Japan’s ZenFotomatic wants to help online stores with easy photo enhancement features



See the original story in Japanese.

ZenFotomatic is a cloud-based automated photo cropping and enhancement tool and was recently introduced by an Osaka-based startup called Glams. Since its beta launch back in September 2013, the service has acquired more than 1,200 accounts from Japan as well as over 600 accounts from abroad.

Photos often need to be color corrected or trimmed before uploading to a website, regardless of how much carefully you consider camera settings like resolution or white balance when you take a photo. It is not difficult to enhance one or two photos manually. But for apparel e-commerce sites that list a number of item photos this task can be very time-consuming and even hinder their regular business operations.

Glams has also its own online store in Japan’s largest online shopping mall Rakuten. In suffering from busy, yet non-productive, routine tasks every day, the Osaka outfit came up with the idea developing ZenFotomatic to improve the situation. The company’s co-founder and CEO Daisuke Miura told us a bit about it.

Daisuke Miura

Unlike big fashion e-commerce sites, in-mall online stores have to list a new item as soon as it arrives. Because the earlier you can list it, the higher rank in a search result your item will be listed in. So it’s more likely for you to acquire potential buyers.

However, the photo enhancement process is very tough for online stores, especially for the ones with a small team like us. We are a five-person team but were often forced to work overnight for enhancing photos. We thought that more than a few online merchants have the same problem. To address it, I was jestingly discussing with New Zealander engineer Blain Hosford in my team, and he subsequently completed ZenFotomatic.

If you set a certain threshold in the app, it can automatically detect the boundary of a object and its background in a photo using a proprietary algorithm, which is obviously the core technology. It has no feature yet to learn user preference, but if you claim that your picture is inappropriately processed, it will be transferred to the Glams engineering team and they will analyze it to optimize the algorithm.

Their service prices start from 2,500 yen (almost $25) for enhancing 100 photos. The service is originally designed for small-sized and shorthanded online stores, but now even several big e-commerce companies are using it as well, so it seems like they also have a monthly flat rate pricing plan for such heavy users.

We understand that they maintain its focus on the Japanese market for now but wants to begin global expansion as money can be raised while an appropriate operating officer in addition to good engineers can be hired. The Glams CEO added:

The e-commerce ratio in Japan is as low as 3%, which is obviously lower than that of the US (5 to 7%) and UK (9%). I think there will be more opportunities available outside the country. Our service is non-verbal so we really want to reach out to the global market in the future.

Image composite feature

The company recently added a new feature that allows you to composite your preferred images very easily. For online store owners, it makes you easier to add stickers or logos to a number of your existing photos in a batch operation.

When I heard about this feature for the first time, I couldn’t understand why there is a need for it because from the developer’s perspective, I thought these image composite features are usually supported on the e-commerce platform side. In a response to my question, Miura explained:

Our potential users are small and medium-sized online store owners. Many of their stores are located in a big online mall, where they have no way to generate composited images dynamically. They usually complete processing images on their desktops and upload such completed static images to the website. So we added the feature and enabled users to complete these processes in a batch operation on the ZenFotomatic cloud.

Talking about e-commerce solutions, we like to imagine big ones designed for big e-commerce players. But I think Glams added this feature in order to provide more convenience to in-mall store owners.

I often hear from Japanese e-commerce company NetPrice.com’s CEO Teruhide Sato, who’s best known for having invested in payments processors and logistics operators in Turkey, India, and Indonesia, that there’s a common pattern for the e-commerce industry in the process of spreading in any country. Now we see several fulfillment services for e-commerce operators in developing countries, so we may probably expect ZenFotomatic to become one of the standards and an essential item for all e-commerce players around the world soon.