Cloudinary Blog

Five “Secret” Takeaways - How Leading Brands are Using Visual Media to Build Trust and Drive Sales

Alison Bensch
By Alison Bensch
How Leading Brands are Using Visual Media to Build Trust and Drive Sales

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation for businesses and customers alike. Across verticals, brands were forced to evaluate their digital strategies and the ways in which they connect with audiences and customers. To explore brands’ visual media challenges, changes, and opportunities, Cloudinary recently cohosted a virtual roundtable with six leading brands from the Brand Innovators community on the topic, Brand Visualization in a Post-Pandemic Environment.

Sometimes panels like this one are live streamed to an audience or recorded and shared. We opted to make this discussion a “closed door” event, which encouraged attendees to speak more freely. We hope they enjoyed the chance to connect with and learn from industry-leading peers. We certainly valued the opportunity to engage in an honest and open discussion about visual media approaches, future plans, and best tips and tricks for improving customer engagement and building lasting relationships.

While we need to keep the names of the brands private, here are five takeaways from the discussion, moderated by our Head of Global Communications & Customer Marketing Juli Greenwood:

1. Visual media is essential to engaging digital experiences

In response to retail locations closing during COVID-19, brands launched or expanded B2C channels. Selling directly to consumers allows companies to build customer relationships and increase profitability, but it poses new challenges, too. Companies selling high-end and/or complex products or services--products or services traditionally sold in store--need to build intuitive, detailed digital experiences. It is hard to create a virtual sales floor that can rival a seasoned sales representative with decades of experience. But many consumers prefer the comfort and ease of shopping remote, even when buying big-ticket items. To create these experiences, brands are using advanced technology like CGI, 3D configurators, AR, and 360-degree product views, in addition to images and video.

2. Brands are taking control of their content production

Brands need more content than ever before. Many are working with multiple content creators to keep up with the demand for content assets, but managing these workflows can be challenging. Some of our panelists shared that processes were taking too long. So, they moved, or are in the process of moving, content production in-house and managing it in a DAM (Digital Asset Manager). In-housing content creation allows brands to create assets faster and at lower costs, preserve content quality, adapt more agile processes, and more easily repurpose assets across different platforms and channels. One popular intimate retailer, around since 1983, pointed out that taking control of their content was also creating fun new opportunities for the in-house teams.

3. Authentic connections matters more than ever

During the pandemic, it became more important than ever for companies to show their “true selves” and to be transparent with shoppers, who were hungry for authenticity and genuine connections. Most brands changed their approach to messaging, focusing on “behind-the-scenes” content and communicating social missions. As a marketer from a leading D2C flower company put it, “Transactional growth will only get you so far. If you don’t build connections with customers, you might as well be selling widgets.” One way to create a more authentic brand is to leverage user-generated content (UGC). While customers welcome the unbiased reviews and product images and videos, brands must create processes for reviewing UGC at scale and ensuring it meets brand standards without compromising authenticity.

4. Nail the basics before the sexy stuff

Sure, shoppable Instagram stories are nice, but some brand marketers believe they should be “nailing the basics before the sexy stuff.” A number of panelists felt improving marketing fundamentals would be more valuable long-term than adopting a one-off advanced technology or social media capability. A marketing director from a leading outdoor clothing brand noted, “The amount of work and time to change something on the homepage is crazy.” Nearly every panelist agreed with her. Panelists also lack access to data integration tools needed to paint a more complete picture of their audience, connect the dots across devices and platforms, and analyze content performance. A marketing executive from a global home appliance brand said that although his company has an impressive marketing technology stack, they need help using it to its potential. “It is like having a Corvette but not knowing how to drive it,” he said.

5. How you build trust depends on the region

Marketing leads from international companies agreed that it is best to take a regional approach to creating content, and building trust. A panelist from a global insurance company shared how his company pivoted to create digital sales tools to empower global teams who were used to selling face-to-face. They adopted their approach to reflect customer behavior trends in each region. In Asia, for example, creating processes and content for communication with prospects via WeChat was essential. As Juli noted, a growing number of brands are using Cloudinary tools to create and optimize visual content for microbrowsers--the miniature previews of web pages inside private message discussion like Slack, WhatsApp, and WeChat. (Check out Cloudinary’s 2020 State of Visual Media Report for more on how you can optimize content to drive microbrowser engagement and sales.)

Cloudinary image and video management solutions can address many of the challenges and opportunities that came up on the call. We would love to tell you more about it. Drop us a line any time to chat. And thank you again to our panelists for taking the time to talk with us. We appreciate your candor and insights and commend the work you have done to advance digital transformation at your companies.

Recent Blog Posts

Get Your Media Moving Faster with Cloudinary’s Media Optimizer

So, your boss comes to you in a panic: he's just heard about Google's Core Web Vitals initiative and needs you to optimize the company website right now! "No problem," you say, hiding your fear that it's not something that can be done overnight. Just taking the first metric, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), how can you possibly identify all the large elements - most likely images or video posters - of the many hundreds of pages that make up your site? There are already thousands of high-resolution (read massive) media files stored away, which marketing could use any time. How are you going to make sure they're all compressed to a size small enough to be delivered within the threshold? Not to mention all the new images and videos that will be created over time...

Read more
How to Tap Into the Value of User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content (UGC) took off with, first of all, the advent of the internet and, subsequently, social networks. Everyday consumers were given keys to the kingdom, so to speak, so that they, too, could compose and post content, simultaneously engaging with others online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok—the networks through which we can create and publish content have grown exponentially, and brands are becoming aware of the benefits of tapping into the gold mines offered by those networks.

Read more
Identifying Countries by IP Address in Columnar Databases Through SQL

Cloudinary reaps a myriad of open web traffic, from ad networks to e-commerce sites. Our Data Science team is dedicated to analyzing the data for use internally and externally.

A glance at any General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) article would reveal that—unlike Android device IDs (AID), through which users can reset their web address—keeping user identifiers, such as Internal Protocol (IP) and Media Access Control (MAC) addresses, as well as International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI), violates privacy. As a solution, you can discard all privacy identifications or make them visible to users for reset.

Read more
Digital-First Asset Management Explained

As the world changes, so does technology. I don’t need to name more than a handful of antiquated technologies before you nod in agreement: floppy disks, Walkmans, phone booths, VHS tapes, each of which have been phased out or rendered useless by new solutions that meet the same need but much more effectively.

Read more
How to Build Workflows With Cloudinary’s MediaFlows

Many of you who work with the Cloudinary platform have a media-associated workflow for moderation of images, dispatch of notifications with certain data or headers, implementation of activities through add-ons, etc. For most of those cases, Cloudinary would suggest that you take advantage of our webhook notifications and build the workflow with an infrastructure like AWS Lambda. This post describes how to do that with Cloudinary’s MediaFlows a beta product that helps tackle management and operational tasks related to visual media.

Read more