John Shpika of Pics.io tells us about developing a tool for photographers to allow them to work with RAW formats in a browser.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
John Shpika: We are doing fine even in these hard times. My family created our own new normal, and we successfully live in it. In my opinion, creating a new normal begins with a new daily routine, and once you’ve made a new plan, you start to follow it and finally manage to get accustomed to it. The most important thing here is to have time for work and time for rest. It’s a bad practice to spend all day near the computer. Everyone should take breaks from sitting or lying down using devices. Once you’ve reached a work-life balance here and stick to your new schedule, everything will work perfectly.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Pics.io.
John Shpika: Pics.io’s history goes back to 2012 when we started the development of a tool for photographers allowing them to work with RAW formats in a browser. Then after two years of development, the company pivoted to the b2b model and DAM field. At that very moment, Pics.io Digital Asset Management was born. We understood that our prospecting customers needed to systemize and organize their files (= a quality DAM solution) but be able to do it without the extra hustle and bustle.
At that time, the market of Digital Asset Management was rather saturated, but our tool quickly won its part. With rapid digitalization and accessible cloud services, more businesses started to feel that they piled up too many digital assets. The Pics.io team knew about the limitations of traditional DAM solutions. And we set a goal to create the easiest DAM. This DAM shouldn’t make you waste time on configuring the tool but allow you to start managing your assets right away.
And so it was pretty obvious. We just took the most popular cloud storage – Google Drive and combined it with the Pics.io DAM solution. Since that period, we’ve developed our integration with Amazon S3 as well, and what is more, we’ve done in 2020 during the COVID period. Hence, we do not stop our development; we’re constantly adding new exciting features for our users.
How does Pics.io innovate?
John Shpika: The main innovation of Pics.io up to the moment is that we allow our customers to use storage that they already own. Like storing your assets in Google Drive that you’ve already bought or AWS S3 that you’ve already managed. This is a really good value proposition for tech-savvy users. In 2020, Pics.io pleased its users with a whole bunch of updates & features. And most of these were the requests from our users. So we’re really thankful to them for motivation & fresh ideas.
Pics.io DAM released several innovations:
One of our main achievements this year was Pics.io integration to Amazon S3 storage. And so we managed to attract a new niche of users – enterprise-level companies. Now our users are no longer limited to Google Drive.
Analytics & reporting feature – so you could control the activity of your team even further. Plus, use Pics.io analytics to make your asset-related decisions more data-driven.
Branding feature that allows you to customize Pics.io experience for your team & website visitors incorporating your company name, logo, domain, color palette, etc.
Inboxes feature, enabling you to receive third-party materials with more control & convenience. Inboxes are separate workspaces where non-Pics.io users upload their assets for you to review them, add keywords, & move them to your media library. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and we’re not gonna stop in 2021.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
John Shpika: 2020 was a rough year for many businesses. Digital Asset Management is one of a handful that managed to get away with it. You might be surprised, but the overall market size of DAM increased by 40% in 2020. And it ain’t gonna stop in its growth. Of course, it does not mean that we haven’t experienced any problems. Pics.io lost a lot of customers who operated on hospitality and travel markets. Some of them are recovering at the moment, and we from our side are providing grace periods for those who struggled from COVID-19. At the same time, we can be proud of doubling the number of large-scale companies among Pics.io users in 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
John Shpika: The key to our team’s success in the COVID period is that we’ve prepared for the remote work long before the actual crisis happened. As a result, we effectively worked during all this period and managed not only to save our current team but also to expand it. One important lesson that we’ve learned: “Once your internal team processes are organized, nothing can affect this efficient workflow.”
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
John Shpika: We at Pics.io changed our customer support strategy in 2020 to customer success management. To achieve this goal, we implemented significant changes to the workflow of our customer success team. Our goal was to ensure that our customers achieve the desired outcomes while using the Pics.io app. We are constantly making product demonstrations for our customers, which significantly impacts our conversion rates. In 2020, we increased the number of demos by 50%. And our conversion rate reached 42,7%!
In addition, Pics.io used lead magnets to attract new customers, including e-books helping our users to master Pics.io DAM in the most effective way. One more cool thing we did in 2020 is the publication of our first book on Amazon What is Digital Asset Management?: Discover the best practices for your business, a practical step-by-step guide for businesses into the world of digital asset management (DAM).
As a separate service, workshops were introduced in 2020. The idea of workshops is to coach our new & existing users on how to use DAM to its fullest potential. And since September, our teammate has carried out 18 workshops! Our result is more satisfied & happy Pics.io users!
One final remark here – our Pics.io DAM is the most useful tool we use to be efficient. We use it as a foundation of our workflow, storing all the team assets, collaborating on them, and sharing the assets across the team.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
John Shpika: Not really; we decided not to participate in grants programs. We believe that there are other businesses and even industries that are hit by COVID-19, and probably they require more help to recover than we do.
Your final thoughts?
John Shpika: The Pics.io team is full of ideas & energy in 2021. And since we strive for perfection, we’re planning to delight our users with more improvements and updates for the Pics.io app. Our product map counts tons of updates. New features, updates of old ones, and don’t forget that we regularly bring to life ideas (read: feature requests) of our users to be closer to our prospects & users, we won’t give up on refining our customer success. More personalization and proactive engagement are our priorities. We also have a few secret projects up our sleeves and are very optimistic about our development in 2021!