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Has Product Photography Volume Recovered from COVID-19?


Laptop showing data visualizations

Well, it’s been a long year. For everyone, and for retail and e-commerce in particular. Pandemic initiated lockdowns nearly broke the global economy, while simultaneously compressing years of e-commerce growth into months by necessity.

Now that we’ve had a moment to catch our breath at the end of the holiday season, we wanted to crunch a couple numbers and do a quick update on our early August post about COVID-19’s impact on e-commerce imagery.

Why? Because Pixelz processes about a million images a month for brands and retailers around the world and across categories, we can serve as a proxy of sorts for the industry as a whole. An imperfect proxy, of course, but we hope you still find it useful.

Total Image Count - Growth!

First off, the top line takeaway — Pixelz has more than rebounded from COVID. We’ve grown, and are now processing more images than ever before.

This is largely due to growth of our Enterprise segment. (Learn more about our pricing plans.)

Total e-commerce image volume, all plan types, for year 2020

Total image volume per plan, all customers.

You can see in the above chart that our SOLO segment (solopreneurs and other small businesses) has not yet recovered, while our PRO segment (SMBs) has seen modest growth. Meanwhile, our Enterprise segment has grown by well over 20%.

What does that mean? Are the same Enterprise level companies processing more e-comm imagery than before?

Or are more Enterprise brands and retailers looking for efficiencies and turning to reliable retouching vendors like Pixelz?

To find out, we did some digging.

How About Year over Year?

Enterprise product image volume, 2020 over 2019

Enterprise image volume, 2020 over 2019.

We wanted to be sure we weren’t misinterpreting seasonal variation as recovery, so we compared 2020 to 2019 for each plan type.

What we see looking at Enterprise is a similar tale to our total image volume: complete recovery turned into growth.

You can see that Pixelz Enterprise volume grew fairly steadily throughout 2019 and was on trend in 2020, before COVID interrupted. We’re now back on trend at a higher volume than before, so the ill affects seem more than mitigated — for Enterprise, at least.

(In case you're wondering: that spike around week 30 came when one p2p client dropped over 4x their typical weekly volume on us — a combination of both backlog and their own user growth.)

How about Professional?

All PRO product images, 2020 over 2019

Professional image volume, 2020 over 2019.

Here we see the lockdown effects lingering. The more measured but steady growth of Professional was interrupted and is now essentially repeating its growth pattern, rather than recovering and growing from its pre-COVID level.

Is it more volume from the same customers, or new customers?

Here’s the same chart we opened the blog post with, excluding customers with a join date after March 1st. In other words, total image volume using only clients we had when COVID struck.

All product images, just pre-COVID customers

Image volume per plan, excluding customers who joined after March 1st, 2020.

You can see here that it’s a tale of recovery for Enterprise, but not of growth. That’s as expected and a victory — recovery seemed uncertain for a time in March and April.

Let’s do a quick YoY comparison for Enterprise, excluding new customers:

Enterprise product image volume YoY, excluding new customers

Enterprise 2020 over 2019 image volume, excluding customers who joined after Jan 1, 2020.

You can see it’s near identical levels the past few months, indicating a full recovery of image volume. 2019 showed steady growth, but that’s in part because of the addition of new clients — which we’ve excluded from the 2020 numbers.

Conclusion

Enterprise brands and retailers have both recovered their ability to produce high volume e-commerce imagery and have reimagined their workflows, seeking out retouching vendors like Pixelz.

COVID-19 presented an unprecedented challenge to retail, and to the product photography industry. But if there’s any silver lining, it’s that in challenge lies opportunity — because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t a good enough answer when you’re scrambling to deal with an existential threat.

Flexibility and risk mitigation have jumped up the priorities list for just about every company after this wild year. As a highly international company for whom reliability is credibility, we’ve always prized security and planning, which is why we were able to operate during COVID without impact to our SLAs.

Learn the truth about retouching risk mitigation.