Written by Peter Frey, photo studio director at Dotcom Distribution. For more product photography tips, download 7 ECommerce Photography Mistakes (And How to Fix Them).
eCommerce has revolutionized sales for many retail brands, but selling online comes with its own set of challenges. One of the toughest problems you’ll face as a brand is how to create an online experience that drives sales. The answer: Photography that converts.
Quality Counts in Product Photography
Today’s consumers increasingly use online shopping as an alternative to in-store experiences. In fact, 72 percent of millennials research products online before they visit a brick-and-mortar store.
Despite the popularity of online shopping and product research, the inability to touch or try online products before purchase often results in unfulfilled expectations and returned items. Good product photography accurately communicates the experience customers will have with the product once it lands on their doorsteps. Size, color, fit and other product details that can be conveyed in high-quality product images help customers visualize themselves wearing or using the product in their own lives and emotionally connect with the items they purchase.
When product photography is done poorly, you run the risk of losing a potential sale and/or future customer. For example, photos that misrepresent product can produce a higher-than-normal return rate and discourages repeat purchases. Likewise, if a picture fails to capture a product’s features, shoppers may not be inspired to convert because online shopping lacks the tactile touch points that shoppers rely on during the in-store experience.
Best Practices for High-Impact Product Photography
High-quality product photography has the potential to generate important wins for your brand. To improve the online experience, increase conversions and minimize returns, there are several best practices that need to be considered:
Good lighting is a prerequisite for good product photography. Harsh lighting creates unwanted shadows and makes it difficult to maintain the desired tone of the online experience. When you sell in-store, you can use music or other environmental stimuli to create a consistent brand experience. But when you sell online, proper lighting influences customer behaviors by contributing to the mood of the online experience.
For example, luxury items like jewelry and beauty products have very specific lighting requirements. Although luxury items are traditionally purchased in-store, 27 percent of consumers have purchased a luxury item online in the past year. Product photography needs to set the tone that consumers expect from the luxury shopping experience. Use gold and silver cards to reflect light and make labels easier to read for glossy or shiny products. Reflective umbrellas and diffusers can also be helpful when photographing luxury products.
When shoppers experience the same high-quality images for all of the products offered online, they become more certain about the quality of the brand and are more likely to make a purchase decision.
Photo composition can also influence buying decisions. Consumers want a realistic representation of the items they are viewing online. Considerations like photo angles, close-up photography or simulated movement can help shoppers see beyond two-dimensional images and make your products considerably more appealing.
It’s also important to highlight the characteristics and features that differentiate your products from the competition. For example, a bag with multiple product configurations (such as multiple carrying straps) deserves more than one product view to showcase each usage.
Likewise, a shoe with a prominent logo, feature or texture demands a picture that emphasizes standout details. For apparel retailers, adding a height chart or size guide to a picture can help convey how products appear in real life and on real shoppers’ bodies. For example, 360-degree spin photography gives consumers a complete 360-degree view of the product and allows them to fully interact with images so they can view the product as they would in a brick-and-mortar store.
Don’t forget about staging when composing product shots to maximize conversions. A simple background makes a product pop, while a busy background with lots of colors and patterns can be distracting. Background should also be consistent from photo to photo. Seeing the same model or product on two different colored backgrounds can provide an excuse for shoppers to leave your website for a competitor.
On your eCommerce site, product photos should come together to tell a cohesive brand story that excites shoppers. If your photos make shoppers feel like they are on two different sites, time on site, conversion rates and other key metrics will suffer.
In general, product photography must align with other elements of the customer experience and your brand DNA. The idea is to connect with shoppers on an emotional level. Carefully executed product photos support the customer experience and amplify shoppers’ emotional connections with the brand, which ultimately incentivizes them to buy from your company both now and in the future.
As you begin to tell your story through consistent product photos, it’s important to work with user experience (UX) designers to enhance the flow and experience of your site — on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Ideally, UX will support your story through the intelligent integration of photos with navigation, architecture and other critical site components.
For brands looking to improve online sales and conversion rates, the time to invest in a quality eCommerce photography strategy is now. In many cases, the payoffs for investments in professional photography are higher quality product images, greater brand consistency and better online shopping experiences.
The ultimate payoff for improved product photos is more conversions. By prioritizing the development of exceptional product images for your eCommerce site, you can invite shoppers to participate more fully in your brand experience, incentivizing them to make purchases and transition to loyal customers.