10 KPIs for the photo studio

Do you work in a photo studio for e-commerce with large volumes? Here are 10 KPI:s you can use to improve processes.

The term KPI has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, especially in times when data seems to be on everyone’s lips. Although it may sound boring, complicated, and feel far from creative, the value of key performance indicators should not be underestimated. With the right tools, KPIs can be incredibly valuable for the business.

KPI:s are simply information, and the most high-performing, engaged professional teams appreciate the information. Whether you call it KPI, a metric, an indicator, or an index, it is important to know how your studio and the studio team are performing in order to solve problems, improve processes, and eliminate tasks that do not add value.

When talking about KPI:s, it is important to set clear goals, i.e. what we want to know, and then define how we can best measure for goal achievement. The focus should always be on using data and information to improve processes, not chasing personnel.

What are your KPI:s?

So, what are the KPI:s we should use when it comes to the creative production of visual content for e-commerce?

The answer to that question varies depending on the goals of the studio and the goals of the business at large. But, for a KPI to be useful and effective, it should contain these three things:

  • Contextual – A KPI cannot exist in a vacuum, there needs to be a goal that describes where we are going or where we want to go. To that end, there needs to be a number of measurement points to evaluate where we are and how we are improving. Together, it gives us the right context to work from. 
  • SMART – “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely”. If you haven’t heard of this concept before, there is plenty of material to read about “SMART metrics and goal setting”. 
  • Measurable with minimal impact – You should be able to measure KPI:s with as little impact on the business as possible, i.e. your studio team. Too often, management requires the business to come up with KPI:s without telling them how to measure or why they need them. The result is often an Excel report with a snapshot of the business that has taken up too many hours of valuable studio time. In other words, you do it once in a while or when the boss wants/needs it.

With these prerequisites in place, here are ten KPI:s you should consider for your creative production studio:

  1. Studio time & SLA 
  2. Production time 
  3. Productivity 
  4. Image availability / In stock, unpublished
  5. Retake ate 
  6. Age of photo samples / “Sample Aging Report” 
  7. Resource utilization 
  8. Quality Safety 
  9. Sales results

1. Studio time & SLA

Studio time & SLA are related but not quite the same thing. Studio time is simply how long the process takes from when the photo sample arrives in the studio to image delivery. SLA, or “Service Level Agreement”, is a commitment to complete the process in a certain amount of time. In internal studios, this is sometimes called “speed to web,” which can be an important measure for your studio if one of your central goals is to get products online quickly.

For external studios that provide services to customers, this is often what your customers or stakeholders want to know: How long does it take for me to get my images? This is one of the unique things about SLA, it can be an explicit agreement with external stakeholders, whether they are customers or another internal department.

Studio time is a key measure that can help improve the process. Measuring studio time involves setting a goal, identifying measurement points, and measuring. With the results, you can then make process changes and measure again.

2. Production time

Production time is essentially the time it takes to produce visual content. Production time can be broken down in a number of different ways, such as time per individual, product, set, or task. But at the highest level, we only look at how many products and images your studio produced during a certain period of time. This measure provides a basic foundation for a variety of things, not least productivity.

Knowing production time is good for resource planning. While productivity is a measure against a goal that can take into account many other measures, production time is simple and easy to use. However, what production time may lack is proper context, so it must be reviewed by someone who knows how to qualify data. When used correctly, the throughput measure can be an important studio control.

If the production time in the studio shows a certain level for a long time, and then suddenly and significantly goes up or down, it can be an indicator that something is wrong and the process needs to be reviewed.

3. Productivity

Productivity is more than just production time. Typically, productivity is a control of production time against something like budget or staffing. It’s not just how much was produced in a certain amount of time, but what resources were required to produce that amount. This is the measure that CFOs often talk about because it boils down to the cost of running a studio. It’s also where you can identify more or less valuable elements.

An example could be whether it’s profitable to take extra photos. Does it increase the value of sales or not? Taking two extra photos when the photo sample is in the studio adds a lot of value to the sale but costs relatively little. However, it costs much more to send the product back to the studio a second or third time to take new photos.

4. Image Availability/In-Stock, Not Published

If you are a retailer, this is a key measure. In most cases, you can’t sell a product online without an image. For larger retailers, you should have a clear picture of what products you sell and what can’t be sold due to a lack of images. A lack of images can, in turn, be due to photo samples not arriving at the studio, sitting in the studio for a long time without being photographed, etc.

An example of this KPI could simply be the percentage of products that lack images and how long they have been waiting for images. This way, it can be an indicator of how quickly photo samples come to the studio or it can be an indicator of how quickly the studio works.

5. Re-shoot Rate

Although this can be an indicator of quality, I want to highlight this separately because poor quality is not the only reason for a reshoot. A reshoot can be the result of a styling decision, wardrobe availability, merchandising changes, etc.

The list can be long, so it’s valuable to know how many reshoots are happening in the studio and why they’re happening. The reasons for not retaking a photo should be categorized and reviewed regularly to identify potential process changes. That is, you cannot reject a photo without reason, otherwise, you risk having the same photo taken over and over again.

6. Age of photo samples / "Sample Aging Report"

It can be useful to measure how quickly a photo sample goes through the studio, i.e., from the time the photo sample enters the studio until it is sent back. It is not uncommon for photo samples to be mislabelled, come into the studio without an order, end up on the wrong clothing rack or shelf, or be left waiting for instructions, etc. Even with good technology and proven processes in place, mistakes can happen, and photo samples can be left lying around.

Measuring how quickly a photo sample goes through the studio is a good indicator of whether new requirements need to be set for the client or if there are routines that need to be reviewed. Perhaps routines need to be established for handling photo samples that are not associated with an order or lack instructions. If you see that you have 3 samples that have been in the studio for more than 3 months, it may be time to review the routines.

7. Resource utilization

Resource utilization can encompass many different parts, from equipment to square meters in the studio, from storage capacity of images to availability of specific competencies. Examples of resource utilization can be:

  • Understanding how the space is used and utilized. This can in turn guide future restructuring of the space. 
  • Keeping track of how images are photographed, i.e., what rigging and equipment were used for different types of images and how long different riggings take. 
  • Keeping track of the availability of different competencies, how much they are utilized, and what else they do. It can be a clear indicator of how to staff the studio.

8. Quality

Quality is always a challenge to measure. We often think of aesthetics when we think of quality for a creative studio, and it can certainly be a part of it, but it is a very subjective measure that can be difficult to measure.

However, we can use some objective facts about an image to measure quality. Quality is not just “how does this image look” but it can also be things like following technical specifications, following a style guide, or we can use the degree of re-photography to indicate quality.

When considering aesthetic quality, you really need a system to get feedback in a timely manner, if not in real-time. The quality in an e-commerce studio is usually binary, either good enough or not good enough. If the image is not good enough, it should be fixed quickly to avoid a potentially unusable image.

Note! A bad image is not a problem if it has not left your studio, i.e., bad images can be good as reference objects in the studio but not outside.

9. Safety

You may think of safety as more of a culture than a KPI, but consider this: Without safety as a guiding principle in the studio, there is a risk that your goals, metrics, and KPIs drive the team towards risky behavior. Safety can be culture, it can be a goal, it can be a KPI. It should be all of the above together.

Even before COVID-19, there were many risks in a creative studio, from packaging that generates static electricity to clothing steamers and rigs that risk falling. In the COVID-19 world, the risks have become even greater, and it is the studio management’s responsibility to ensure the protection of people, both customers, staff, and others who may be in the studio.

Requirements for incidents to be reported and for safety protocols to be followed are important. This is a KPI that can be exempted from the principle of “measurable with minimal impact.” It is still well worth the effort to measure safety.

10. Sales Results

There are countless variables that affect retail sales and it is difficult to analyse them solely from a study perspective. Even though there are numerous studies that indicate that images are crucial in e-commerce and that “it is impossible to sell a product without an image,” it is challenging to measure. In other words, one should take the time to define this KPI (key performance indicator) and be cautious about the results obtained.

That being said, it can still be interesting and insightful to look at. With A & B testing, you can take two similar products and photograph them with different styling that requires different resources, for example, an invisible mannequin compared to a model, and compare the outcomes. If you have a large business with multiple studios, you can compare the results of similar images between the different studios. However, as mentioned, this should be used with a great deal of caution.

Determine the goals for the team in the studio, determine how you measure performance against those goals, and then be willing to adjust them as needed to ensure that you and your team achieve even greater success.

Profoto Assetflow seamlessly integrates with our automated systems but can also be used stand-alone together with our modular solutions or your studio set-up of choice. No matter what your baseline is, Assetflow supports you in reaching the next level of your content creation by streamlining your workflow and managing your assets efficiently. 

Fred Bertenstam

Fred Bertenstam

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