The digital asset management (DAM) market is hot. According to Transparency Market Research, the global DAM market is estimated to reach $6.33 billion by the end of 2025. For comparison, the market was estimated to be worth about $1.73 billion in 2016. That growth was evident in 2018, as advancements in technology that shaped much of the digital world also transformed DAM. For instance, the use of AI made its mark on DAM solutions, including automation in tagging and generating metadata for images and videos.

Many companies in the sector introduced enhanced solutions. Extensis released the first DAM solution with font recognition capabilities, and Aprimo presented Article Editor within its DAM tool to support text-based content along with rich media content. Meanwhile, Contentstack partnered with Egnyte to address users’ DAM needs. Most DAM solutions today offer capabilities such as storage and retrieval, AI-driven search, managing rights and identities, and related functionalities. But did 2018 usher in any key developments?

“DAM as a sector has become more than an application beyond the walls of [marketing technology]. With the explosion of brand creative across all departments within an enterprise, we now see DAM as a companywide layer that serves the entire organization,” says Luke Beatty, CEO and chairman of Brandfolder. “Five years ago, DAM was a fixture within the marketing department. We see our customers extending their DAM functionality across new teams and departments such as product, human resources, and sales. This is a massive opportunity for providers and users.”


The DAM Year in Review

The sector has witnessed a lot of change over the last few years given the explosion in content and the need to manage it in an efficient manner. According to Bryan Yeager, research director at Gartner, “One of the highlights this year was AI services. Metadata management taxonomy has been one of the biggest bottlenecks in DAM, and auto-tagging instantly makes assets searchable.”

Another big trend in 2018 was the increasing use of analytics. “We are moving from production analytics to performance analytics, looking at how all the activity within DAM affects execution and drives performance. Making analytics more user-friendly, accessible, and actionable by using everything from the usage metrics and other things happening within the four walls of the DAM system to closing that loop and getting true visibility into all the work that it took to create all of these assets and put them to use,” Yeager says. “There’s been a big push in growth in analytics teams and the practice of analytics. A lot of it is aspirational, but it is headed in the right direction in terms of better insights and content intelligence.”

As for mobile-first and video content, Yeager observes that AI-driven auto-tagging capabilities that were primarily geared toward photography and imagery are now being used for video transcription. A transcript makes the entire video searchable, so that finding a particular point in that video and then potentially doing some AI-driven composition of new videos is possible. “There is some interesting experimentation going on in being able to extract different elements across multiple videos to then create a new video. There is also more inline video collaboration for workflow and approvals so more lightweight video-editing tools are seen in a native web interface,says Yeager. This capability was primarily print layout-based or imagery-based, but that is now moving to video. When once another video-editing package had to be used to accomplish the creation of video content, that functionality is becoming more accessible within DAM systems. Given the increase in consumption of video and mobile content, this saves content creators time.

According to Jake Athey, VP of marketing at Widen, highlights in 2018 included many new market entrants and growth at all levels—small, mid-market, or enterprise—driven by the focus on customer experience and personalization and an increased demand to create, contribute, and use richer content.

Beatty says, “Many of the opportunities and challenges for DAM were centered on integrations. Because today’s enterprise DAM increasingly touches so many departments and third-party platforms, it forced us to thoughtfully craft a long-term integrations roadmap beyond simple APIs. We also saw a democratization of creative tools that we hadn’t seen before. Companies like Adobe used to be alone at the center of creative development. Today, quality creative assets are often developed by AI using low-cost, low-friction tools. These products have turned everyone into a creator at some level and have multiplied the volume and format types found in creative libraries.”


A Look Ahead at DAM

Yeager points to two areas of note in the upcoming year—connecting DAM and sales enablement and data-driven templating for self-fulfilling services. However, the really innovative work, he says, is in support for 3D graphics, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) capabilities. “You can upload 3D graphics and view them in the DAM, maybe do some very lightweight editing too, but now we are getting into a stage where you can actually do composition of 3D graphics,” says Yeager. Athey agrees, saying that trends to watch out for include systems integration for shared assets and metadata, the rise of 3D, 360-degree video and imagery, AR and VR content, and security and compliance. Other aspects of DAM to keep an eye on are the demand for “the content hub,” managing content assets, product content, projects in one place, and content production and performance analytics in terms of how people are using the DAM.

“The biggest opportunity for DAM in 2019 is to move beyond the logistics of creative and provide users with insights and intelligence,” says Beatty. “To Brandfolder, brand logistics means getting the right creative to the right person or platform in the right format at the right time. What’s beyond logistics? Insights and intelligence rest both in the creative itself and the distribution of it. DAM is evolving from being solely a source of truth to becoming an optimization tool.”

The industry still faces several roadblocks. There is a lack of awareness about the solutions available in the market because many companies are still using older enterprise content management platforms with some DAM-like capabilities, but not necessarily purpose-built DAM solutions for the creative services or marketing use cases that are required for their organizations. Another challenge for DAM adoption is the lack of intuitive tools, which has resulted in investment from vendors in user experience and interface design.

As Yeager points out, “DAM is still such a big fragmented space. There are middle market companies that are trying to move upmarket. There are others serving the enterprise global deployment. You have Nuxeo, which is an open source provider trying to deliver a software-as-a-service business, but then there [are] also traditional content management platforms like Percolate that [have] native digital asset management capabilities.”

Given all the capability that is available and evolving, evaluating the market for how a DAM system will support an organization’s use cases is vital. Yeager says, “There is a lot of feature pairing, and this technology is an investment, so really vet for capability convergence and do your due diligence to make the right decision for your needs.”