Digital stores offering downloadable or streamable entertainment are a fairly recent phenomenon. Telling the 10 year old me in 1988 that I would have instant access to millions of music tracks and thousands of TV shows, movies and video games in under two decades, while I was still buying cartridges for the NES, would have totally blown my mind. Now here we are in 2018 and digital distribution is the norm.

We’re lucky to have so many things to occupy our time at the touch of a button (or two), but if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for then there’s a huge amount to wade through to find something of interest. The sheer volume of products available on iTunes, the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Store, Virgin TV Store, Sky Store, Netflix and Amazon, etc. can mean that we actually spend most of our time just browsing. Then there’s the issue of knowing what you want to watch and actually being able to find it. What do you do if you can’t remember the title of the film you fancy watching? There’s no handy sales assistant to help out, hopefully you can remember the name of that hot actor (or actress) who makes an appearance so you can search by them instead, thankfully new releases still have their own section!

Likewise, from a publisher or distributor point of view, seeing where your product is located within the store, how visible it is to the shopper and how easily it can be found is no longer as easy as walking into the shop with a camera in hand. So what happens when you have hundreds of products that you’re trying to keep track of across all the many digital stores around the world and you need visuals of every one and where they sit within each virtual store? You could employ a team of people to manually check every digital outlet, take screenshots and record it all but that would be time consuming and expensive, resources that could be better utilised elsewhere in the business. This was the problem that one of our biggest clients, Disney, came to us with. They wanted to be sure that all their titles were being properly represented and that any promotional agreements were being implemented correctly. While we were already tracking prices, pre-order and sell through figures across digital stores we weren’t looking at product visibility and discoverability. However, we took on this challenge with our usual gusto and relished in the excitement of yet more innovation and a whole new USP for us.

It was not a quick and easy development path, just accessing some of the subscription only stores was an initial obstacle, then there was the issue of image recognition. Finding a programme to pick out and distinguish individual boxshots from the main background proved tricky and in the end we had to write our own bespoke piece of software to scan for, recognise and capture images, which then had to be tailored to each specific retailer. iTunes completely overhauling and redesigning their store set us back a few weeks, but fast forward six months and we now have an almost fully automated system to scan, locate and capture specific boxshots, along with flowcases, bricks and rooms within digital retailers throughout Europe. Add to that our long established expertise in handling and analysing huge data sets and we now have another satisfied client and a new notch to our belt.

However, the story’s not over yet, we still have lots more work to do to roll out worldwide and capture all the necessary data and images from digital stores outside of Europe. That’s the long term plan anyway, but as we’ve already made the biggest step into this new business area, we’re now focusing our resources on further improving our core services for the next few months.