M-Retailing

GUEST OPINION Small screen storytelling: using imagery to increase conversion rates

David Brint, CEO of SpinMe, explores imagery that immerses customers into the purchase process, how technology assists the journey and the versatility of product shoots for mobile.

Telling a small screen story is an art. Theory around best practice retailing on smartphones is abundant, but if we were to mark the retail industry’s current practical papers, many wouldn’t top the class.

According to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, while UK online retail sales were up 15% year-on-year in February, the rate of growth on mobiles has roughly halved for online-only retailers over the same period.

This slowdown in sales growth is dramatic, given uptake and use of the medium. Are online retailers turning customers off with imagery that showcases products inappropriately or inconsistently?

Our own research into the top 50 online retailers’ mobile presence revealed that a fifth of retailers do not have a consistent imagery strategy and use different backgrounds, number of shots per product, intermittent model use and patchy videos, making it harder for shoppers to compare products and is less aesthetically pleasing.

Meanwhile, 38% are not yet using zoom, spin or video functionality of any type to enhance their images. For specific sectors such as groceries this seems reasonable, but shoppers expect to be able to investigate product features on home electrical appliances such as an iron or vacuum cleaner.

Just under a quarter of the top 50 online retailers are using one image per product.

Show me the money

In an ecommerce world where rich media is the new language, retailers must ensure their product images give as much valuable and in-depth information as possible to hold customers’ interest and encourage them through to purchase. This is important on mobile sites where space is limited.

The fundamental question retailers need to ask when examining their mobile imaging strategy is ‘what does the customer want to know, see or understand about the item?’

The answers are product detail and an experience that emulates visiting a store in person where they can handle the product and examine it closely, inside and out. There is no reason why imagery on mobiles should be anything but as high resolution as these super sharp shots from Selfridges (above) if you are using the right responsive viewer which automatically resizes and rescans images for mobile.

The design of the page is a textbook example of a mobile site product page layout. Clean and uncluttered, it features a single image shot on a white background with LED lighting. Detailed shots of the bag can be flipped back and forth.

Selfridges invested in new technology and brought its photography operation in-house in 2013, allowing it to streamline its entire studio process and create a sleek, well-designed mobile site where every element works in harmony.  As a result, sales from mobiles have risen considerably.

Details, details

When it comes to performance wear designed specifically for sport, customers are now looking out for the ‘tech-spec’ of each item, in the same way people do when they shop for electronic goods. Imagery needs to include granular detail of product intricacies, from the fabric and stitching to the zip and fasteners.

Sportswear brand dhb (above) has been driving customer acquisition with new photographic techniques that allow shoppers to fully appreciate the technicality and style of its cycle, run and swim ranges, even on a small mobile screen. Using optimised lighting and macro lenses, which create sharp, magnified images, in their product shoots shoppers can see the performance fabric and colours of the jacket above, for example in more detail than was ever previously possible. Displaying items in this sophisticated visual way increases customer confidence and also reduces the likelihood of returns.

The same approach should be applied to fashion. Lifestyle shots may be inspiring but ultimately if a shopper can’t see the quality of the dress or jacket close up, they may not risk purchasing it.

Spin me right round

Want to see the red sole of a Louboutin shoe or underside of the new Adidas trainer, the same way you would in-store? Sorry, many online retailers haven’t yet thought of that.

For the ultimate visual experience on mobile, retailers could consider including 360 spin images which shoppers can turn around, upside down as well as being able to zoom in on the areas they want to. This type of single image, made up of 48 images stitched seamlessly together, can communicate everything about your product to customers on a mobile, though having additional flat shots or even a video, as schuh does below, creates a pleasing package where no detail is left unturned.

Size isn’t an issue

Furniture Village proved that large, bulky, detailed products can be showcased beautifully on a small screen when deciding to add an extra dimension to its website.

Adopting spin technology was a natural progression for the furniture retailer, which understood that its shoppers demanded as rich an experience as possible online. Sofas are increasingly the centrepiece of a room and customers want to be able to see how they look from every angle. New imaging techniques have been especially useful for showing the full potential of items with extra features such as these reclining sofas or extendable leaves in dining tables.

Furniture Village required a bespoke carousel turntable with a five metre platform to shoot these large pieces of furniture. The resulting images are eye-catching as well as functional, and work just as well in miniature on a mobile screen as they do on a desktop device. The key to showing furniture on mobile is good quality imagery and a sense of scale.

And finally

While Irish automobile dealer Kevin Egan Cars isn’t an Internet Retailing regular, what the company is doing with its mobile site is helping to raise the credibility of the used car dealer image by instilling pre-purchase confidence.

The retailer, has given customers a fresh look at its stock by displaying cars on a spinning platform, with the added option of zooming in. The first used car dealer in Ireland to do so, the idea will no doubt catch on. It’s entirely necessary too. A car is often the second biggest purchase after a house and customers want to feel sure about their choice before they go and see a car, perhaps getting to the point where they will even purchase it online. The better and more imagery you see, the more likely you are to buy.

Topping the class

So, how can retailers set about increasing their grades? Perspective is everything. Looking at your mobile site from the point of view of the customer, being mindful of how and why they are shopping is fundamental. Ask yourself the following: Would I enjoy the experience – is it consistent? Would I have the confidence I need from the imagery to make a purchase – can I see all product details clearly? Is the site easy to use – can I click through to purchase smoothly? If any of the answers are ‘no’, then look at competitors’ successful sites and learn from people in the industry that can help convert customers better on mobile.

Shopping on small screens is staying and the rewards will go to smart retailers who think like consumers.