Compelling product photography is a must for online merchants. Without a good visual representation of the products a store is selling, customers probably won’t buy.
Generally speaking, online stores have two basic ways to get product images: (1) take the photos, or (2) use the stock images that many manufacturers or distributors provide. While using your own, professional quality product photography can be a competitive advantage, the reality is that most online stores depend on manufacturer photography for the majority of product images.
In spite of this dependence on the manufacturers, no standardized or centralized means of exchanging images has emerged, until now. Shotfarm is a free asset-exchange service for the retail industry. Although Shotfarm was only about two weeks old when I reviewed its service, and although it had only a handful of manufacturers using the network, I am awarding Shotfarm four out of a possible five stars in this “The PeC Review“.
“The PeC Review” is my weekly column devoted to introducing you to the products or services that I believe can help you improve your ecommerce business. This week, I hope you give Shotfarm a try.
A Clear Need
Shotfarm attempts to meet an obvious and yet not-served need in the retail industry. Merchants are, it would seem, tired of having ten different passwords and links to ten different manufacturer’s digital asset management (DAM) systems, or worse, a relatively unorganized collection of CDs and countless individual emails each containing updates to a particular manufacturer’s catalog or links to an endless collection of FTP sites.
Shotfarm puts an end to the clutter, offering the possibility of a single point of contact between retailers and manufacturers where product imagery and product specifications are concerned. Need more proof that this is something the industry needs? AMR Research estimated that locating, tracking, transferring, and managing product images and information collectively costs the retail industry in excess of $5 billion per year.
Ease of Use
The concept of bringing retailers and manufacturers together for the exchange of digital assets is not enough. The service must also be functional, easy to use, and comprehensive. Shotfarm is all of these things.
Shotfarm uses clear labels and a lightbox system similar to what you might find on a stock photography site. The lightboxes represent a file or folder system that allows manufacturers to group product images together and easily pass those images to retailers. Likewise retailers can create lightbox to share internally or with outside agencies and designers.
How it Works
Joining Shotfarm is free. Once you’ve signed up, the first step is to invite your suppliers to also join the network. Once the vendors you work with have begun uploading product images, you can request access to the product images you need.
Right now, most online retailers request product photography via email, and to start with Shotfarm may seem pretty analogous, except that the email, if you will, is coming from a network. But once a manufacturer has joined the network, the exchange of product images should flow much more freely.
The service is not restricted to ecommerce. Multi-channel merchants selling online or, say, via a catalog, may also find print-quality images in the network.
To some extent Shotfarm needs you. The service promises to make what has been a laborious task a lot easier, but none of the site’s potential will be realized unless both retailers and manufacturers take part. Personally, I’ve registered, and as you’ll see in the video, I’ve already begun inviting the manufacturers I work with to join Shotfarm, which in my opinion, earns every one of the four stars I’ve awarded it in this, “The PeC Review.”