2023 State of Visual Media Report (c) CloudinaryCompanies today have to move fast and stay relevant, says visual media expert Sanjay Sarathy. Automating and optimising how images and videos look and perform across channels is one thing IT and the business can agree supports this goal.

To survive in this turbulent economy marked by fickle customer behaviour and sensitivities to cost-of-living pressures, businesses today must be able to ‘pivot on a pin’. Whether it’s spinning up a new promotion, rejigging the social media advert campaign, or freshening up the look of your leadership team, the visual content used to communicate online can make or break brands. Our recently published 2023 State of Visual Media report confirmed, for example, that the failure of brands to include images showing products in use will send 41% of Gen Z shoppers packing.

As business managers struggle to continuously flex, pivot, and pirouette, IT has to fight endless back-end issues. These include filling ongoing developer skill shortages to moving on from legacy systems that struggle to scale and support new requirements.

One thing is for certain: the only images or videos your online visitors should ever see must load instantly, be crystal clear and spark engagement. Data suggests that a full 50% of web users consider a website’s design when forming an opinion about a business. Furthermore, 38% of users won’t engage with a website if its layout is unattractive.

Learning from the leaders

If marketing and product teams know that they’ll only ever be serving up stunning visuals of everything from new campaign collateral to the latest trainer pics, half their job’s done. So, suppose IT can make it effortless to do things like correct, transform, and optimise the performance of images and videos at scale, across all channels and platforms. In that case, it may finally be possible for the business to get on the front foot.

OK: how? Companies achieving this kind of efficiency seem to be doing a couple of things that stand out. One, many are migrating from legacy to MACH (Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless) best-of-breed architectures and software.

Our report referenced research from the MACH Alliance. It showed how companies that have adopted MACH architectures respond more quickly to market changes than those still operating in legacy ecosystems.

They’re also starting to develop and deploy new functionality faster, as well as reducing costs with automation and AI. Interestingly, they also say their stacks are now making it a lot easier to keep up with customer demand.

IT leaders I’ve seen doing this up close include the team over at UK fashion leader Paul Smith. They say that its MACH-DAM combo is embedding new and efficient processes for the way it serves up its important fashion imagery to streamline online as much as possible. Another is retailer River Island — which, again, has turned its entire media management lifecycle into a slick internal workflow rather than a stop-start piece of guesswork.

Move fast and fix things?

I keep saying ‘automation’ of visual content, but what do I really mean? It can mean the ability to find the most suitable product image fast, then easily repurpose and transform it for a new campaign. It might mean attaching metadata – at scale – to speed up these searches. It’s also ensuring that business partners like retailers and wholesalers can also find these visual assets fast so they don’t skip a beat going to market. Critically, it also means automatically resizing and transforming assets to be optimal quality and size for every possible viewing window and device your visitors use – whether mobile phone, PC or gaming console.

Make no mistake about it: all this automation adds up to big savings. Looking at just one month’s data in our State of Visual Media report, automation saved companies an average of 34 days of labour monthly. And we fully expect this figure to grow over time.

How can we be so confident about this? The answer is simple: AI. Also, in this year’s report, we saw clear evidence that enterprise developers are not only embracing different types of AI, such as gen AI, but applying it already and starting to see the positive impacts. Indeed, 68% of developers cited improved efficiency and productivity.

Outsourcing the many tedious coding tasks associated with managing and coding visual media to AI frees up developer and creative teams to focus on the new modern web priorities that take the brand experience from good to great. These include everything from design to security to governance to MACH migration.

Levelling up with AI

Another benefit of AI: it’s starting to level the playing field. Until now, the really advanced online creative work that goes into building and maintaining dazzling online experiences has been out of reach for many smaller brands. Now, generative AI is making what was once impossible not only possible but more accessible. For example, instead of reshooting an entire campaign, developers and digital marketers can remove unwanted objects and change backgrounds in seconds.

But levelling up isn’t just about company size. AI-powered image captioning also instantly creates intelligent captions to improve accessibility, asset searchability and SEO. With the latest developments in Large Language Model visual systems, it is even possible for users to effortlessly perform image transformations and optimisations. Just typing, “Please blur this image and crop it to a 1:1 aspect ratio”, can deliver a complete and correct transformation.

To me, the verdict’s as clear as an award-winning website’s homepage. Yes, times are challenging, and we need to work a lot smarter to cut through. However our research shows that the most successful businesses today are gaining huge benefits by getting smarter and more nimble with images and video. We firmly believe that automation’s story has really only just begun.

Cloudinary LogoCloudinary is the image and video technology platform that enables the world’s most engaging brands to deliver transformative visual experiences at global scale. More than 1.5 million users and 10,000 customers, including Apartment Therapy, Bleacher Report, Bombas, Grubhub, NBC, Mediavine, Minted, Paul Smith and Peloton, rely on Cloudinary to bring their campaigns, apps and sites to life. With the world’s most powerful image and video APIs backed by industry-leading artificial intelligence and patented technology, Cloudinary offers a single source of truth for brands to manage, transform, optimise, and deliver visual experiences at scale. As a result, the most engaging brands across all industries are seeing up to a 203% ROI using Cloudinary with benefits including faster time to market, higher user satisfaction and increased engagement and conversions. For more information, visit www.cloudinary.com.


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