In the fast-paced world of ecommerce, where SKU proliferation, flash sales, and holiday season pressure demand quick turnarounds, creative departments are under immense pressure to keep up. To increase throughput and control costs, they have traditionally relied on third-party retouching agencies like Pixelz for assistance.
However, recent advancements in AI is reshaping the way product images are processed. AI image retouching tools now offer faster, more accurate, and cost-effective alternatives to traditional methods especially for low to mid-end retouching tasks.
In this article we will look at the two ends of the eCommerce image retouching spectrum.
We will examine Pixelz, a manual retouching agency known for its expertise & human touch, and Crop.photo, a fully automatic AI-powered photo retouching tool that represents the cutting edge of image processing technology.
The Pixelz workflow relies heavily on offshore manual retouchers and while some AI has been introduced into their service offering, their service delivery is still burdened with long production timelines often ranging from hours for expensive enterprise plans to several days for cheaper subscription tiers.
Crop.photo is a 100% AI-powered fully automated online photo retouching tool used by retouchers at eCommerce companies and fashion retailers for creating marketplace ready product photos. Crop.photo automates, in minutes for large image batches, repetitive touch-up tasks like background removal & replacement, unrecognizable face crops, and content aware resizing. Production timelines are measured in minutes and seconds, freeing retouchers to concentrate on high-end editing.
Automation versus Manual Processing
For photo post-production teams at eCommerce businesses seeking a competitive edge, is automation a better alternative to manual processing? Let’s take a look.
Here’s a simple but common scenario. Imagine you are a retouching manager for an eCommerce retailer that needs to publish 1500 new images into a marketplace seller account on Amazon.com every month. To do this you need each image to meet the following Amazon guidelines:
1. Background must be white
2. On-model main images must be headless or unrecognizable
3. Dimension must be 1600x1600 pixels
Since this is a flash sales event you have a strict 12 hour deadline to update the images.
The cost of Pixelz's retouching services - which include background removal, cropping, alignment, and color-matching - start at about $1.00 per image. For expedited service, to get the images back quickly in under 3 hours you will need to pay more. Because you are on a tight deadline you decide to go for the Pixelz expedited service which costs an additional $1.50 per image. In our retouching example, the total cost for each image is $2.50, resulting in a total of $3,750 for the 1,500-image collection.
The expenses don’t stop here.
Pixelz charges a monthly subscription fee of $95 for the “Professional” plan or $1995 for the “Enterprise” plan. New customers should also brace themselves for an onboarding fee, ranging from $1,295 to a whopping $4,995, contingent upon the plan. Optional extras, like product training and custom specifications, may further increase the overall cost by a few thousands of dollars every month.
This financial barrier can be a deal breaker for many post-production teams when dealing with large volumes of imagery as they directly impact a company’s bottom line.
In contrast, Crop.photo provides high-quality AI-powered photo retouching services at a significantly lower cost compared to Pixelz. With six subscription tiers, including a free option, Crop.photo caters to a broad range of retouching requirements.
For instance, the $675 per month tier is perfect for eCommerce retailers just starting out. The same scenario would lead to savings of $3,750-$675 = $3,075 i.e. 82% more cost effective than using Pixelz.
Crop.photo has no onboarding or setup fees. Ongoing operating costs are minimal and the time saved using a rich set of AI tools make it an ideal solution for companies needing to improve their bottom line in the hyper competitive, visual marketing driven eCommerce sector.
Wholesale teams that need to target 20+ marketplaces each with their own marketplace standards for imagery will find this extremely attractive for the bulk image retouching scenarios referred to above.
This fast paced environment has made it imperative for businesses to reduce turnaround time for product photo retouching. Any service offering, promising a turnaround time of between 3 hours and 48 hours is potentially putting eCommerce retailers at risk. Competitive advantage is driven by among other things, speed to market.
PixelZ’s turnaround times depend on the service tier. Enterprise customers running Flow offering can expect a 3-hour turnaround, while the “Pro” tier has a “next-morning” turnaround. Finally the “Solo” tier has a 48-hour turnaround. These longer turnaround times hinder eCommerce retailers from staying competitive and meeting customers’ expectations.
On the other hand, Crop.photo provides instant image retouching, which benefits both major eCommerce companies and smaller boutique online shops. Near real-time turnaround at scale separates Crop.photo from Pixelz and gives eCommerce companies a significant time to market advantage.
Any system that requires the addition of more and more people to drive growth in capacity is not sustainable.
Cost effective throughput is a crucial performance metric for eCommerce creative operations, and the availability of image retouching capacity plays a pivotal role in achieving this goal. However factors like SKU proliferation and companies designing products later in the season put significant time to market pressures on creative operations.
Even at companies like H&M that design approximately 80% of their product line prior to the season, image retouching capacity is crucial for managing flash sales,holiday sales and new product initiatives.
Image retouching capacity is a critical success factor for any eCommerce company choosing a retouching workflow solution.
The Professional plan can handle up to 200 images with a next-morning turnaround time. For Enterprise customers with a minimum monthly spend of $8,000, custom capacity and faster turnaround times can be negotiated.
However, the capacity drops significantly for expedited retouching, with a three-hour turnaround time. Pixelz’s expedited retouching process has a capacity limit of 20 images for the Professional plan and 50 images for the Enterprise plan. It is important to note that expedited images cost an additional $1.25 per image, which can make it an expensive proposition for business owners wanting to respond in real time to market events.
For many companies using manual processing, turnaround times for high volume image retouching is a serious challenge both operationally and commercially.
With Crop.photo, creative operation & post-production teams have a solution to handle SKU proliferation, flash sales, holiday sales and unplanned campaigns, without breaking a sweat. With unlimited automations and AI trained algorithms, Crop.photo can retouch hundreds or even thousands of images within minutes!
Creative operations that do not want to rely 100% on AI automation, can increase capacity by using Crop.photo for time-intensive and repetitive tasks like background removal and faceless crops.
Errors are an inevitable part of manual processes, including professional retouching. Retouching requires a high level of attention to detail and concentration, and factors like fatigue, distraction, boredom, difficult deadlines, and general technology issues can impact the throughput and quality of a retoucher's work.
Companies like Pixelz rely heavily on human retouchers and are therefore prone to human errors. We analyzed a sample of Pixelz’s customer reviews online and found that amongst the negative reviews poor background removal, incorrect resizing, and missed deadlines were the most common complaints.
Thankfully retouchers & eCommerce companies can use Crop.photo to accurately remove backgrounds, create unrecognizable face crops and smart resize images. The time saved by retouchers can then be used to enhance the quality of tasks that demand creative thinking, such as color correction.
Incorporating Crop.photo into the retouching process is a game-changer for quality-focused creative teams.
Crop.photo utilizes custom trained AI-models for image retouching and is a 100% cloud based automated tool. This means that the platform does not rely on manual retouchers at all, leveraging advanced AI-powered algorithms to offer automations at unmatched price points.
Pixelz also uses AI for their image retouching services but they still rely heavily on manual retouchers to do the heavy lifting which is why the costs are high and the turnaround times are long.
Only Crop.photo uses AI face recognition algorithms to identify faces in images and then automatically creates unrecognizable face crops for on-model imagery.
Crop.photo’s AI also knows how to crop faces at different markers including eyes, mouth, and nose, it can also detect body angles such as back shots and still crop them accurately. The AI's ability to perform this task quickly and accurately outperforms any manual retouchers, offering a more economical solution.
Content-aware resizing is an AI image editing technique to preserve the primary focus of a photo, be it a model or a product, while resizing or altering the aspect ratio.
This unique & innovative feature offered only by Crop.photo eliminates the need for manual framing and resizing, ensuring that the most important product elements of the image remain undisturbed during the editing process.
Crop.photo offers automations that optimize eCommerce creative workflows by combining background removal/replacement and intelligent resizing features into one seamless step speeding up one of the most common sets of retouching tasks from hours/days to minutes.
Crop.photo requires no onboarding making it a plug-and-play experience for users. On the other hand, Pixelz has an elaborate onboarding process as mentioned above and takes time to set up.
Crop.photo's UI is modern, intuitive, and easy to use, and users can get started without any training. The app has one-click automations making it a breeze to use.
Another advantage of Crop.photo is that it runs on the cloud and does not drain your computer's resources, allowing the retouchers to continue to use their workstations for other image related tasks while Crop.photo works behind the screen in the cloud on hundreds of images in a batch.
In contrast, Pixelz's web based platform has a steep learning curve that will take time to master.
Crop.photo serves as a sidekick or a virtual assistant for retouchers, by handling mundane, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks like background removal.
Despite delegating labor-intensive tasks to Crop.photo, retouchers retain full creative control. They can step in to make fine adjustments to the output such as using the background cleanup tool in Crop.photo, ensuring that their artistic vision remains intact throughout the process.
Crop.photo allows retouchers to maintain a competitive edge against low-cost offshore alternatives. By enhancing efficiency and preserving creative control, retouchers enabled with Crop.photo can offer a uniquely tailored, superior-quality service at a price point that makes a compelling case against 100% outsourcing of retouching workflows for low to mid-end tasks.
When to use Crop.photo?
Low to mid-end retouching tasks such as unrecognizable face crops, background replacement, bulk image resizing are perfect candidates to offload to Crop.photo for a fraction of the price charged by services like Pixelz.
Currently, Crop.photo does not handle high-end retouching tasks.
When to use Pixelz?
For high-end retouching tasks that require professional retouchers to manually fix defects in images such as skin blemishes, it is worthwhile to delegate to manual retouchers or retouching firms like Pixelz.
In the dynamic world of eCommerce, selecting the right image editing service is essential for eCommerce marketplaces to optimize their visual content, reduce time to market, and meet customer expectations amidst intense competition.
While Pixelz offers a range of manual retouching services, its reliance on offshore retouchers and longer turnaround times for basic retouching tasks hinders creative operation teams striving to scale image post-production to rapidly changing market demands.
Crop.photo offers a fully automated retouching solution that delivers instant image editing, effectively catering to the needs of both large-scale and small-scale eCommerce operations for the common retouching tasks.
Crop.photo is a must have solution for eCommerce businesses and their retouching teams seeking operational efficiency, cost control and adaptability to market conditions.