In these pages, we have frequently emphasized the need to bridge the online and offline customer experience. We believe—and we hope you agree—that the key to e-commerce success is to recreate thein-person experience within the online environment.
But as we know, buyers can’t use all five senses to examine a product. They are confined to sight and possibly hearing—if you are providing audio or video. Therefore, it is imperative that you provide enriched product information, which is naturally enhanced by great product imagery.
Peter Sheldon from Forrester has said that nearly 70% of your online customers rely on product-related content when they make a purchase decision. However, it is not uncommon to visit a third-party or “Big Box” retailer and see product information or imagery that differs from what you have on your B2B web site or in your printed catalog. When product information is missing, downstream partners may fill in the gaps, leave the information out completely, or utilize information that is out of date. They may source product imagery from “sister” products or use archived images. You need to be sure that your downstream partners have the correct imagery and product information they need to provide a stellar customer experience.
The Value of Great Product Imagery
We have all heard that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but did you know that our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text? And that people remember 80% of what they see, but only 20% of what they read?
According to inRiver partner, Snap36, having 360-degree product imagery on your e-commerce site can increase your sales by as much as 6%. Compare this to just a 4% impact for more product text and just 2% for including technical documentation. In addition, product photography can increase conversion rates by 47%, decrease product return rates by 40%, and reduce call center time by 50%.
Why does product imagery have this affect?
The answer is likely due to the ability of online customers to really get a “feel” for the product through imagery, which of course is augmented and enhanced by great product descriptions and accurate product specifications. When they buy the product, they have a pretty good idea what they will receive and that solves a lot of customer satisfaction issues down the line.
The need to invest
Some companies may question the value of product imagery. Although no one wants that “image not found” error or the blank box where the image should be, many companies might question the investment that is required to both create and manage their digital assets.
Not only do you need to invest in creating great product imagery, but also you need to invest in storing and managing those valuable assets. These assets are often scattered around a company, on hard drives, legacy systems, and in various departments. But managing them in one place—together with the rest of your product information—will ensure that you have your digital assets readily available for anyone who needs them—for any sales channel, at any time.
With inRiver, you can manage and store your digital assets directly in original file formats. Your assets will be quick to search, easy to find, and well-indexed for fast access. Your digital assets can use metadata from their related products, making it possible to find your assets based on searches like “all images of green t-shirts, for women, in 100% cotton in size XXL.”
With inRiver there is no need to use Photoshop for converting images. When working on a product, you simply connect the digital assets to the product, define how the assets should be displayed, in what channel, and let inRiver do the rest. inRiver will automatically scale, re-format and re-purpose the output into the correct file format, tailored specifically for each channel.
Companies are notorious for spending money on search engine optimization and PPC to increase rankings and get prospective customers to visit their sites. And we agree—search engine ranking is important.
But consider if you were to take some of the money you spend on search or advertising and use it for actually producing great product imagery and great product content. Imagine if you really let your products tell their story—what then? Not only would your SEO rankings naturally improve and your (potential) customers would be able to find your products more easily, but also they will actually buy products from you.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Marketing Manager, inRiver
I love to ski. Maybe it is the feeling of freedom, the speed, or the cold. Or maybe it is the ability to mimic the feeling of flying—even getting some “air” at times. What I don’t love is when the snow is thick and wet—during the spring, typically—when my skis suddenly slow or even stop as they hit a slushy spot.
That is, I don’t like friction.
In general, friction isn’t popular. Think of all the innovations that inventors have developed to reduce friction—lubricants, sanders, pavers, ball bearings—the list goes on. Think about how the shapes of everyday items have changed over time—the ‘boxiness’ of cars in the 1970s has evolved to today’s streamlined, rounded, sporty crossover.
So, it is no surprise that when customers are in the market for an item—whether online or offline—that they also don’t want to encounter friction.
Where can friction occur?
The first place that customers encounter friction is in their initial search. They type some key words into Google or Amazon and get…nothin’, nada, nyet. The receive pages and pages of results that are not of interest.
Suppose they do receive some relevant results. The next place they can encounter friction is in the product information they are viewing. If it is incomplete, inaccurate, or basically not helpful, their quest to purchase has once again been thwarted.
Another area of friction can be in the shopping cart/purchase process itself. If shipping and return information is inaccurate or hard to find, or if it is difficult to modify the shopping cart, customers may become frustrated and abandon the site altogether.
If your objective is to provide a frictionless, streamlined purchase process for your customers, you must first ensure that you and your products can be found. Do your research so that you are correctly categorizing and describing your products the way your customers do. Don’t assume that the way you organize your customers in your warehouse is the way that your customers think about your products. Make sure you are using the key words and taxonomy from the customer’s point of view.
Next, get your product information in order. That means ensuring that every product tells a compelling story with accurate and concise descriptions, imagery, and supporting data. This requires what we call a “content creation factory,” a process—with supporting tools—that ensures that the product content you are serving up is relevant, timely, and complete.
Last, don’t make it so hard for people to buy from you! There are now so many ways to pay and so many channels where your products can appear. Strategically select the methods and channels which are valued by your customers. Then, streamline the process and make sure that shopping cart and other buying processes are clear and well-documented.
Join the innovators who have worked so hard to alleviate friction in our world. In the meantime, let it snow!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Marketing Manager, inRiver
Remember the old adage that a satisfied customer will tell one friend about your product, but an unsatisfied customer will tell nine people?
Now, with the proliferation of user-generated content in the form of reviews and ratings, those numbers have grown exponentially! Research from Forrester Consulting found that 71% of consumers are influenced by ratings and reviews, while 76% say that positive reviews make them more likely to purchase a product.
You shouldn’t be afraid of what your customers might say when they review your products. Instead, leverage this opportunity to increase your conversion rates, while you gain valuable insights into your customers. Utilize your ability to create great product content to gain satisfied customers who write great reviews!
Good Product Information Means More Satisfied Customers and Better Reviews
When you provide comprehensive, complete, and accurate product information, your customers should never be surprised by the product that arrives on the doorstep or at the office reception area. If you are describing the product with the correct attributes, your customers should be completely aware of what they are buying. As a result, when you approach them to provide a rating or review, the information they provide should be more focused on the quality and performance of the product, as opposed to whether the size, shape, or colour was not what they expected.
When you are providing product information, consider what your customers need to know to have a positive experience and ensure that critical information makes it into their hands.
Insights from User-Generated Content Can Fuel Better Product Information
User-generated content gives you a valuable feedback loop. When customers are providing ratings and reviews they are telling you directly what is great—or not so great—about your product. You can then take that first-hand feedback and fix what is broken, or promote what is working. If the customer was disappointed because the size or colour was wrong, you can augment your product information with context that lets future customers know how the garment will likely fit, or what hue of blue they should expect when they buy a particular office chair.
When you foster a dialogue with customers, you boost the impact of your marketing efforts and utilize your customers’ experiences to reinforce your product stories.
User-Generated Content Can Inform Your Product Categories and Messaging
How do customers describe your products when they write a review? Are they using the same labels for attributes and product categories that you do in your product information? What attributes do they focus on the most? What were the key reasons they stated for buying the product?
When you answer these questions, you can align your product categories and messaging with what your customers are searching for and provide the key selling points to seal the deal. You can refine your SEO strategy to reflect commonly-used search terms that your customers actually use, which will help to boost your search rankings, click-through rates, and ultimately drive more sales.
When your customers tell you directly how they search, what they search for, and why they buy, you also have a wealth of insightful information to inform your future search marketing efforts.
Need help developing great product information? Contact us at inRiver! We have the solution for you!
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver