Jo Mackie, founder of Auckland-based photography studio, Asset Factory, talks working with big name retailers such as Swanndri, and iPad-operated photography machines.
What does your business do?
Asset Factory is an e-commerce content creation hub, we have automated photography machines that help brands that we work with create content consistently and efficiently. Our focus is creating content for online stores and social media channels. We don't have any traditional photography, we have four automated product machines that are iPad-operated that create content depending on the different outputs.
We have an on-model machine that takes product stills and videos, a machine that captures manikin imagery, a machine that captures flat lay imagery and a machine that shoots stills and videos for small products.
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With digital commerce and the need to create regular and fresh content, we have clients that come in every couple of weeks, months, whenever they have new product releases. Our most popular service is the DYI service, where brands come in and take photos themselves - style and position the products exactly how they want it to be. We also have a drop and run service where people drop off product and we shoot it for them.
What was the motivation for starting it?
In 2014, my husband and I could see the growth of digital commerce in overseas markets, and with it the need for product imagery. We could see that trend was going to come to the Australasian market, with regular product releases and the increased volume of imagery that retailers need, we could see that traditional methods were struggling to meet demand.
The business was initially set up as a partnership with StyleShoots, the world leader in automated photography machines. From that, the growth of machine sales into established retail brands in Australasia like The Warehouse Group, Cotton On Group, who purchased the machines in their own internal studios, started to create demand from other local retailers who were finding out about that technology, so through that demand we established the business.
Which retailers are your clients?
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We work with Swanndri, Huffer, Ecostore, Tuesday Label, Bendon. We have quite a few out-of-town brands who will come up for the week and shoot their entire collections. We also work with food brands such as huckleberry.
How big is the team?
We're a team of four - all full timers.
What's your background and how did you come across the photography machines?
My background is actually in hearing health; I've had an amazing career in audiology that spanned about 22 years. From that, I had my own clinic in Orewa, it was good experience in running a business. My husband Andy has a background in content creation. He was working for a brand reviewing content creation and looking at the road blocks with seeing the growth of digital commerce.
The transition from hearing health to content creation was easier than I thought. With hearing health and hearing aid technology, the growth and development of that over my career has been substantial with the advancements. I love working with technology that makes people's lives easier from a lifestyle point of view; in this case it's from a content creation point of view, breaking down the barriers to access.
Where do you see Asset Factory in five years?
We're not limiting ourselves to just the New Zealand market. We see other markets and Australasia would want to access similar studio models - this is the new way of creating content in a fast and efficient way. Australia is where we will initially look at.
How has Covid-19 affected the business?
It has affected us in a positive way. More retailers are coming to us. Consumers have been trained because of the pandemic to shop online more and we're seeing a greater need for people to create content. A lot more people are getting in touch with us, smaller brands that perhaps hadn't considered e-commerce as much before, and we've also tailored packages to enable those with a small number of products to kickstart their business.
For clients during lockdown, they reported a sudden decrease in online traffic and sales which lasted a couple of days in March - consumers were really confused about what was going on. Those that pivoted reported a jump in online sales in April, some reported a between 100 to 300 per cent increase in online transactions during lockdown.
What advice do you give others thinking about starting their own business?
Know what your niche is and know what you're passionate about. Research before you set up a business so that you do all of the leg work beforehand.