Check out this review of our virtual reality shopping prototype launch party by Paul Constant from The Stranger.
Don’t you hate it when the thing you need to say is so easily summed up with a tired cliché. Well, here it goes… A picture is worth a thousand words. There, I said it. In the case of e-commerce product photography and conversion, it is an unavoidable truth. For e-commerce brands far and wide, conversion is the lifeblood and presenting potential customers with an experience that does the product full justice is the means to that lifeblood.
All of this sounds pretty obvious, but in many cases we still don’t see e-tailers using product visibility to its full potential. One reason for this phenomenon is the fact that for some brands a photograph doesn’t convey the most ideal “thousand words”.
In a recent conversation with a local running shoe startup, we uncovered an interesting pain point. They have struggled with presenting their product in a way that that says enough but not too much. For example, they had tried traditional photography practices (2-3 angles) and a short blurb about product features, but what they found was that this approach wasn’t quite sufficient for more technically inclined runners who visited the page. Their products featured some really innovative construction and materials that differentiated them greatly from brands that could, to the undiscerning eye, be seen as comparable products. That’s when this company decided to take a different approach.
They decided to reduce the number of photos and ramp up the amount of detailed technical specs on their product pages. As you can imagine, to the layperson, deciphering the “arch angle, outsole contour and its correlation to your stride” requires a couple trips to trusty Google.com. So here they were…Stuck between too much information and minimalphotographs that show the true features of a product, an all-too-common problem that many e-commerce brands face.
The answer to this problem lies in yet another tired cliché: “Show, don’t tell”. If enough product specs can be visually conveyed, then there is no need for lengthy product descriptions. The customer should experience the difference as opposed to just reading about it.
The Information-to-Photograph Ratio
Our CEO, Darrick Morrison, in his work with an online retailer, once was tasked with identifying the optimal “information-to-photograph” ratio. What he found was that shoppers gravitate towards visibility. In A/B testing across thousands of products in dozens of verticals, the data told an interesting story. If a product page has a single image, customers appear skeptical of the product’s integrity and value. Often times a single image won’t do a product justice and many customers pass on buying online and go to a store. This phenomenon is commonly known as webrooming.
And that’s if the sale is made at all, in other words,“cart abandonment”. According to one study, people who abandon a cart more than once are 2.6x more likely to buy. But what if the sale could be made the first time around, sooner, and with less visits back to the cart?The only exception to this study Morrison found is when it relates to products that are standardized and commoditized, for instance, toilet paper.
Multiple shots, on the other hand, provided a huge bump in the customer’s confidence in a product, leading to a boost in the conversion rate. The fact that conversions rose was not the surprising part; the amount of the increase was astounding. When products can be viewed from multiple angles, consumers feel more secure in their expectations of the product, thus leading to a higher propensity to buy.
The next variable he tested was 360-degree product video. This category consists of product demonstration videos or 360-degree stitch photography, where the user can spin a product on a single axis. Again, the research found that product pages equipped with these assets saw even more of a conversion jump. From doubling to quadrupling, product videos are any business’s friend when they want to sell online. The same story was told in product returns. Returns can be a huge pain point and profit slasher for even the most established online stores. The inverse relationship between product visibility and returns allows retailers to hold onto the revenue that those increases in conversion have brought in.
An Interactive 3D Product Experience for E-commerce
Darrick’s findings are not just intriguing; they obviously have real business application. The next milestone for Darrick was to point out the next technology that would raise conversion, decrease returns and blow the mind of online shoppers. He asked “What would allow customers to fully interact with the product and mimic the in-store experience online?” and “What would allow the brands to provide more information for the spec-driven consumer while maintaining an optimal user interface and seamless experience?” And that’s about the time when Darrick gave birth to his beautiful new baby, prizmiq. You can read a little more about why interactive 3D product photography is good for your product from the comfort of this very blog.
The more comfortable a consumer is with a product, the more likely they are to buy. With online shopping forecasted to grow and grow over the coming years, it will be interesting to see how e-commerce practices evolve. Perhaps going to the mall will involve sitting down at your computer and putting on a virtual reality headset and browsing the aisles of your favorite boutique. The future of interactive online shopping is coming and coming quick…are you ready?