Retail Insider was one of the first sources to report on the inception and development of new e-commerce photography start-up StylePhotos Canada. StylePhotos is now celebrating two years of business, remembering its origins as an in-house studio for their own e-commerce platform OriginalLuxury.
Today it has become a go-to studio and one of the leaders in e-commerce content creation for the largest Canadian and U.S. retailers as well as independent entrepreneurs. We met with one of the founders of StylePhotos, Khasan Aripov, to see how the processes have changed since the company’s launch in late 2018.
All three machines in the StylePhotos studio were fully occupied by the operators, who process boxes of products and create high-quality photo and video content for e-commerce retailers. One of the most important questions we had was related to the pandemic and the changes and challenges it created for the business. Mr. Aripov notified us that during the full-lockdown in Toronto the business suffered just like any other business, since the studio had to shut down their operations completely. Given the caliber of clients that StylePhotos currently serves, a large backlog started to form. When the lockdown restrictions were lifted however, and the studio began to operate again, the whole StylePhotos team was operating full-time to support their clients and their businesses with much needed content.
When asked about the main reason for StylePhotos’ success in partnering with the largest retailers and acquiring a large customer base of individual entrepreneurs, Mr. Aripov said that he believes that the unique and systematic approach taken by StylePhotos allowed the company to appeal to all tiers of retailers.
StylePhotos developed its own software solutions to streamline the ordering process by creating a digital style guide for its clients — this way every photography order is consistent and every machine operator knows exactly what light, shadow, and angles have to be maintained. This approach allowed the company to implement extremely competitive pricing which is based on volume orders; something that did not exist in e-commerce content creation before. A traditional approach of shooting products was considerably more expensive, time consuming, and inconsistent — which resulted in lower sales and higher returns for the clients ordering e-commerce content. The most important factor for success is that StylePhotos eliminated human error. The unique systems and technologies utilized by StylePhotos provide unprecedented consistency to its clients. StylePhotos also offers one-price-for-all strategy, where every client (regardless of company’s size) is paying the same pricing that already includes editing, post-production and product prepping. With this approach, clients are fully aware of the cost of services, and will not be facing any additional charges.
Mr. Aripov also noted that the current situation in the retail industry is alarming — players of all sizes are exiting the market, or facing unprecedented loss of cash-flows. The old mentality of larger retailers of focusing on brick and mortar stores is no longer applicable — companies that fail to offer their products online without a doubt will become obsolete. The overhead costs from rent, utilities, large staffing requirements and constant inventory ordering threaten well being even of the largest retailers.
Mr. Aripov also mentioned that StylePhotos is currently partnered with a small tech start-up from Switzerland that is developing a unique solution to edit photos and videos virtually automatically, to further enhance the speed of content creation. This software is built using machine learning and most advanced algorithms to ensure accuracy and reliability of the solution.
We also asked Mr. Aripov if StylePhotos has reached its peak in terms of capacity, to which he replied that currently StylePhotos outgrew itself in terms of current location and equipment. Given the large client portfolio that StylePhotos currently has, it is apparent that the need for expansion is imminent. Mr. Aripov and his team are also working with potential investors who are approaching StylePhotos to find the right investor that would assist StylePhotos in expanding. Further expansion within Canada as well as the United States are a priority according to Mr. Aripov.
“We started off as an unknown studio 2 years ago,” said Mr. Aripov. “However in two years we were able to transform and grow to become one of the leading e-commerce content providers, thanks to utilization of cutting edge technologies, and well-thought systems that were put in place. We are looking for the right investor who sees the potential of this market to expand our operations to increase our capacity and capabilities to capture a larger share of the e-commerce content creation market. We are confident that the demand is there, and with the right partner we will substantially increase our client base and subsequent revenue.”
The COVID era may have shuttered many businesses in the retail and hospitality industries, but we are glad that this has given an opportunity for companies like StylePhotos to disrupt the industry and help businesses transition towards e-commerce in an affordable manner.