Today I welcome my amazing business partner Rob Sleath of MightyServices to talk about ecommerce photography. You could say Rob has never really had a job. He did three months as a temp during Christmas. Beyond that everything else he’s done has been digital, online, and ecommerce related. His formal education is in nuclear physics. In a nutshell, he likes numbers.
His start in online sales came well before his start as an Amazon entrepreneur. Rob had been building ecommerce websites and offering photography and graphic design services in the online sector for years. He made the decision to get involved in the Amazon ecosystem in 2014 and has been knee deep in it ever since. On today’s installment, we’re specifically going to be focusing on Rob’s background in ecommerce photography.
People place a lot more stock in photography than they realize. When you’re buying a product online, you can’t touch it; you can’t feel it. You read some reviews, read the seller’s opinion in the bullet points, but the photograph is the most real and tangible thing on the listing. A good set of photos helps with click-through from the search results page. It enables you to describe your product better than any perfectly written description or bullet point ever could.
There are entire industries that sell products through photographs with little or no descriptions. We’re not in the business of selling products. We may be in the business of delivering them, but at the very core, we’re selling images. People buy cars and even houses sight unseen based on pictures on a screen. The photograph is the best interaction they have with the products they buy online.
So many of my clients come to me and ask, “Can’t I just take the photos for my listings on my iPhone?” It’s true, the resolution on the newest iPhone and Android smartphones is incredible. If your goal is to test a market, and you’ve only got five of a product, sure, buy a lightbox photography kit and take your product photos with an iPhone. If you can sell those five items based on some dirty, horrible pictures taken with an iPhone, you can certainly sell that product with beautiful, sharp, professionally taken photographs.
On the other hand, if you’ve already invested in hundreds or thousands of units for a listing, get professional photos. The last thing you want to do is have a failed listing based on bad pictures.
If you want to have an accurate understanding of how many units of a product you’re going to sell, then the listing you’re creating needs to be as similar to the ultimate listing you’re going to be using on Amazon as possible.
It needs to be similar in terms of pricing, in terms of the quality of the description, in terms of the photos, and in terms of the amount you’re spending on pay-per-click advertising. There’s no point in investing any real time or capital into a market test if you’re going to change all the variables when you finally bring the product to market. The key is understanding what you’re testing.
A photograph that overrepresents or underrepresents a product is not a well-taken photograph. Not only do you as an Amazon Seller need to match your product with the right customer, but you also need to match your product with the right photograph to get customers in the marketplace to click through, buy an item, and leave a good review (or at least not a bad one). A photograph that looks amazing but doesn’t accurately represent the product a customer is receiving is not a good photo; in fact, it can even be worse for customer acquisition and retention than a poorly taken photo which provides an accurate representation of the product.
Rob uses an example of a retail arbitrage product with a rank of 500,000 in the UK. The product seemed like a good value for the money, but the images were horrible; it was selling roughly one unit per month.
Rob bought 10 of the item, replaced the images with good quality photos, did some graphic design, added an infographic and boom! The item sold at two units per day. Photo quality and presentation matters.
If the product you’re trying to sell is simple enough, an amateur photographer with a good eye can get decent results without shelling out thousands of dollars for excellent professional product photos. Small, non-reflective items like little Bluetooth speakers can yield acceptable results for sellers on a budget. Keep in mind there’s no substitute for high-quality professional photography.
If you do decide to tackle product photography on your own, Amazon requires a clean, perfect white background. You’ll have to take photos of your listing on a white background and edit the photo yourself (or pay for someone else to edit it for you) to make sure the background is pure white. Use soft lighting. The best light you can get is a big light in comparison to the size of your object. Maybe even get an anglepoise light and a piece of paper to soften it. If the question is, “Can I sell five of this item with poor photographs?” go right ahead. If the question is, “Will this market support my listing?” it might be better to pay a few hundred pounds for quality photos.
Stay tuned on Friday for Part 2 of my interview with Rob where we’ll discuss product photography strategies; specifically, how to get the best results for your professional product photos.