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David Jones, Amazon invest in photography for online stores, retail experts urge SMEs to follow suit

Patrick Stafford /

Retailers have once again been reminded of the importance of high quality photography, after department store giant David Jones revealed it has built a studio in order to professionally photograph the 90,000 items set to appear on its new web store.

Web giant Amazon has now also said it will place a higher emphasis on women’s fashion; hiring models and shooting 3,000 images a day in a new photography studio to woo major and high-end brands to the site.

But SEO experts also say while photography is important, high quality video is even more so – and can deliver higher conversion rates if done correctly.

“You always want to optimise your video, no matter how obscure it’s going to be,” says Reseo chief executive Chris Thomas.

David Jones announced several weeks ago it would be going all-out on a plan to increase the scope of its web store, spending millions, hiring new staff and expanding its product range to 90,000 in order to create what it called an “omni-channel strategy”.

The studio is in the process of building a photography studio at its warehouse, according to the Australian Financial Review, and has hired fashion photography studio Mondo Digital to manage the media and copywriting for its new products.

“We are going from 9,000 to 90,000 SKUs [stock-keeping units] so the amount of product that has to be photographed in the months of June, July, August and September is amazing,” DJ general manager of digital marketing Adriane McDermott told the publication.

“It’s important to ensure the product photography and the way we’re designing the site and the way shoppers will experience the product is at a world-class standard.”

Amazon told the New York Times it has hired fashion models specifically for the site, which is being photographed in a new studio.

Brian Walker, chief executive of retail consultancy Retail Doctor Group, says customers now demand high quality photography.

“The photography is an indirect reflection of an organisation’s brand. It defines the quality and detail, and it is has to be visually inspiring.”

“It says a lot about your brand if they have graphic and visual appeal. In that sense, it’s very important.”

Experts suggest anecdotal evidence shows customers are turned off by low-quality photography, instead flocking to sites where they are able to get a better look.

The entrepreneurs behind online furniture stores Milan Direct and Fidarsi Furniture – both of which have appeared on the SmartCompany Smart50 lists – said last month the company prioritises high quality photography to help customers move beyond the disadvantage of not actually touching the product.

Walker says it’s an example more businesses should follow.

“You can’t be an iconic brand like David Jones and not reflect that what you’re selling is compelling to buy from a visual point of view.”

“It’s a good investment…a necessary investment.”

But Reseo chief Chris Thomas says there’s an even better reason to use high quality photography, as it’ll help your SEO.

“The opportunity to have your images show up in Google Images is great – it’s searched a billion times a day. And in response to that popularity, Google has released Google Image ads as well.”

However, he also says businesses need to focus on video just as much as they would on high quality photography, suggesting the conversion rates may be even higher for SMEs who delve into making videos for their site.

“Video conversion rates, when you have a video of a product model or something being demonstrated, they’re going to smash any photography, in my opinion.”

“I’ve seen people just doing videos of UGG boots and showing how they make them. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s effective.”

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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