close up of a man who is balancing on a tightrope's red sneakers
PHOTO: Mauricio Santanna

Consumer and B2B brands worldwide face no shortage of opportunities — or obstacles — in their pursuit for maximized customer engagement. Personalization, reaching global audiences and supporting and improving mobile experiences are top priorities for many, and for good reason.  

Nearly 86% of consumers state that if a brand provides personally relevant content, they become more interested in that brand’s product or services. The impact can be significant: according to HubSpot, marketers who personalize their sites and quantify their achievements see close to a 20% uplift in sales.

Yet, concepts around scale, automation and personalization continue to place significant burdens on technical and marketing teams. If companies fail to fully understand these issues, the beneficial impact can be significantly diminished.

A few areas continue to challenge IT and marketing teams alike.

Interactivity: It’s About the Prep Work

A common example in ecommerce is a relatively recent trend, 360 spin sets, which provide customers with a detailed and interactive view of a product. A study published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking journal compared three forms of imagery: still photos, 360 degree product photos and virtual mirrors. The researchers found that buyers who interacted with 360 degree spin sets were 14% more likely to purchase a product compared with interacting solely with still photos. And while virtual mirrors lead to the highest purchase intent, the method apparently carries with it a number of technical issues that make it a less applicable option — especially since the primary use case remains in one vertical: the fashion industry.

The impact of the spin set can be traced back to the quality of the dozens (if not hundreds) of original images that constitute the final product. There are enormous implications when splicing together these different photos, the most important of which is that the original set of images are of very high quality. A poor edit will result in a very poor customer experience. Other considerations to take into account are balancing the “smooth” rotation, or movement of the spin set, which relates to the number of original photos. On the flip side, the number of photos used in the spin set impacts the download time of the resultant spin, which impacts the customer experience as well.

Related Article: Get Off the Ecommerce Sidelines

Artificial Intelligence: Automating and Scaling the Experience

A quick examination of Google trends over the past five years has seen an understandable surge of interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning topics. AI has been at the forefront, helping companies automate the ways in which they personalize their interactions with customers, thereby enabling companies to scale their operations. Examples of how AI and deep learning impact the customer experience include automating the removal of backgrounds in product images as well as automatically enabling videos originally shot in landscape mode to be delivered in portrait mode, which greatly improves viewing on mobile phones.

Of course, there are plenty of issues surrounding privacy and inherent bias to consider when thinking about how deep learning can be used in areas as broad as surveillance and celebrity recognition. Companies will need to balance justifiable business goals that AI can bring with satisfying the need for accuracy and consumer privacy.

Related Article: How Bringing Machine Learning Into Marketing Improves Business Results

Tracking Emerging Standards

Standards are boons for brands at multiple levels: they lower costs of deploying an enterprise-wide technology; employee training is simplified; and integration into other platforms or technology ecosystems is that much faster given standardized APIs. We’ve started to see new media formats start to enter the realm of standards, such as the High Efficiency Image File (HEIF) format which, given its properties around wide-gamut color support and size efficiency, is especially popular in markets like ecommerce. Another example is in upgrading the old JPEG warhorse with a new proposed standard currently described as JPEG-XL, to add needed capabilities like being responsive by design, legacy-friendly (to older formats) and universally applicable across different types of image content.

But even standards come with their own set of considerations. For example, HEIF has yet to gain browser support in Safari and Chrome and still has potential patent issues. Determining the balance between state-of-the-art consumer engagement and broad based support are concepts that brands need to constantly weigh in their own work. 

Related Article: 4 Ways to Tell a Better Visual Story and Improve Customer Experience

Build it Right and Customers Will Come

Building a scalable yet personalized customer experience remains at the heart of what every brand wants to craft. Experiences that harness the power of rich media, whether in the form of images or videos, are a significant driver behind this success. However, business and technology executives need to think through the complexities and implications of these efforts, at both a technical and customer impact level. Doing so, and doing so early, will enable a more seamless delivery of the campaigns and experiences they desire.