Shopify Guides Your Shot

Shopify wants to help its merchants take the perfect pic.

Photo by Szabo Viktor via Unsplash.

Sign up to uncover the latest in emerging technology.

Shopify wants to save its merchants from having to shell out for a photographer. 

The company is seeking to patent a system for “generating recommendations” during photo shoots of a product. Essentially, Shopify’s system pairs with the camera available on a user’s device (such as a smartphone or tablet camera) and provides guidance while the user is taking images of a product. 

To break it down: The system first collects “baseline image features” of the product the user is trying to shoot, such as size or color, using an “image analysis algorithm” that examines one previously-taken photo of a product. 

Then, this system provides real-time, in-viewfinder recommendations while the merchant is taking additional photos, such as angle fixes, lighting improvements or changes to the background. In one implementation, Shopify’s system deactivates the image capture button until its recommendations are taken by the user. 

The company said its system prevents visual differences that stem from a number of issues, including aspect ratio, camera and product angles, depth, lighting and background clutter. This system ensures that a merchant’s photos meet a threshold of similarity set by the baseline image, Shopify noted, aiming to improve overall image consistency and save time on post-photoshoot editing. 

“Products and/or photos may be related to one another and, as such, consistency amongst the photos is crucial,” Shopify said in its filing. “Any visual differences in the related photos may result in a poor experience for the customer and may lead to reduced brand appeal and/or sales.” 

Photo via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Good imagery is a vital part of online marketing and e-commerce, Tierney said. But over-edited photos of products often make buyers distrustful, she said, as more often people turn to customer reviews with non-professional photos to get a fuller picture of what they’re actually buying. Shopify’s patent seeks to avoid the pitfall of over-editing, as the company notes that “inconsistent photos may not be editable to achieve the desired consistency.” 

While this patent seems like a tool for helping merchants with the fundamentals, Shopify’s long been interested in immersive customer experiences. The company has been experimenting with AR since 2018, and announced its commitment to the tech in a blog post in December. The company has sought to patent “multi-user augmented reality” that allows users to see an AR product from different perspectives. 

“In terms of innovative e-commerce experiences, Shopify is leading the way,” said Tierney. “The company has been investing heavily in augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to create more immersive and personalized shopping experiences for its merchants and customers.” 

However, Shopify has faced a considerable shakeup in recent months: The company cut 20% of its workforce in May, after having cut 10% last July. Though CEO Tobias Lütke didn’t specify which business units would be cut, the company also announced that it would offload its entire logistics unit to shipments company Flexport.  

“The main quest of the company is its mission, the reason for the company to exist. Side quests are everything else. Side quests are always distracting because the company has to split focus,” Lütke said in Shopify’s announcement of the layoff. “For the past year we’ve been subtracting everything that’s in the way of making the best possible product.”

But the tech in this patent, filed in February, may live to see the light of day, as it fits squarely into the core business which Lütke aims to refocus on: creating tools that are a “copilot” for its merchants. 

Have any comments, tips or suggestions? Drop us a line! Email at admin@patentdrop.xyz or shoot us a DM on Twitter @patentdrop. If you want to get Patent Drop in your inbox, click here to subscribe.