4 Ways Shutterstock Creates Lasting API Partnerships

Shutterstock launched its image API in 2012 as both a B2B and a B2D (business to developer) solution. Today, the company offers an image, video, and music API, along with reverse image search, editing tools, and a suite of plugins.

In the highly competitive world of stock photography, Shutterstock carefully cultivates its Shutterstock API partnership program, and is proud of its excellent track record for retaining and growing partnerships worldwide. The company takes a partners-first approach, incorporating that philosophy at all point of contact with both prospects and existing partners. The result? Nearly an 100% partner retention rate. Shutterstock takes a four-pronged approach to its API strategy. The company emphasizes delivering:

1. Scalable Value for the Partner

Shutterstock realized their most business partnerships fueling the need for product consumption. The company's customers could not afford stagnation. To best prepare a partner for future growth, Shutterstock designed its technical infrastructure to support large quantities of requests per minute, and thought far ahead—the volume supported today well exceeds that currently generated by the company's biggest partners.

Additionally, the stateless nature of the REST API protocol gives Shutterstock's partners the flexibility to grow their user base without running into data management and manipulations concerns, such as increasing web architecture complexity, server load balancing, or constraints around the number of concurrent sessions they can support.

The company's partnership with Facebook is an example of how the API can provide workflow enhancements with scale. At first, the Shutterstock API was solely integrated into Facebook’s ad creation interface, supplying high-quality images for millions of advertisers directly in- Platform. Within five years, the Shutterstock API was integrated into Facebook Carousel, Power Editor, and Instagram to support additional workflow processes.

2. Value for the Partner's End Users

Shutterstock knows it must deliver content that partners can rely on to influence key user metrics such as engagement, retention, and campaign completion rates.

The Shutterstock Library of over 200 million images, video clips, and music tracks contains impactful assets that help the API partner's users create content that outperforms. According to MDG Advertising, articles with relevant images see 94% more views compared to articles without supporting images. In a 2018 report on the state of social video ads, Wave.video (a Shutterstock API partner) noted that 73% of video ad creators use a mix of stock content with existing assets. One user, in particular, increased Facebook engagement by more than 2,500% by leveraging Wave.video’s stock content.

3. Vertical-Specific, Flexible Business Models

Each vertical in the martech industry has a unique set of business needs, making a one-size-fits-all business model impossible for Shutterstock API partners. For example, covering the cost of content on behalf of users is popular with digital platforms seeking to drive more campaigns, but this model would not make sense for custom print shops selling Shutterstock images directly.

An appropriate business model sets the foundation for a successful relationship. To prime its partnerships on the path to revenue, Shutterstock's partner development team creates the business model that makes the most sense by consulting with key stakeholders to learn the prospect’s unique challenges and goals.

4 Ongoing Support

In many transactional contexts, a signed contract represents the end of an engagement. However, in a partnership context, a signed contract activates the next phase of engagement.

Shutterstock's partner management team conducts a kickoff call for new partners. Based on the commitment level of the partner, the company assigns dedicated partner managers to each account that operate on the best level of engagement. For partners at a higher commitment tier, Shutterstock conducts check-in calls at least once a month to follow up, troubleshoot, and strategize. 

The company supplies robust technical support for developers with a dedicated API support team to answer questions during and after the Integration process. In addition, Shutterstock is expanding its API Documentation and reference pages as part of a redesign of the developer portal


Shutterstock's grounds its partnership ethos in the offering of a scalable partnership that provides a streamlined workflow, superior assets, flexible business models, and consistent partner support.

With these four basic tenets, Shutterstock has maintain many long-term relationships with partnering companies large and small in the martech space, and sees this as an important metric for success.

The original version of this article written by Alex Reynolds and published on October 4, 2018 is available. 

Original Article

How Shutterstock Creates API Partnerships that Last