In a bricks-and-mortar store visual merchandising is able to create an emotional engagement with the customer by targeting all senses using fine-tuned visual displays, audio, physical textures and even fragrance. On the internet there is really only one sense to target and that is vision – this is why the online visual merchandiser must strive above all else for photography that is immaculate. (It may be argued that a website could also provide music but this is considered very high on the list of design annoyances and rarely implemented in e-commerce.)
It is largely down to product visuals alone to replicate the entire in-store experience so we must pay attention to the precise elements that make online product photography successful.
- High quality, high-resolution photographs captured and retouched by professionals are the central requirement (among the public there is a general distrust of retouching but this skill is more likely to involve accurate colour-matching than anatomical wizardry).
- On the internet size matters as larger images are required to allow the zooming function that lets customers look for details – providing detail shots is important but so too is the opportunity to replicate the action of closer inspection that shopping on the high street affords. Also regardless of zooming larger images succeed in higher conversions.
- A range of viewpoints can provide answers to customer questions about product features, and much more directly than if they had to read through a description or take the word of a helpdesk. Alongside the default view customers expect to see a range of clickable thumbnails. Consider what the customer would examine instore – e.g. the inside of a bag as well as the outside views. A view showing the product in context as opposed to a product shot against a white background will be much more identifiable to the customer. A range of viewpoints will also instil confidence that they have a good enough understanding of the product to buy it, plus it will replicate the in-store action of examining the product from all angles.
- Consistency across images for all products will reinforce branding and create a uniform ‘look’ for the website. The photographer will identify elements which should be standardised such as viewing angle, background, lighting, the presence of shadows and reflections.
Note how all the shoes point in the same direction – I have worked for an etailer who would horizontally flip some images to achieve this look across the page but problems arose where brand names appeared in reverse… much better to lay down your style-guide ahead of the photoshoot than risk confusing customers with shoes branded srekcik.
Part 2 focuses on the choice that clothing retailers must make whether to shoot products flat, on a mannequin or on a model. I also give a nod to video.
Part 1 Part 2