Industry Insights

Key Takeaways from the State of Visual Media Report

Cloudinary, the cloud-based media management platform, recently released their first annual State of Visual Media Report. The report compiled information from 700 Cloudinary customers oCloudinary-Visual-Media-560-1.jpgf fourteen varied, vertical industries to gain a better understanding of how visual content is being viewed and shared. The scope of industries tracked in the report included e-commerce, retail, real estate, agriculture, media, and more. Over the last quarter of 2018, data and user behaviors were analyzed from the tens of billions of images and videos that Cloudinary manages. The data collected examined user interaction with the media to provide marketers a better understanding of current customer experience (CX), and how visual stories are being viewed. Cloudinary revealed the report with a press release last month.

Who is Cloudinary?

Cloudinary is an end-to-end digital asset management (DAM) platform. As a cloud-based DAM, it allows for creative, marketing, and development teams to work together to optimize the user experience. Cloudinary has become a go-to media asset management system for their 5000-plus customers, including many of the world’s top brands such as Uber, BuzzFeed, TED, Hinge, and Lululemon, to name a few.
Given Cloudinary’s long list of noteworthy clientele, it is undoubtedly a well-respected platform quailified to produce this type of report and conclude the current stats on visual storytelling. Cloudinary respected customer privacy while compiling data and comparing user behaviors between industries. 

What Did We Learn from the Report?

The maiden visual media report provides insight into actual visual content performance. The top takeaways from the report are:

  • Visual stories are being viewed on mobile devices 65% of the time as compared to desktop at 35%. Understanding the array of devices and browsers your audience is using has become critical, and content must be designed to be viewed by various means. Furthermore, responsive web design should now be created for mobile first and be desktop compatible.

  • Not all file formats are created equally. High Efficiency Image Format (HEIF) offers smaller file sizes and more vibrant colors than image standard JPEG. This new faster, more efficient file format is taking over in the e-commerce sector.

  • An emerging trend is using group chat apps as a platform for your brand’s visual media. Apps such as Slack and WhatsApp allow for shares to feel more like word-of-mouth compared to traditional advertising. Success on these platforms will be reliant on strong visual assets.

I was fortunate to connect with Colin Bendell, Cloudinary’s senior director of strategy and analytics, to discuss these findings further. Continue reading to learn Colin’s insights and recommendations, as well as how Cloudinary can assist with your brand’s media management.

I was interested to learn more about the efficiency of HEIF files. Why do you think that industries outside of e-commerce are not taking advantage of this format? Additionally, Apple has been at the forefront of replacing JPEG files with HEIF files. Are other OSs beginning to look towards the change as well?  

“Not surprisingly, the commerce industry is ahead of other industries as images play a vital role in selling products and engaging directly with consumers. Consumers are most sensitive to product imagery quality when making purchases, and we know that [from] every increase in detail and increase in color gamut and HDR content. And because eCommerce companies are managing tens of thousands to millions of images, reducing image byte size makes a really big difference.

There are other challenges that keep today’s HEIF use limited. It is somewhat of a chicken and egg situation. Consumer apps on iOS, macOS, and now Windows 10 can utilize HEIF natively. However, the image format lacks broad support by web browsers like Safari or Chrome. On the production side, the biggest challenge is updating workflows from photo studios and asset management solutions that can produce HEIF content with HDR and wide gamut imagery.

There are also patent issues with HEIF related to the use of HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) for encoding. The confusion in the use of patents is likely contributing to slow adoption. I believe this is why we see such a push for equivalent, but patent un-encumbered alternatives like AVIF (using AV1, a royalty-free video coding format by AOMedia), and JPEG XL.”
The report mentions that “74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer around purchases.” It also says that understanding social engagement on work and home group chat apps, like Slack and WhatsApp, is increasingly important. How can brands include these types of group chat apps into their visual media strategy?  
“I believe that part of it comes down to understanding that users consume media on the web in many different and often unexpected ways. Not only do they use popular browsers like Safari and Chrome, but they also consume media via group-chat and messaging apps which look for microdata on a company’s website to create thumbnails and summaries.

Relying on a stock image, or the same hero banner in your microdata thumbnail is insufficient today. The thumbnail is really important because it’s the first opportunity to connect; to capture the essence of your article, your product or your brand — all in an instant. This one single image needs to grab your audience’s attention and can be more important than any SEO string.

Each messaging platform crops and shrinks images differently, so it is also important to preview how your important pages look in the main group chat platforms. Beyond Slack and WhatsApp, don’t forget about or neglect the more emerging and non-traditional social chat platforms like TikTok and Teams.”

The report points out that visual stories are viewed on mobile devices 65% of the time as compared to desktops at 35%. How can brands utilize Cloudinary to help them ensure that their visual content is optimized for all formats, browsers, and devices, including ones that are more popular in other parts of the world?  

“Nearly a third of all cellular traffic on [the] Cloudinary platform is coming from tethered desktop devices. Laptops are continuing to remain a staple tool for consumers. In this way, desktops, with their landscape layout, are increasingly used as mobile devices. This juxtaposition of landscape layout to mobile’s portrait emphasizes the foundational need for RWD (Responsive Web Design). Brands must embrace this and recognize that landscape and portrait orientations should provide a very different visual engagement.

We work with many of the world’s biggest brands to make media management easy and automated, and to ensure that the images and videos they’re using — on their websites and within their social and digital campaigns — are optimized to engage and convert.

Cloudinary helps its users and customers automatically create images for RWD with ‘w_auto’ and ‘dpr_auto’, as well as many other widgets designed to help brands make image and video management easier. Marketers and web developers alike can use Art Direction in an ‘<image> HTML markup’ to utilize different images with different aspect ratios, and use ‘g_auto’ for easy auto-cropping to dynamically create the cuts for these aspect ratios as well.”

Ending Notes

One resounding take away from the report is the essential requirement to offer a robust visual experience across all industries. The report tells us that most people can retain 80% of seen information, versus absorbing 20% from reading information. While this is no surprise, it drives homes the importance of compelling visuals for any brand. As more data is collected and new findings are discovered, we will have an enhanced grasp on the ever-changing world of visual media. With all of the interesting insights learned by this inaugural report, I am already looking forward to next year.

Erika Jones

Erika Jones

Erika Jones is a Tech Reporter and Content Marketer with CMSC Media. Erika enjoys combining her creativity with her technical skills through graphic design. She has a background in communications and marketing and has a flair for social media and content creation. Erika is an avid traveller and enjoys seeing firsthand how technology connects us all in business and pleasure.

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