One of the problems with online retail is the loss of tactile interaction with the products you're looking to purchase. There is no picking up, weighing, testing and trying on a product to get a sense of quality, of fit or just to get that emotional feedback.
Online shoppers have to rely on the images retailers supply on their web sites to help them make their buying decisions. Frustratingly, many of these images fail to provide the needed information so customers can make an informed buying decision. The results is a loss of revenue to the seller, and what's worse is the seller may not even realize their images may be a major reason for the loss.
Sean Barger, CEO of Equilibrium, says there’s been a number of studies showing that people are more likely to buy a product if they can see the details—the front, the back and close-ups—especially for items that are detail-oriented, such a jewelry and electronics. - practicalecommerce.comHere are the top five most requested elements of product photography many online shoppers look for.
Large imagesSmall thumbnail images are a thing of the past. Faster internet and larger bandwidth has made it possible to present customers with larger images. The most ideal balance between screen real estate and customer curiosity is to use zoomable images. The now standard "click to zoom" feature on most e-commerce templates are there because of this need.
There are a few tricks you can use to reduce the weight, or file size, of an image. Resize your images to the suggested dimensions specified by your ecommerce template. The current standard is 1200 pixels on the long edge. You can also increase the compression rate of an image. You have to be careful here because increasing it too much introduces some nasty artifacts like pixelated edges and color shifts. Always create a new image and resize and compress from the original source file.
Multiple viewsProducts have multiple sides and too often retailers list their product with only one single image. Usually just the front. Customers want to see more, specially if another view contains, not just more, but different information. Examples of this would be the back side of audio devices, instep side of shoes, inside of compartments, left and/or right profiles or alternate states such as when an item is energized or opened. E-commerce sites using 360° rotating product views are becoming more popular as internet speeds increase.
Another use of multiple views is to show additional color or style choices. For example, an item that is available in multiple colors you can have an image with all the color versions carefully displayed so the customer sees exactly what the product looks like in the color of their choice.
Detailed viewsUnlike an alternate view of a product, as above, a detail view typically highlights a special feature or a close up of something not easily seen in a full product view. Examples would be plug receptacles and buttons, closures, hidden features like pockets and compartments, textures and properties unique to a product or the accessories that come with the product.
Remember that a shopper can not pick up and rotate the product to see all the features it has. With ecommerce you have to show the shopper these details through carefully crafted images. You can not assume a buyer is familiar with a product. Often times, the ability to see more is the deciding factor to making a purchase.
Products in contextWhile most often people will shop for something they are already familiar with it is not always the case. As online retail sales increase, the chances of a shopper being unfamiliar with a product increases. Showing a product in use, or lifestyle images, is a great way of helping educate the shopper about the product; how it works, how it's used or even how it interacts with other products. For more obscure items like machinery parts, scale is another important aspect to present.
An additional benefit of lifestyle images are brand retention and trust building. Placing your product in a person's hands adds credibility to the product.
Clean, professional looking imagesThis is most important in higher end products where quality of the product correlates with the quality of the photo. You will never see an amateur looking, underexposed, shot in the back parking lot photo to sell a BMW, for instance. A professional image lends credibility to the product and, by default, to the seller.
For small businesses, getting professional results may seem like an expensive proposition. Just remember that a small up front investment will net greater results on the back end. If you are not a multinational retailer, you don't need to hire a multinational photographer. There are plenty of small studio photographers out there. Find one that you connect with, whose style reflects your business image. Then negotiate. Be up front with your budget and see where compromises can be made without affecting quality. Often a professional will have ideas on how to create effective images without killing your pocketbook.
For additional information about online retail imagery read, "15 tips for making your product images work harder"