One distinct advantage to a brick-and-mortar store has over a business in the virtual world is that customers can touch the products on the racks and shelves at the local mall. Local retailers know that if they can get you to touch a product, you are more likely to leap from shopper to buyer.
It’s all the customer can see
Using quality images on a site is important because that’s the closest your customer is going to get to your products. Adding the technology to your site that allows you to zoom into an image to see details, pan across the image to get a fuller view or rotate an image 360 degrees to see the product at every angle, helps bring to life what once was a one-dimensional image.
Equilibrium is one company in the marketplace that automates imaging solutions and offers various display options including zoom and pan features. 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.
“Without having the ability see materials and information and a close-up view of the product itself, it’s very difficult for people to make a buying decision in many cases.”
He noted that Bluefly.com is an example of a women’s clothing site that is using the Equilibrium system, and that company has had sales increases quarter after quarter.
At an auto parts site, for example, one feature with Equilibrium could give site visitors an opportunity to match tires and hubs, and virtually “put” them on a car to see how they look before buying them.
Improved bottom line
Eric Lituchy, owner of Delightfuldeliveries.com, a site selling gourmet foods and gifts, knew the value of a dynamic imaging when he saw it on a vendor’s site. He’s convinced that the Scene7 image-management product he’s deployed has made a difference on his bottom line.
“We know customers love it, and we know that customers use it,” he said. “If you show a gift basket on your screen, there’s only so much you can really see on that.We can now zoom really far into a product and see items in a gift basket you could never see before. Or you can see the detail in cookies, brownies or strawberries. It definitely helps sell the products—there’s no question. In terms of increased sales and reduced returns, we know that Scene7 has helped tremendously.”
Sheila Dahlgren, senior vice president of marketing and corporate communication at Scene7, said visual merchandising is critical to operating a successful website.
“Customers don’t buy what they can’t see,” she said. “You need to show alternative views because you’re really trying to close the touch-and-feel barrier that is lacking on the website that you can experience in a store setting. All that visual information is critical in making a purchase decision.” Dahlgren noted that once images are posted to the server, one of the interesting features that can be deployed is an online catalog where visitors can “flip” through pages to easily look at products, much like they would do with a print catalog.
Pricing models for many companies providing product display options varies based on usage. Prices may range from a couple hundred dollars per month to hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.
Both Dahlgren and Barger say tools to improve images are good for most products—from auto supplies to apparel to home furnishings. Both also advise that merchants should look for a provider that can scale with the ebb and flow of a business.
There are differences in image management providers, so do your research. For example, there are on-demand services that will host images for you, and others are licensed options where you can install the software on your server.