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A picture can speak a thousand words

As an online business, your product photography is the closest your customers will get to the real product before purchasing. Daniel Ruffle, Head of Digital Design at Metakinetic describes how to make the most of your images.

SEVEN COMMANDMENTS FOR GREAT ONLINE PRODUCT IMAGES

The images that accompany your product description will actually have more influence on a buyer than the details in the text, so if you want to give your stock the best chance of converting you may want to review the images that you're currently using.

Visuals are always extremely persuasive and your product image needs to capture all the intricacies of an item to give it every possible chance of attracting an online buyer. If you can afford to get professional photography for your products rather than using the manufacturers images then I'd definitely recommend this. It also helps to add a dimension of brand personality to your products that will set them apart from competitors who might be selling the exact same items.

1. Provide more than one image and from multiple angles
Do you still only displaying one solitary image on your product page? Your customers will expect more. You should aim to include at least three images from various angles (usually front, back and side) to really showcase the product. Your images are also a very important contributor to the overall brand experience a visitor receives on your website. They help to tell your story, as well as sell your products, so they should be as high quality as possible and take up a large portion of the product page. Your merchandising strategy should also be extended to your product photography to maintain brand consistency.

2. Create a sense of depth in your image
You need your visitors to be interested and excited by your product imagery, and while blank white backgrounds aid clarity they can also be quite dull and uninspiring. To create intrigue in the image, try placing the item against a backdrop that sets it at the forefront of the frame. If you're worried about the background of your image becoming too busy you can use backdrops in different shades of white/cream to add dimension without drawing the focus away from your product.

3. Show the finer details of the product with zoom
If your products have delicate detailing like craft products do, it's vital that you allow users to see this up close. Including a zoom function is a quick and easy way for visitors to see an enlarged version of your main image. There are a variety of zoom functions that you can use, the easiest being a Click to enlarge link under the main image which will literally open a pop-up window of the image in a bigger size. More advanced offerings using Javascript or Flash include Magic Toolbox Zoom, which operates without a pop-up box, and Adobe's Scene 7.

4. Engage with your audience
You know the perfect use for your product, so why not photograph it in that precise setting? Images that show an item in use or in location are far more persuasive than those with an abstract background. A pretty embroidered tablecloth would appear far more desirable to a visitor if it was shown in a teatime setting in the garden rather than folded neatly on a plain white surface. Think about how and where your product will be used and plan your images to capture this scene.

5. Use a large default image
If your image is the most persuasive element of a product page, it makes sense to ensure that this is as large as possible, both on the product page and in the search page. As a general rule, your product image should take up a minimum of 50 per cent of your product page, and the product itself should be in 80 per cent of the frame. Be aware that, when adding a larger image to your page for the zoom functionality, you'll need to upload a smaller fully-formatted image to be the main default. If you edit the large zoom image in the source code to reduce it in size this will only increase your page-load time, which can infuriate visitors.

6. Be different
Just because your competitors showcase its products in a certain way, it doesn't mean you have to stick to the same mould. Your product images also represent your brand to a potential customer so by demonstrating your brand style and creativity in your product photography, you can help customers buy into your brand vision, as well as the individual products making an online experience far more enjoyable and memorable. The best product photography will come after you've spent some time developing your own individual image style, which can then be replicated through all the images on your site.

7. Don't be afraid to use rich media
Don't restrict your product pages to only include images. 360-degree product viewers and product demonstration videos are all fantastic ways to improve the amount of information that you're providing to your customers, and can be relatively inexpensive to implement.

Video works particularly well for craft products that form part of a wider craft project, giving you the opportunity to the showcase the item in use, as well as the end result that can be created with it. Again, if you're using either of these rich media features try to include touches of your own branding to create a unique experience for the visitor. Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought on the ways to improve your own product photography. Once you've come up with a plan of action, the next most important step is testing. Not all customers will prefer the same features, so it's recommended spending a month testing the various different changes that you've identified before you make any permanent amendments.

If you think your products would benefit from a larger amount of images, first test which amount works best - three may be too small, and five may be too many. Similarly, if you are re-doing your photography to include shots from different angles, you should start by trialling different images to identify which angles create the most conversions. You may find that, depending on the product, the inclusion of a side-view image is all that is needed to boost sales, whilst other products may require a top-view and internal-view to improve conversions. You may even discover a whole new market for your products waiting just across the pond.

Daniel Ruffle is the Head of Digital Design at Metakinetic, an award-winning full service ecommerce agency. Based in Wokingham, Berkshire, with a team of 20 specialists, the company provides ecommerce solutions, digital marketing and creative design services to a wide range of online retailers. Focused on quality, support and delivering commercial results, Metakinetic helps its clients become more successful online.

T: +44(0)118 324 9000
E: hello@metakinetic.com
W: www.metakinetic.com

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