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10 questions for a founder: Olapic

Olapic co-founder and CEO Pau Sabria took some time recently to chat with one of our favorite news magazines, Kaptur. We’ve posted part of the interview below. For the full interview go here:

How was Olapic created and what issues are you trying to solve? 

The idea for Olapic came long before Instagram existed: in a trip to Las Vegas with my co-founders, Luis Sanz and Jose de Cabo.

We had a great time with a large group of friends, and took a lot of pictures.

Afterwards, we realized how great it would be to have a service that would collect photos from various attendees at an event and make it easy to share with others, say weddings.  How great it would be for the bride and groom if they could automatically gather all the photos their guests had taken.

This initial version of the idea never really took off so we had to rework it a few times and even came close to the limits we had set on the project. It was our passion for the idea of putting all the visual content generated by people to use that really kept us going and lead us to creating the visual commerce category.

You source images from the UGC world so that brands can increase engagement. Why do brands need amateur pictures?  What is wrong with the professional images they have been using before?

Picture creation has exploded, picture consumption has followed, and brands are realizing that there’s an ever increasing thirst for visual content. Traditional methods of content creation and licensing (ie. Shutterstock, Getty, and others) are growing to fulfill that demand, but it’s hard to keep up.

In this new paradigm, we believe that brands have to complement their traditional professional efforts with clever sourcing of content that can scale exponentially. We believe that curated UGC can help fulfill the demand.

Finally, by experimenting with different types of photos and contexts, we are able to understand why and how we react to photos, how they move us, and engage us. And that’s something brands can only achieve if they constantly put to the test a large catalog of photos.

In time, will social media photography replace pro photographers for brands?

UGC will not replace pro photographers, but will help brands understand what type of photography resonates with an audience. It will be then that brands will have a large understanding about visual and its influence in audiences.

We believe that as the visual web expands, new applications and opportunities will arise. It is not crazy to think that Visual Search Engines are in the horizon and the more visual content brands have, the better they will perform. And as a result, visual marketing will become key within marketing organizations, and with that, demand for professional photography will increase.

What is compelling content for a brand?

The most compelling content for a brand is content that demonstrates its customers’ passion.  When people love a brand or product enough to photograph, hashtag and share it on social media, they are showing genuine excitement that can’t be staged.

Do you simply look for hashtags or does your search algorithm involve product recognition and more? How far and powerful is your search?

One of the methods we help brands collect content is through the use of hashtags. These hashtags are designated and/or created by the brand to help refine the collection of photos based on a topic, theme or product.  Frequently, brands will create a specific hashtag promotional campaign based on a product launch or something new.  The brand then supports the promotion of that hashtags on social media and other customer communications to help spur usage.

How do you curate the results to match the brands needs?

We offer the industry’s leading moderation tool.  Brands can collect photos from across platforms (including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr), filter them (choosing from a number of options) and then apply Photorank, our proprietary machine learning predictive engine to analyze photos based on more than 45 different visual and contextual factors and then by their expected conversion power. This makes content curation significantly faster and more effective than random or manual selection. This machine learning algorithm helps narrow down on photos based on the computation of an expected performance, or ROI. The more our brands learn about what type of photos perform, the better we are at picking and selecting those photos automatically.

Where do these images typically end up?

Brands use customer photos in multiple locations on their site.  A popular display is on the homepage or on a dedicated gallery page, but the most effective placement is on the product detail page. We are seeing those photos appear both in desktop as mobile experiences (web and native).

Rights.  How do you navigate the complex world of copyrights?

Because people are volunteering to hashtag photos and participate in promotions, they are willing participants. Also, we are governed by the Terms of Service for each of the social media platforms themselves. For brands who want more explicit permissions or who might want to use images in offline campaigns, we offer an advanced rights management platform that allows them to contact the owner directly. Most people are thrilled to share photos and really see it as a badge of honor to have their photos used on a brand’s website.

What can brands expect as result when using your service?

They can expect a very positive experience.  On average, our e-commerce clients see a 9.6% conversion rate in sales among shoppers who interact with customer photos on their site.  In addition to an impact on sales, shoppers view an average of nine customer photos per visit, which increases engagement.  We also have research that shows 63% of shoppers trust customer photos more than brand or retailer photos.

Your space is a little crowded, What makes Olapic stand apart from its competition?

We created this category and called it Visual Commerce.  Olapic was the first company to help e-commerce brands incorporate user-generated visual content into the purchase path and we currently are the company most large brands trust. No other competitor has more customers than us. Because we have such innovative clients, we are always discovering new ways to use this content and learning how visual content is changing the Web overall, so our innovation cycle is shorter and faster than that of our competitors. Also, our algorithms leverage a scale that is unmatched.

Some numbers please: How many brands do you service? How big is the company? How much investment did you receive up to now? 

It has really been an amazing ride so far. I am always a bit blown away when I step back and look at how quickly things have changed. We started with a photo sharing idea in 2010 and after a few pivots, began to focus on e-commerce in 2011.  Now we are working with more 170 retailers and brands around the world and have offices in New York, London and Cordoba, Argentina We have secured $6 million in funding and have close to 90 employees.


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