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As the world is shaken by the effects of Covid-19 pandemic, user behavior is forced to change and buyers are moving more and more online. E-commerce marketplaces are working on low conversion rates, facing multiple vendors and a need to diversify not just their portfolios of products and sellers, but also their sources of revenues beyond just sales commissions. 

How by offering their sellers high-quality, compelling packshots, e-commerce stores can begin to solve these challenges. How visual-content operations platforms can reduce marketplaces administrative complexity, scale their growth, improve vendor acquisition, and even diversify their platforms. 

The E-Commerce Market Today…and Beyond

Today, there are as many as 24 million online shopping sites operating worldwide. In 2018, global e-commerce sales generated nearly $3.5 trillion, a year-over-year growth of around 18%. That number could hit $4.5 trillion in 2021, when e-commerce will account for 17.5% of all retail sales. And by 2040, we’ll likely do 95% of our shopping online. But…

Low Conversion Rates 

E-commerce conversion rates are relatively low, at only 2.86%. Often, these low rates can be attributed to poor product pages that fail to provide shopping experiences comparable to those at brick-and-mortar stores, especially when it comes to visual content: Are there enough photos and videos? Are the images both useful and compelling?

But here’s the good news: By publishing high-quality visual content, you can make meaningful gains to those slim conversion rates. After all, even a small gain in conversion will significantly boost revenue. For example, an increase from 2% to 4% translates to a doubling of sales! By making just one meaningful improvement, you can make a huge impact.

A Lack of Diversification 

The Pareto law states that 80% sales come from 20% of customers. Applied to a marketplace, it suggests that a few best-selling products are sold by just a small group of sellers. This becomes an issue when, for example, there are stock shortages of a favorite product. The goal is to push turnover with a more diverse range of sellers and products.

A marketplace can increase the diversity of its sellers by improving vendor acquisition. It can then boost poor-selling products by either lowering the price, which is often not feasible, or by enhancing the customer experience with that product. F

or example, Amazon allows users to create branded pages called A+ Content, which feature rich media such as multiple images and videos.

Why Visual Content Matters

Weebly, a major e-commerce platform, reports that 75% of its shoppers are “very influenced” by product pictures; one consumer noted that “as I cannot examine the item in person, the photos are instrumental in my decision-making process”. Meanwhile, 90% of Etsy shoppers rank image quality above item cost, shipping fees, and reviews as the most important factor in making a purchasing decision.

And Generation X, Y, Z, and millennial shoppers have shown they’re interested in not just great visual content but also enhanced shopping “experiences.” For example, a BigCommerce study found that 78% of these shoppers expect photographs to “bring products to life”—they want to see how products can integrate into their lifestyle. A store’s images have “the power to narrate a story: what the brand is about, what it means to consumers, and why the visitor should care about it”. That’s where the packshot comes in. 

The Packshot 

A packshot is essentially a product image that shows off the item and its branding. Packshots are critical for online stores because they provide the only visual interaction customers can have with a product, unlike in a brick-and-mortar store, where they can hold it, feel the texture, examine the quality, and try out its features.

A successful packshot demands attention and compels a browser to click through to find out more. It shows the product clearly and honestly, communicating vital information such as size, color, and texture. It can also help the shopper visualize the product in their lives—key for generating a conversion. 

Image Staging 

Packshots can be as simple as a studio shot showing the product against a clean, white background. (Weebly calls this the “Amazon Effect” because it’s an essential format for selling all the major online marketplaces). Around three-quarters of all packshots are done like this; they keep the focus on the product, and they render well as thumbnails in online searches.

Stores looking to make a product stand out in the crowd while also highlighting their branding might consider adding provocative lifestyle shots that show the item in use.

Another option is 360-degree or three-dimensional images that allow the user to virtually “spin” the product and perhaps zoom in on details. Offering this extra level of information can also mitigate the need for additional images taken from different angles.

And don’t forget packshots videos, which are crucial for products that require a thorough demonstration. Videos also offer opportunities to further your branding via personalities, music choices, etc.

Ideally, though, you want a set of packshots that does it all. Etsy reports that shoppers demand photos “that help set a realistic expectation of what a customer will be receiving in the mail, helping you to avoid the hassle of returns and exchanges”. That’s an important point: 30% of items purchased online get returned (compared with 9% of those bought in-store), of which 22% were sent back because the product looked different in real life than in the photos.

Centralizing the Image Production Process

Most brands have neither the resources nor the time to produce a set of packshots quickly and professionally. That’s why it makes sense to partner with a visual-content operations platform that handles the entire image-creation process, from photo shoot to post-production to delivery. This can free up valuable time and resources to focus on building and promoting your marketplace.

However, this is especially advantageous for marketplaces working with multiple vendors. Consider these benefits:

  • Brand identity and positioning: Images provided by multiple vendors can be inconsistent in style and quality. Having a visual-content professional draft a creative brief with a distinct artistic vision that can be applied to all your vendors’ imageswill ensure a cohesive-looking site. An artistic vision that is authentic to the brand or platform creates a unique and more memorable customer experience. 
  • Higher quality=higher conversion rates: As stated previously, publishing high-quality images will make your website appear more trustworthy, which alone will boost conversion.
  • An additional source of revenue: Most marketplaces make commissions on their sellers’ sales. But the successful marketplaces—think Amazon, Cdiscount, Made.com—grow by offering additional services to their sellers such as advertising, packaging, and fast shipping. By partnering with an image-operations platform, marketplaces can now sell their vendors complete visual content packages. 
  • Vendor acquisition: Or, marketplaces can offer these packages as a value-add. Potential vendors are unlikely to turn down a “ready to sell” offer that includes complete visual-content operations. You’ll have more vendors showcasing more products—all represented within a single, cohesive marketplace. And each vendor will feel as though they are part of a beautiful, exclusive showroom. 
  • Product diversification: Like with Amazon A+ pages, you can boost poor sellers by creating more visual content, such as 360-degree images, close-ups, lifestyle images, and videos. An image-operations platform can quickly produce largevolumes of high-quality packshots whenever and wherever they’re needed.

What Makes a Compelling Packshot?

Partnering with a complete image-operations platform will ensure that when you’re creating your packshots, everything from staging to image resolution is on-point. A professional image creator will adhere to the following guidelines for producing compelling visual content.

Produce high-quality, effective images 

Typically, at least one studio shot (e.g., the Amazon Effect) should show the product almost filling the canvas. Words on the packaging should be legible and logos recognizable. Lighting should be positioned correctly so that three-quarter images render naturally. And colors must look authentic.

As for image quality, Weebly reports that a third of its customers care about the photo resolution. Whereas pixelated images look amateurish, “decent photos capture my attention because you can actually see the product they’re trying to sell”.

Create images that give plenty of information 

If a single image is worth a thousand words, a ton of images can tell a complete story. So take advantage of the gallery feature offered by most platforms, and publish the following:

  • Studio shot: AKA the Amazon Effect.
  • Multiple angles: Achieve with either a 360/3D image or individual photos. Nearly two-thirds of Weebly shoppers say multiple camera angles are most influential in helping them make decisions. The more, the better. 
  • Scale shot: Communicate the actual size of the product by showing it with something visually tangible, such as a person. 
  • Close-ups: Zoom in to show texture, detailing, or any imperfections. Over half of Weebly shoppers say both close-up and distance shots are important. 
  • Lifestyle shot: Include aspirational photos that show customers living their best life with your product. And you can even sneak in a few add-ons! 
  • Videos: You can achieve much of the above with a well-produced video that shows the product in use and from multiple angles. Consider, for example, clothing company ASOS, whose often viral videos communicate not only the brand’s products but also its personality. 
  • Packaging: Yet another chance to show off your branding!

Publish web-friendly files 

An experienced image creator can size, format, and optimize your images correctly for the web. This critical and often overlooked process can actually help your store’s page rankings: Research shows that most top-ranked pages load extremely fast, an average 1900 milliseconds. Lower-ranked pages load around 17% slower.

Real-World Case Studies from OCUS

Uber Eats, a market leader in the food-tech space, is responsible for more than 10% of all food delivery orders. However, ahead of a major expansion throughout Europe, the company needed thousands of food images to support all its new restaurant partners. 

OCUS already had photographers in 85% of Uber Eats’ markets, which allowed Uber Eats to offer restaurants a “ready to sell” benefit—in other words, partner with us and we’ll immediately take care of all the photography. That also meant Uber Eats could control the quality and creative direction of the content. Within weeks, OCUS was producing 50,000 images a month for its client. OCUS’s centralized photo operations have made a huge impact on both the restaurants and Uber Eats, which has reported an increase of 101% in conversion and a 60% improvement in onboarding its new restaurants since partnering with OCUS.

Though e-commerce plays a major part in worldwide retail sales, it does struggle with comparatively low conversion rates. But there’s a fix for that. We’ve shown that you can boost conversion by increasing the quality of product images through packshots that include studio, lifestyle, and detail shots, as well as videos and 360-degree/3D images. And for marketplaces that support a large number of vendors, centralized visual-content operations, such as those provided by OCUS, can not only add significant value but also eliminate the creative, technical, and administrative burden of producing high-volume, high-quality images quickly and consistently. This can help diversify the portfolios and sources of revenue for the marketplaces.

Photo credits: ©Marion Motel / OCUS France – Written by: David Agrell – Editorial specialist