Challenges and Opportunities When Delivering Visual Experiences at Scale
August 17, 2023

Uri Landau

Visual experiences have the ability to create excitement around a brand, build customer trust, and continually engage customers. That's why we've seen brands lean even harder over the past several years into using image and video assets to connect and engage with their customers. Yet, to achieve high levels of engagement, media assets must be created, managed and deployed quickly and at scale. This task falls to developers, who face an array of challenges when it comes to managing and deploying image and video assets that are largely unstructured, data-rich, and ever-evolving.

Images and Videos Present Three Unique Operational Challenges

Developers face three main challenges when navigating the management, optimization and delivery of images and videos:

1. Managing assets at scale - Given brands are relying more and more on image and video assets to attract and retain customers, the volume of assets and pace at which they need to be managed is ever increasing. Developers are bogged down with tasks such as optimization, cropping/resizing, tagging, and personalization for each visual asset.

2. Optimizing assets for all viewing experiences - Developers must make sure media assets are optimized for every use case. For example, developers need to ensure that assets can exist and thrive on both mobile and desktop, or can function in both portrait and landscape mode on a phone. Optimization also comes into play when thinking through bandwidth. Developers are constantly looking to optimize an image or video so that it uses less bandwidth while keeping almost the same quality of image and/or video.

3. Personalizing assets - Personalization is crucial to a brand's ability to convert a shopper to a buyer. Customers want to see products that are tailored to their individual experiences. Given this, brands look to developers to help a brand offer relevant product recommendations to drive engagement with their audiences.

Combating Challenges with Artificial Intelligence

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can alleviate these challenges and save developers time. These technologies make it possible to enhance all aspects of creative design, optimization, and personalization at the immense scale required by modern commerce.

Using AI to personalize the experience: Not only can AI tools help reveal users' preferences, such as the times they engage with content the most, helping to create and deliver personalized experiences but AI can also help developers transform and manipulate images and video to create the perfect experience for every user no matter where they're engaging with the content.

Using AI to hotspot shoppable videos: More brands will use shoppable videos to compete, connect and convert and AI can assist with the technical side of this by identifying the product in the frame and enticing the viewer without compromising the viewing experience.

Optimizing media assets: AI can assist developers with automatic, on-the-fly optimization to compress visual assets to the smallest possible file size while maintaining quality — saving bandwidth and improving the user experience through better site and mobile performance.

Automatic image tagging and cropping: Developers can use AI to add tags to images based on objects or abstract concepts detected by the content-aware detection models specified on upload. AI can also automatically optimize size, aspect ratio and focus based on desired objects in the video, eliminating the need for developers to spend countless hours creating video variants for mobile devices.

Managing media assets at scale with AI: AI can implement a system that structures, tags, enriches, stores, and governs visual media assets so that they can be easily a) accessed by the organization on demand and b) harnessed for delivering personalized visual experiences at scale.

The Role of Widgets In Freeing Up Developer Time

Another technology that can save developers time is widgets. In the past, developers would need to crop, resize, and tag images by hand. But with the integration of widgets, this can be done automatically, without any in-depth knowledge. Integrating widgets into frameworks that developers are working within expedites the process of managing assets and allows developers to be flexible with media, predefining optimization parameters for all assets even before uploading them.

For example, a drag and drop widget does all the work of optimizing the asset for delivery once a developer picks it and chooses where to put it on the page. Another example is deploying a drag and drop widget to automate the order of operations when optimizing media — i.e. crop, then rotate, and then add water marks. This widget deploys this template so that every resource that comes through this pipeline will look and feel the same, without requiring developers to work through these simple but time-consuming tasks.

Widgets are also helpful as developers work more and more with User Generated Content (UGC). For example, they can use a widget to automate content moderation — ensuring content from brand partners is not only optimized for delivery but also reviewed to conform to brand standards.

Finding the Opportunities in the Challenges

Brands that can't harness the power and scale of visual media will struggle to keep up over the coming years. The consequences are a bad user experience and loss of customer trust — meaning these brands will become irrelevant. But, brands can't overburden developers in the process. They'll need to embrace technology such as AI and widgets to solve the challenges that come with managing media assets at a staggering scale. This will allow developers to solve more complex problems, help grow the business, and engage with projects that matter to them.

Uri Landau is VP of R&D at Cloudinary
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