When you step into a bricks and mortar store and explore the selection of products at hand, it is only natural to want to use all of your senses to study them. First, you select the product you are interested in according to visual cues. Then you might pick it up- examining its weight, the material and the overall feel of it. If it it food or perfume you might even smell it. And then, and only then, is a purchase decision made.
In the virtual world of ecommerce however, browsing items is an entirely different game. Your ability to touch, hold or smell the product is stripped away- all you can do is rely on the visual cues that a website gives you.
As an ecommerce merchant, product photography then becomes one of the most important ways through which to sell to your customers. It can be a tough art to master but, when done right, it is also something that can have a significant effect on conversion. Here we look at some companies that are doing it right...
First, let’s delve deeper into the clothing industry- a market where the size and fit of a product is of the utmost importance and so misleading or poor quality photographs can be a massive driver of returns.
Eton is a great example of quality phtography, ranging from inspiring fashion shot to close-up product details, can give a premium feel to a store.
The photography used on the Eton homepage is interesting for a number of reasons. Importantly, it displays a range from the shop’s catalogue, from well tailored men’s shirts to various accessories. Items are shown both on their own, within the range they belong to and in a inspirational complete outfit.
Interesting details make the images stand out - for example photographing the shirts at a slanted angle is a small change but one that disrupts what the eye might normally expect to see. Boxes are also used to create interesting levels of depth.
Despite the variety of items and photography styles used however the the overall feeling is harmonious and high-class and the polished and put together impression that Eton’s clothes give is mirrored in the complementary colour palette they use for their products and their background.
While Eton makes excellent use of interesting details on their homepage they change tack on the product page, using clean, sharp photos of the product against a light background. This allows the focus to remain on the product at what is a pivotal stage in the buying process - stripping away any unnecessary distractions.
Photos are also shot in a high enough quality to allow the shopper to zoom in on the image without it becoming blurry. This is achieved by hovering on top of the image, allowing them to see even the tiniest of details and indicates the item as being one of quality. Not only that, but each product is shot from different angles, allowing a complete view of every item. Thorough product photography of this style prevents nasty surprises that may lead to returns and gives the impression of transparency.
This is a page that definitely deserves an honorary mention. Fashion, maybe more so than any other market, lends itself to curation and inspirational posts. On this page Eton have created beautiful collages for different situations the; office, the weekend, a trip to Shanghai- as well as ambient fashion shots in beautiful natural locations. This is not only aesthetically pleasing but also an effective way of cross-selling. By using photography to collate the items on their site into outfits, they make it easy for customers to see which pieces compliment each other (therefore tempting them to buy more). The inclusion of two types of photography (both product focused and model based) stops imagery fatigue, breaks up the page and makes it easier for the shopper to imagine the pieces in a real-life setting.
- Small changes from the norm can make your product photography more interesting - experiment with depth, angles but keep some things, i.e. colour palettes, consistent to achieve a harmonious look.
- If possible curate complimentary within inspirational posts to encourage higher average order values.
- When it come to the crunch keep things as clean as possible - the product page is a place for details and not inspiration. Multiple product images and the ability to zoom with lower the barrier to purchase.
Teapigs are a company whose whole ethos is based on purity and wholesome ingredients that are good for the body. And this is reflected in their product imagery, which is clean, unfussy and only contains what is necessary.
Online, your your product imagery isn’t just functional - it also becomes one of the main vehicles for expressing what your company is about, make sure it does it justice. If you are a high end-brand then cheap poorly thought out product imagery will undermine that. If your products are playful then that too should be reflected. In short, you should live your brand through everything you do and your product imagery is no different.
The key here is consistency. All the photos of the products use the same background, identical lightning and placement. As a result, when they are then viewed together a uniform impression is achieved - this gives the shopper a feeling that the catalogue has been well thought out and carefully selected to belong to a chosen group. It is also not only pleasing to the eye but allows the shopper to focus on the details that do matter - in this case, flavour (denoted by by colour changes on the packaging).
Another interesting addition is the badges, which help certain products stand out while allowing the overall look to remain consistent. Badges might symbolize an award-winning product, as is the case on the Teapigs here, or might simply highlight products that are newly added or on sale.
Teapigs perfectly demonstrate the need for as much detail as possible with the photos on their product page. As a company selling a product that you would expect to be predominantly judged by taste and smell you might think they would forgo detailed photos altogether, relying more heavily on descriptions. But Teapigs know that a lot can be inferred from a photo. People have sensory memory that can be activated by elements of photography such as colour and so it is still as so detailed remain important.
- Your product photos, like everything else you do, should embody your brand.
- Consistency on category pages will allow shoppers to quickly focus on the details that matter.
- Less is not more - let your customers decide what it is helpful for them to see.
Immediately Oka place their products at the heart of what they do with a hero image compiled of items from their store. This is complimented however, with imagery that get more specific as you scroll on- using the style of their product photographs to focus their customer’s attention.
When talking about furniture and other home decoration items atmospheric interior shots are an important addition to simple product photos, allowing shoppers to see how an item works in a home-like environment. This, in turn, allows shoppers to visualise the piece as a part of their own home. Visualisation is an important tool in ecommerce - if a customer can’t imagine how the product fits into their style, home or life, it is unlikely they will make a purchase. And photography is a very effective way to encourage this.
OKA recognise this and consistently uses this technique on their category pages - including interior shots with almost every item, even including smaller items such bouquets! They do not however neglect the cleaner and simpler product photos which are necessary for a customer to clearly see a product in isolation. How do they balance the need for both styles? With an innovative hover effect which allows you to view an interior shot of an item when your cursor is placed over the top of it A simple and fun way to make the product catalogue more visual and appealing to the shopper!
On the OKA product pages we see a combination of best practices implemented. Products are show from multiple angles, with distractions stripped away. Close-ups are included, allowing a reassuringly thorough inspection of the product. Inspirational shots are also included to illustrate how it may fit into your home but are only accessible by scrolling so not to distract from the product itself. Bravo OKA!
- Don’t be afraid to let your products, if shot beautifully, do the talking.
- Visualisation is key - use photography to enable your customer's imagination!
- A combination of photographic styles will allow people to seek out the information relevant to them
And now we've told you all the rules... Here's an example that breaks them all...
UGC, or User Generated Content if you're not down with acronyms, is one of the the hottest trends in marketing and something that has been shown to have a massive capacity for impact. In short, it is any content that a company repurposes that was created by a customer. And in some ways it is nothing new- product reviews are something that fit under this banner and they have been used, with great effect, on product pages for some time now. Why does it work? Because people trust people more than they trust companies and peer to peer approval offers reassurances that your marketing team never could.
But how can this translate to your product photography? Well, Belkin are an example of this done extremely well- in a bid to promote their customisable Lego phone case they added photos that customers had taken of their unique Lego case creations to their product page. It was playful, creative, suited the product it was representing and it worked.
To replicate this, source photos of your product in action using social media. But be warned, before you replace your professional product photos with snaps from your buyers there are a couple of things to consider. Firstly, does it suit your brand? The Belkin Lego case was a perfect vehicle for this as it was a fun and silly product- it didn't need glossy stylised photos to sell it. It was also a one off. But if your products are high end this approach may not work for you. Secondly, can you source enough photos of a high enough quality to replace professional shots? The lego case was a one off and they still used traditional product photos as well- a large and varied product range would be even more of a challenge.
If a blanket approach of UGS product photography isn’t for you (and it isn’t for most) and you still want to dip your toe in UGC pool, consider bolstering your traditional product photography with a integrated live social media feed that will pull photos of your product in action directly from your social channels. To do this consider services such as Piqora or Curulate.
So, there we go - a whistle stop tour of some of our favourite websites and the innovative ways they are using product photography to significantly improve their online offerings, boost their brand and increase sales. Let it once again be said, ‘One image tells more than a thousand words‘...
And if in doubt, remember;
- Invest in a talented photographer and a stylist.
- Using similar background and lighting conditions for all items.
- Use large photos that can be zoomed in on.
- Including both informatic and inspirational photography styles.
- Consider adding UGC photographs to support your traditional photographs.