Product photography at scale: Today’s eCommerce brands are outsourcing
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Unless a shopper can picture him or herself using a product, it’s difficult to validate a buying decision. This is especially true within the eCommerce environment, as shoppers face the hurdle of not being able to touch/feel/try on an item before buying.
So why, then, are so many eCommerce brands still utilizing plain product images on a flat, white background?
Think about it: Would you be more apt to buy a sweater if you just saw an image of it on a white background? Or what if instead, you had the added visual context of the bag being held by a model and styled for different occasions?
The latter wins every time. The reason: It helps you envision yourself using the product and how you'll look/feel owning it. Now, more than ever, brands need to focus on quality product images if they want to drive sales consistently.
Why eCommerce brands need high-quality product photography
Today, as many as 80% of online shoppers rely on quality product photos and visual context to make a buying decision. Translation: investing in quality product photography isn't a choice; it’s a must.
Here are a few more reasons quality product photography is so important in today’s world:
Differentiation: Consumers have a wide variety of options, so you need to have a differentiating factor that nudges customers to choose your brand over your competitors. Great product images can do this. Since photos are among the first things shoppers see on your product pages, it gives you a big opportunity to stand out, hold their attention, and lead them to checkout.
Better ROI: Product photography isn’t cheap. It requires brainstorming, sourcing, strategizing, setting up, hiring talent, shooting, editing, customizing, and uploading. While it’s a significant investment to produce professional-looking product images at scale, it’ll pay dividends for months to come, thus allowing you to capitalize on the investment and drive sales, promising a strong ROI.
Brand story: Online shopping decisions are deeply rooted in buyers’ trust and how much they can relate to a brand’s values. Product photography help effectively communicate this story, highlight an aesthetic, and nurture trust among buyers from the first touchpoint. The right imagery can create a unique visual identity for your brand and ramp up conversion rates.
Challenges with getting high-quality product images for eCommerce brands
Now that the world is opening back up and shoppers have started offline shopping again, to continue driving sales, especially since 42% of consumers say they will pay more for a product they can experience in a more immersive manner.
For example, if you’re an activewear brand, showing clothes on models isn’t enough these days.
To boost conversion rates (see also: sales), today’s brands need to shoot products on models of various body shapes and sizes, take images from different angles, and display the model’s height and size within the product description. Doing so provides important visual context shoppers can use as a reference point (and get an idea about what the item will look like on them.)
Aerie does this well. Not only do they showcase product flat-lays, but they also include on-model, in-motion images, UGC from social media featuring the products on real people, and detailed sizing and fit information.
Along with this, it’s important to ensure all product images look as realistic (and accurate) as possible. Misleading or overly-edited images risk disappointing buyers when the product is delivered. In fact, a stark difference between product photos and the actual product received is why 22% of buyers return products bought online.
Truth be told—producing high-quality product images isn’t a cakewalk. A few of the other challenges that hold back eCommerce companies from executing high-quality product photography in-house include:
- Ecommerce trends change quickly; companies must be able to adapt shoots with agility.
- Product shoots require a rented space or studio, models, and props, which add up quickly. They also require good lighting and professional equipment, which add even more expense.
- Producing top-notch product images requires strategists and photographers with an eye for creating sets, which help produce the images per your brand goals, values, and personality that an in-house team may not be able to whip up quickly.
However, today, there are options. Brands can get full-fledged product shoots virtually, affordably, and at scale.
Productizing product photography for eCommerce businesses
For brands who want to outsource their product photography, there are a few different ways they can do this. Some choose to work with local photographers to conduct product shoots or hire on-site photography service providers like Cherrydeck, Squareshot, and DoMyShoot.
Another option is to outsource shoots completely by hiring a company like Soona. Soona is a full-service content studio that allows eCommerce companies to outsource the creation of high-quality photo and video content.
Soona customers can build a photo shoot from the ground up by choosing from backgrounds of living rooms, kitchens, or bathroom sets, as well as various themes and models. From there, the Soona team assigns the product to one of their five locations in Austin, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, and LA through their order-matching ecosystem based on the location with the most appropriate sets for the shoot.
They also offer a virtual photo shoot option, during which the team stays in touch with the company throughout the process. Customers can give live feedback during the shooting process and see it come to life.
“We have automated the process of building a photoshoot by creating diverse set types across our locations,” said soona co-founder Liz Giorgi. “Based on the client’s requirements and product, we match them to a location and set of talent. Essentially, we’ve automated a process that would take a producer weeks (maybe even months) of sourcing to put together—and we’ve made this affordable.”
Brands can choose from a variety of soona’s “packs” created specifically for different marketplace platforms like Amazon, Shopify, and Instagram. Brands then get a fixed number of photos and GIFs within the package. Their other pricing options are $39 per photo, $93 for video clips, and $260 for shoot packages.
Soona then executes the shoot, delivers the assets back, and handles the upload, resizing, and compression of the images. From there, the customer only pays for the images they want to use (not all of them.)
Finding a partner in eCommerce creative production
One common obstacle that comes up during this decision-making process is agreeing on creative direction and making sure both parties clearly understand the look, feel, and objective of the images produced.
In the case of soona, they work to solve this issue with shoot and styling quizzes. These unique quizzes help customers build a year’s worth of content or begin brainstorming creative ideas, all while providing important context for the team who’ll be helping create the images.
“It’s important to think about difficult questions around your product, know how to answer them, and translate them into a visual style that can be articulated for the brand.”
- Liz Giorgi, Co-founder and CEO of soona
The other common hurdle companies like soona face is ensuring they’re keeping up with current eCommerce trends. Image styles, color palettes, and composition trends change quickly, and its important for these brands to stay up-to-date. 78% of shoppers expect product images to bring a product to life and provide a realistic look of the item.
“I still believe good product photography is critical for any eCommerce business. Yet it’s so often overlooked or rushed (even by big brands).”
- Jeff Sheldon, Founder & Designer of Ugmonk
As a result, they need photography and creative direction teams who understand the landscape and what’s cutting edge image-wise in their spaces. For soona, that means staying agile with their sets and renovating them based on the current photography trends, as well as developing seasonal and holiday-themed offerings.
Let your product photos do the selling for you
Product images are the first (and sometimes, the only) thing customers see before purchasing a product. So, no matter how good your product is, or how well-written your product copy is, you need to invest in high-quality product photography to establish a stronghold in the competitive eCommerce market.
Make your buyers’ purchase decisions easier with quality images that give them a gist of what it’ll be like to use (or wear!) your products. Establish an in-house product photography framework for existing and new inventory, or outsource this task to a specialized agency. Whatever path you choose—but make it a non-negotiable aspect of your eCommerce store.