Have you ever purchased a product without actually seeing it? Most online retailers have some form of imagery to provide visibility into what you’re purchasing, but how many have brilliant product photos?

In fact, research has shown that 77% of online shoppers are 'very to somewhat' influenced by the quality of content (descriptions, copy, images, and tools) when making purchase decisions.

Unfortunately, manufacturers today often provide poor or limited photography and video assets if any at all, meaning that every online retailer has to reshoot the product images they want for their website.

Some retailers, such as Sears and Kohl’s (which use multiple images, zoom with color, and flyout zoom), do a great job of creating product images for their customers, allowing them to have a tangible experience with a product without actually touching it.

Other sites may not have the resources to include high-quality photos and videos. In this case, both the brand manufacturer and the retailer lose out because the products may not inspire the same excitement that they would if the browser could get a better view.

Many brand manufacturers invest significant creative energy in developing rich immersive experiences that include multiple vantage points.

These experiences give viewers a great feel for the product while they’re sitting at home on the couch.

Coach is one example. When browsing this company’s handbags recently, I selected the Bleecker Mini Brooklyn Messenger Bag and had incredible views of the product. There was plenty of imagery to coach me through to purchase. I particularly like that the website includes a picture of the inside of the bag.

That particular image jumped out at me because I was also recently looking at the Headwaters Gear Bag from Simms, a fly fishing gear manufacturer.

The website shows a nice high-resolution zoomed-in image of the outside of the bag, but it doesn’t show me the inside, which I need to view so I can determine if it will help me organize all the stuff I plan to put in it.

Now, before I go further, I feel compelled to explain how I went from a luxury brand manufacturer primarily targeting women to a rough and gruff outdoor gear company from Montana... Well, I love bags! (Note to wife: No honey, I’m not buying you the new Bleecker.)

I actually found the Simms Headwaters Gear Bag on Backcountry.com. The company had a great sale on the bag recently, and I almost purchased it.

What kept me from converting? You got it, I wanted to see inside.

I met with some of the folks from Backcountry.com and shared my dilemma with them. They enthusiastically agreed that they’d love to show me the inside of the bag, as well as side views, 360-degree spin views, and videos narrated by their gearheads; however, they sell a tremendous amount of gear from many manufacturers and have to shoot much of the imagery for the site themselves at their cost.

I started thinking about all the other retailers that might be selling this fly fishing bag and other similar (and not so similar) items.

Many industries face the same challenge with their products. It’s clear: The industry needs to collaborate!

Ideally, retail sites would include all of the video and image features consumers love, including dynamic imaging, multiscreen experiences, responsive and interactive viewers, real-time previews, and interactive viewing, and these would be provided by the manufacturers themselves.

There is a great opportunity for brand manufacturers to provide these assets (i.e., product images, videos, and beyond) to retailers via a digital media portal (digital asset management, or DAM).

This portal would allow all of their retail partners to maximize the customer experience and minimize costs across the ecommerce industry.

It’s also much more feasible for manufacturers to provide the assets because they’re typically already shooting these images and video for their own digital experiences, and the effort to share the assets with their retail channel would be minimal.

Better still, the availability of high-resolution, well-branded products across thousands of retail sites can lead to increased sales for the brand.

There are also many benefits for the online retailer. When great product images and videos are provided, the retailer will spend less time shooting images and have more time and resources for campaigns, merchandising, etc.

Some retailers will still want to shoot custom shots that might merchandise multiple products together to highlight a holiday or sale, but if they can begin with high-quality assets from the brand manufacturers themselves, they can spend more energy on creating compelling visuals.

Hours upon hours of time might be saved, and photography costs will no longer be a worry, leading to a greater focus on branding and conversions. Not to mention, the retailer can then spend more time creating different iterations and do more personalization and testing

How has your company used product images? Are you a retailer that has found it difficult to get what you need from manufacturers in terms of images and video and taken your own photos? Leave a comment below.


Published 6 August, 2014 by Darin Archer

Darin Archer is Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Experience Manager and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (8)

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For more of amazing stuff like this go to #MultimindGroup or follow us on @MultimindGroup :)

about 4 years ago


Brendan Underwood

Definitely had this problem with a client. He was an Australian distributor for a worldwide wheel brand, but they did provide any brand or visual supporting materials. Even had to ‘clean’ their logo before I could use it.

Managed to provide, through the showing of research, that having big photos from multiple angles will be the best bet so he setup a small studio in the warehouse and started snapping away. Now his site seems to be referenced more than the manufacturers website just because of the photos used and they come up top of Google Image search too due to the crafted ‘alt’ attributes in the HTML code.

Not sure why brand manufacturers don’t do this…they’d sell more!

about 4 years ago


Akshay Singh Jamwal

As a photographer that routinely shoots product images for e-commerce retailers, I think your article is overly simplistic.

A lot of products I shoot have existing photos that have been supplied by the manufacturer. A lot of these photos are either 1. sub-par (i.e. badly photographed, noisy or low resolution), 2. don't complement the online retailers design, or 3. incomplete (i.e. say only one or two angles,)

Another hurdle might be that the retailer may want more angles per product than the ones that are supplied- kind of like a combination of points 2 and 3.

Yet another hurdle is that the manufacturer may not have the licenses to provide images to third-party sellers, or licensing images for usage described like this works out to be expensive.
I certainly would not provide product photos to a manufacturer with a "sure, give it to whomever you like" clause unless I'm being handsomely paid.

This is quite a task to put on the manufacturer's shoulders. Now I can't speak for the manufacturers, but it strikes me that they have little incentive to spend even more money on what is usually a high-volume/low-margin business.

I'll throw this back at you: what incentives do you provide your manufacturers to supply you with quality images, in the way that you want them?
Merely providing a platform for sales isn't exactly going to get them excited about supplying you with products as well as images of those products, specifically tailored for how you want to display them.

about 4 years ago


Anna Clark, designer at Equip

I would disagree with this article. I am in the manufacturing industry and we - and every company in our industry - does their utmost to provide great product photography to their retailers. It is in our interest to do so.

When our products are rephotographed by online retailers, it is only to maintain a certain aesthetic on their website.

I think perhaps a lot of the argument is based on a few, very small manufacturers who do not get their products professionally shot.

At around £15-20 per photograph from a professional product photographer, manufacturers have to create balance between angles needed and budget constraints.

about 4 years ago


Ben Howes

As a 3D product photographer, I completely agree with Akshay.

As an additional point, retailers often look for a 'consistent' style of photography across the brands they sell, which can be near impossible when using manufacturer supplied photography, leaving them with no choice but to create the assets themselves.

As an example of this (randomly picked), Blacks, the UK outdoor store, rephotographs all shoes to be on a log, like so: http://www.ellis-brigham.com/brands/salomon/footwear. Ellis bringham on the otherhand, when filtering by the same brand has gone for a basic background removed packshot: http://www.ellis-brigham.com/brands/salomon/footwear.

There's certainly scope for the manufacturer to provide basic shots, but ultimately the shots used by retailers need to be stylised to the retailers brand too.

about 4 years ago

Kerry Meehan

Kerry Meehan, Digital Executive at Jarden Consumer Solutions

Dear retailer, when the brand manufacturer provides you with a wealth of rich content, multimedia and lifestyle photography, please use it!

So much of our time and budget is allocated to producing rich content, multimedia and product imagery, yet retailers are still sometimes poor at uploading them to their site. Then a lot of time is spent nudging for the content we provided to be uploaded.

As a brand manufacturer, you are often expected to have accounts with every single syndication company in order to facilitate all your retailers, and if you aren't with those companies - then tough luck!

Working together is so much better than a few years ago, but I think there is still a fair way to go.

about 4 years ago


Philip Thorman

We completed a major digital asset management project this year to organise all our brand assets, in particular product images.

Our major retailers really bought into it, making their life much easier.

Several of our suppliers came on board too, providing additional images we were in turn able to make available to retailers.

It's a major effort, but well worth it in the long term - no-one else in our industry provided anything similar, so it became a significant medium-term benefit we were able to offer over competitors.

Third Light were our DAM software supplier - they've built an excellent platform you can tailor to your needs.

However, getting all the angles shot, then organising lifestyle images is a major expense. If you commit to it though, there are economies of scale to be won and big returns possible.

about 4 years ago


John Belitsky

The benefits of a centralized image catalog for ALL products are too compelling to ignore. DMNDR is working on creating precisely this tool. We've already brought 500k product images on board and have been gaining great momentum. Importantly, we use the images to drive direct to customer transactions through our platform, serving up real-time demand rather than implementing a pay-to-play structure for businesses seeking customers through search or similar advertising.

about 4 years ago

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