can reserve that gear as early as possible!
27:45 – Research research research, sometimes we want to rent something but the people who will be dealing with it in the warehouse need to understand it better before we can responsibility list it as available. And whew, some of these products still haunt our dreams.
30:10 – Always on the hunt for “One-click solutions” we get excited about making packages for customers.
The Lensrentals Podcast is a production of Lensrentals, founded by Roger Cicala. Our production staff includes Drew Cicala, Ryan Hill, Sarah McAlexander, SJ Smith, Julian Harper, John Tucker, and Zach Sutton. Other contributors include Roger Cicala, Joey Miller, Ally Aycock Patterson, Joshua Richardson, and Philip Robertson.
Thanks to Jacques Granger for our theme song.
Articles written by the entire editorial and technical staff at LensRentals.com. These articles are for when there is more than one author for the entire post, and are written as a community effort.