Digital asset management (DAM) is the storage, retrieval, management, optimisation and distribution of digital files. Many brands and retailers use complex digital asset management systems to assist with the organisation of massive volumes of files, images and videos.
In short, DAM software helps you manage your brand’s content, and passes it on to people or connected systems. Put more simply, it’s a central database for a company’s digital files. Let’s take a deeper dive though to fully answer the question, what is digital asset management?
What are Digital Assets?
Digital assets are any electronically stored materials with which companies can create value. These materials include, but are not limited to, audio, images, slide decks, spreadsheets, videos, websites and works-in-progress.
Other examples of common digital assets and their file extensions:
- Documents (.docx, .pdf, .html, .txt, .pptx)
- Spreadsheets (.xlsx, .csv, .tsv, .sxc, .ods)
- Images (.gif, .jpeg, .png, .tiff, .bmp)
- Videos (.mp4, .mov, .avi, .wmv, .flv, .html5)
- Audio (.mp3, .aac, .flac, .wav, .alac)
- Works-in-Progress (.psd, .psp, .prproj, .fcpx)
How Does a Digital Asset Management System Work?
At their most basic level, digital asset management systems work by enabling workflows your team can use to store and share files. Each time a user uploads a new asset, they assign metadata to the file. Metadata includes keywords, attributes and tags that the system uses to categorise, search for, and retrieve specific content.
Types of digital asset management systems
DAM providers typically offer two types of systems. On-premises DAMs use servers physically located on-site, while cloud-based DAMs store files electronically.
Employees of companies using cloud-based DAMs, also known as SaaS or web-based DAMs, can access systems from anywhere, whereas workers must be physically connected to a local area network (LAN) to access files stored on-premises.
If you’re deciding which type of DAM solution is right for you, read our post on the differences between on-premises and SaaS DAMs to better understand each option’s pros and cons.
Types of SaaS-Based DAMs
Additionally, there are two types of SaaS DAMs, also known as cloud-based DAM systems, and each has a different level of flexibility versus simplicity.
The first type is traditional DAM software, which comes with a pre-built front-end and user interface (UI). Traditional DAMs are plug-and-play and ready for implementation out of the box. However, these systems rely on strict, pre-determined workflows.
Headless DAMs, on the other hand, are fully customisable using advanced programming interfaces, also known as APIs. Since these systems don’t use pre-built UIs or pre-defined workflows, you can implement custom processes that make the most sense for your business. Most enterprises prefer headless DAM systems because the platforms allow the flexibility required for managing huge amounts of digital assets.
Types of On-Premises DAMs
An on-premises DAM is a digital asset management system hosted by the company or organization using it. These are common in industries that require a high-level of security or have a large, cheap availability of labor (think Universities) that can manage and maintain the infrastructure required to operate something as complex as a DAM.
On-premises DAMs can be managed externally but hosted locally, homebrewed, or completely self-contained. To operate a locally-hosted or on-premises DAM requires a large amount of server space, an ability to maintain and upkeep the servers, and room to store the servers in.
This makes on-premises DAMs a hard thing to manage for many businesses. Unless you have a large, dedicated team able to manage, maintain and develop it, you would be better off with a SaaS DAM.
What makes this different to my existing PIM, MAM, or CDN?
On the surface, digital asset management platforms sound a lot like product information management (PIM), media asset management (MAM) or content delivery networks (CDN). However, there are some crucial differences worth outlining.
Differences Between PIM and DAM
The primary difference between a DAM and a PIM is the task each system performs. A PIM system is responsible for storing and delivering product data, whereas a DAM solution stores and distributes various types of files.
These systems are complementary to each other. A DAM system can help your team access and deliver certain files to specific retailers. A PIM system can help your team access and deliver product specifications, numbers, and other descriptive text to product detail pages (PDPs).
Differences Between MAM and DAM
The difference between digital and media asset management is more nuanced. Media asset management is the process of creating, storing, distributing and analysing media files. This gives media asset management a more specific role in the file management space. MAM systems have more capabilities surrounding the management of videos but lack functionalities in other areas like documents, images or works-in-progress.
Digital asset management platforms, on the other hand, provide an all-encompassing solution. DAM software provides you and your team with the flexibility to work with all kinds of file types for all types of purposes, otpimise those files and deliver them to relevant stakeholders.
Why do You Need a Digital Asset Management System?
If you work for a typical eCommerce company, chances are you would benefit from implementing digital asset management processes and systems at your company.
1. You Have Huge Volumes of Files
As a system (and in some cases, a job description), a digital asset manager provides a comprehensive overview of all your files and assets which improves efficiency, improves asset performance, strengthens security and accelerates production timelines.
If you work with a lot of files, a digital asset management system will help you organise, store and share files in a secure and central location. DAM software helps employees use digital materials like images, videos and other media more effectively and in a controlled manner. As mentioned by the Content Marketing Institute, “DAM is concerned with delivering the right content, to the right people, on all devices.”
Because the number of images, videos, documents, and other files increases exponentially with a company’s growth, it becomes harder and harder to keep track of which files are being used where, who’s working on what and where the final products are being delivered.
As a result, time is lost organizing files and managing all the different versions of an individual asset becomes increasingly complex. Without an overview of your digital content and the licences you hold for each asset, you risk receiving costly warnings if the content is used incorrectly.
A digital asset management system solves these problems through clean, central management of digital content with associated metadata and clear versioning. These are just a few of the many reasons to rely on a DAM system as an eCommerce company.
2. You Have Several Types of Users
There are different roles in the digital asset management process, and you should implement user permissions according to the structure of your company.
The users of a digital asset management system are widely distributed across a firm. Chances are, most departments will use specific aspects of a digital asset management platform every day.
Marketing and content will use the system to make new advertising material, product images/videos, or even 3D content available company wide.
Other departments can also create and store files in the system. In principle, it makes sense to give every employee at least read-only access so that everyone has access to uniform content and information.
3. You Need to Optimise File Delivery Based on Device
Even in companies with standard processes, people have different hardware and systems they use, even within the same teams. Apple products use different formats than Windows systems, which use different formats from devices using an Android OS.
By using a DAM with dynamic delivery and image optimisation already built-in, you will save your team time and resources converting files, establish a standardised way of working, and ultimately increase the speed with which you can deliver new content.
How to Choose the Right DAM System for Your Company
Selecting digital asset management software is important regardless of the size and industry your firm operates in. However, before you start with the selection process, you need to know your current workflow, the problems your employees have with the status quo and how much time and resources you spend maintaining files the way things are.
After you understand this, there are other questions you need to answer before you begin your search. Here are some basic criteria most companies find useful in helping them narrow down their search for their next digital asset management platform.
- How many users should use the DAM?
- How many files should be saved?
- Is there a focus on specific content formats (e.g., videos)?
- Will the system be used internationally?
- Which systems need to be connected to the DAM?
- What languages does the system need to support?
- Which formats does the digital asset management system need to be able to convert?
- Do individual workflows have to be mapped in the DAM?
- Does the digital asset management system also have to be able to deliver content efficiently?
- Should the DAM be hosted in the cloud or on-premises?
- Are functions with artificial intelligence required?
By taking the time to properly map out your company’s needs, you get a better picture of exactly the type of system you need. This can also help you build RFPs to send to vendors and get the best DAM software for your organization’s unique requirements.
What advantages does a DAM platform offer eCommerce companies?
Online stores are full of digital content. The diversity of this content is a key element in helping your customers make purchasing decisions.
Therefore, it’s important that you can manage large volumes of images, videos, and various other file formats in a scalable manner to operate the shop. Organising this content in a DAM system enables easy and quick access to any asset related to any of your products at any time.
Since you must update and maintain your content regularly, it’s best to integrate a digital asset management process cleanly into your company’s existing workflows and shop systems.
For eCommerce businesses, digital asset management should also include the responsibilities of distributing optimised files directly to your partner retailers’ shops. This saves time-consuming conversion and publication processes for digital content.
Digital Asset Management for International Companies
For international companies, a DAM system plays an even more crucial role. A content hub allows employees to work internationally with company assets and makes information available in several languages based on location. Therefore, the support of multilingual metadata should be an important factor when choosing a DAM in an international corporate context.
Digital asset management is one of the most important processes for an eCommerce business. These systems and the elements of them are the central points for all a brand’s digital content.
A DAM makes the use of media, facilitates search and creating multiple versions of an asset easier by sourcing them from one primary file. In addition, it simplifies the international use of media and avoids costly licensing problems by providing your employees with the ability to assign additional metadata to digital assets.
However, it’s only possible to implement DAM software optimally when it is seamlessly integrated into the processes of a company and made easily accessible to many employees. An example would be using a DAM system in parallel with a PIM platform to take full control of your retailer’s product pages.
By choosing the right system, you can greatly improve your processes, increase efficiencies across your business, strengthen security and improve your overall performance.
Check out the DemoUp Cliplister blog for more information about product content and how it can be used to improve your eCommerce business or visit the homepage to see an overview of DemoUp Clipister’s full line of products and services.