Report: Pandemic accelerated demand for visual-first experiences

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Findings from brand media experience platform Cloudinary’s third State of Visual Media report reveal a substantial increase in images and video content publishing during the pandemic.

For example, video views nearly doubled and video bandwidth grew almost 140 per cent in Q2 2020, when the pandemic first began. At the same time, brands are just scratching the surface when it comes to harnessing the power of new approaches such as applying AI, using next-gen image and video formats, and optimising visual media for private messaging, or ‘microbrowser’ environments.

Key findings from the 2021 State of Visual Media Report include:

  • Pandemic-fuelled video growth also revealed new use cases. In addition to the dramatic rise in video, Cloudinary also saw brands pioneering creative and novel use cases, such as videos delivered to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
  • The modern web is driving modern format adoption. Most brands use three or four different image formats (32.5 per cent and 28.6 per cent respectively). While JPEG (95 per cent) and PNG (73 per cent) are still the leading image formats, newer formats such as WebP (69 per cent) are catching up quickly.
  • Mobile-first responsiveness is a must. Between December 2019 and April 2021, mobile devices generated 51.4 per cent of traffic, with significant regional differences worth noting. Germany, India, the UK and the US represented a wide range of mobile traffic bandwidth, from 48 per cent in the US to 81 per cent in India. Most brands within Cloudinary’s data set are on top of this trend.
  • Use of AI automation, while increasingly popular, is at an early stage of maturity. Brands used automated media manipulations extensively to shine in today’s visual economy, with the top five transformations related to resizing, quality compression, format selection, responsive delivery and smart cropping. More advanced transformations and AI-based add-ons have been adopted by industries such as media and publishing, but are still making their way into mainstream adoption.

“Our extensive data tells a clear story that visual media usage continues to grow and was influenced greatly by the pandemic,” said Tal Lev-Ami, co-founder and CTO, Cloudinary. “However, it also shows that brands in many industries stand to benefit by taking advantage of new tools and technologies to optimise images and video and deliver exceptional ‘visual-first’ user experiences. As we gradually return to a new post-pandemic reality, fast and flawless visual content will remain critically important for communication and commerce alike.”


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