Now is the ideal time to spring clean your online shop, says Cloudinary

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By Jana Lass, director of digital marketing, Cloudinary

Lass: a DAM provides a single point of reference for retailers

Do all the visual assets on your website ‘spark joy,’ as tidying guru Marie Kondo, might ask? Just as being locked down has inspired many of us to do some deep spring-cleaning in our homes, it’s an equally ideal time for retailers to purge the clutter from their online shops. Decluttering offers much more than a feeling of ‘Zen’. By getting rid of the old, dated and worn assets on your site, you create a more welcoming customer experience and make room for newer, more relevant, and more persuasive visuals.

Getting started is always the hardest part, so to offer inspiration and expertise, who better than Ms. Kondo herself? One of her key principles is distinguishing between tidying (selecting the belongings we want to keep) and cleaning (maintenance for daily use). This distinction is an important one for online shops as well.

Ready to purge and declutter? Here are five key steps to follow:

1. Start with a clear vision of the shop you want

What should be the look and feel site visitors take away from it? This is very much about the visual experience, thus site layout, fonts and visuals (images and videos) play a crucial role in this inner visualisation of your shop.

2. Give everything a home

The best way to tidy and clean up those visual assets is to give them a home; the one place everybody in your organisation will go to access them. Ideally this would be a digital asset management solution (DAM). A DAM provides a single point for retailers to securely store, organise, retrieve, share, and publish digital content. Its primary function is to serve as a centralised digital library. DAMs gives all relevant members of an organisation controlled access to the retailers digital assets. These can include photos, creative files, video, audio, presentations, and documents.

3. Declutter first

Though a DAM can be used in various ways, it’s mainly file management that is of interest for our cleaning efforts. File management allows you to search image and video files by title, description, and keyword metadata. You can also customise your DAM’s file management system according to your branding, colour, and font preferences. In other words, file management allows you to declutter your visual assets and ensures that they are easily accessible.

4. Organise by category

Now that you’ve decluttered your digital assets, it’s time to start the next level of tidying: organising media assets by category. Metadata is an important feature that will help with this task. Metadata is data that provides information about other data – in this case about your different media files. It is critical for tidying up and for creating an online-shop that sparks joy.

Metadata for assets fall into either of these two major types: Technical metadata, which are usually derived from the device that created the asset. They include information about the Camera model, date of creation, file size, file format, resolution, the location at which the image was taken, dots per inch (DPI), the duration in case of a video, and orientation. Technical metadata always resides within the asset and is captured when created. DAM systems can automatically read this information.

Descriptive metadata, which are data that describe the asset content, including information such as title, description, photographer name, product ID, licence type, category, expiry date of rights, source, keywords. The descriptive metadata isn’t included within the media files but needs to be stored in the DAM’s database. Advanced DAMs use AI to simplify and automate the process of adding descriptive metadata to your assets while also ensuring consistency.

If assets are tagged accurately and consistently such that DAM users find them intuitive, the assets become accessible and usable. Otherwise, assets are often lost, negatively impacting productivity and requiring resources and time to recreate them. For example, you might choose to group your assets under such headings as Email Campaigns, Website, Flyers, Banners, Landing Pages, Social Network, and Launch.

5. Keep and maintain only the assets that spark joy

Now that you have a home for your decluttered assets, and they are all categorised, it’s time to decide to keep and which to let go. Ideally these decisions aren’t taken by one person, but various stakeholders, including possibly some external people. More advanced DAMs can enable this process by allowing people in remote locations to collaborate on this process. This is much more efficient than, for example, sharing Zip files of visual assets by email, duplicating effort and losing track of versions. 

Using a DAM provides a much cleaner visual sharing process where the original and tidied-up assets are shared via a website, giving each person appropriate permission levels. Whenever an asset is added, removed, renamed, or replaced with new versions, these shared assets are automatically updated, ensuring that the DAM remains the single source of truth for all the media assets both inside and outside a retailer’s organisation.

In most DAMs, stakeholders who receive a link can preview each asset, easily navigate between them, download individual files or download the entire collection. By enabling this access, it is much easier to discuss, review and make decisions over which images really spark joy.

Going for the ‘deep clean’

Make your visual assets sparkle

Once you have decluttered your online-shop and organised it perfectly, you might get motivated to use your DAM for a deep clean-up. And thanks to automation you might not even have to get your hands too dirty. DAMs that use AI technology can help you make your visual assets really sparkle.

These days, clean and sleek e-commerce websites are the most popular, and also the most accessible. One way to create this look is by removing busy-looking backgrounds from your assets so that high-quality product images stand out. DAMs apply AI to intelligently remove backgrounds and replace with solid white or colours. To give an even cleaner look, AI can highlight certain colours in a specific image area or video frame, adding shadows, apply a duotone effect or simply adjust the brightness and contrast. 

Finally, there is probably nothing that looks untidier than badly cropped images and videos. This can happen easily, if visitors come to your site using non-mainstream browsers and devices to display images. Given the huge number of devices and browsers out there, this is very likely to happen. AI capabilities in advanced DAMs help to crop the images and videos so that they are “clean” and well displayed on every device.

As Marie Kondo has put it, cleaning and tidying up is about choosing joy. Spring and the lockdown provide the right context for retailers to tidy up for a gradual return to more normal shopping patterns. And with the right DAM, this will be much easier than you might have thought.