Startup & Small Business
Written by Jeremy Jensen
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
The United States has seen a rising trend in digital buyers from 136.9million in 2010, to what should be nearly 170 million next year in 2015. That’s over half the country now shopping in eCommerce stores. As consumers, we can’t get enough of the attractive images drawing our eyes towards a potential purchase because online a sale often comes down to how well we can perceive the product.
Ideally, you’d want to hire a professional photographer to undertake such an important task, but these days with all of the additional costs small businesses are facing some budgets just won’t allow for it. That’s why we have created a guide for the most important characteristics pertaining to an effective product photo.
Follow the tips below in order to capture images your customers will respond to.
Get set up with consumer-grade equipment
There’s a big difference in consumer and professional equipment, and usually it comes down to the cost. Camera manufacturers are putting out new consumer models every 6-8 months, all of which are capable of delivering fantastic imagery for a fraction of the cost of what a professional-grade camera would run you.
I recommend looking into a DSLR and lens that costs no more than $1,000 if you’re going to be running an eCommerce site with frequent updates and product variations. Mirrorless cameras are also quite the bang for your buck, coming in compact sizes and with built in lenses that capture wonderful macro and detailed product shots.
Taking one photo is not enough
The biggest difference in eCommerce shopping is that your customer won’t have the opportunity to handle and evaluate the physical attributes of your product. As you’re probably familiar with this process, you can understand no matter how good the deal is being offered, you probably won’t commit to a purchase until you feel you’ve grasped it visually.
The trick: put yourself into the mind of your shoppers.
Taking multiple product photos will often eliminate any doubts associated with loss in sales. Try and make these details very clear:
- The size and scale relative to the products functionality
- Are there additional items that will come packed inside?
- Does it require assembly?
- How it looks at all angles
The last bullet point is probably the most important. Larger companies have product windows with 360 degree viewing software, so in order to replicate that assurance make sure there is not an angle missing that may be deterring sales.
Background, Lighting and Environment
Just like we need to see the product at all angles, the look should feel like it would in real life. Often photographers will construct what’s called an ‘infinity curve’ to give the background a look as though the product were floating in infinite white space.
This can be as simple as using a roll of paper on the ground as pictured above. The reason behind this is it leaves very little room for aesthetic distractions while customers are browsing your items and won’t confuse anyone as to what is being sold.
It’s always best to try and find natural lighting if you aren’t experienced in lighting a studio. While the illumination of soft boxes can be very enticing, mixing different light temperatures and angles can often make a photo more unattractive. Here’s a great resource for setting up a studio from home.
Last, try and include objects that will help it relate to real life. For example, jewelry makers have been shown to have much better success by photographing items being worn, while also having some shots of the item by itself. This is a great trick for translating what the item will look like on your customers.
The power is in the details
Like any attractive advertisement you want customers to see the fine features that define your products’ quality. Often times this means using a shallow depth of field, or one of the macro features built into your camera to truly focus in on the textures, materials and details that make the item worth purchasing.
*Try selecting the flower setting or aperture priority to really sharpen the image.
Edit and Post
Rarely do professional photographers just take an image off the camera and upload it. After you’ve gone through the capturing process it’s important you’ll also be able to adjust the lighting, color and clarity to truly portray your items attractively.
Photography can be a lifelong pursuit to reach perfection, but if you follow these steps you’ll be much more likely to convert sales knowing how to properly showcase your products.
Written by Cy Khormaee
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
Editors Note – Cy is a friend of HostGator, currently pursuing entrepreneurial dreams in Silicon Valley. We have asked him to share his adventures. If you missed it see Part 1 The Spark: A Startup Is Born and Part 2 Perilous Pivots: When a Dream Meets Reality.
Traction is great, but it doesn’t keep a company alive. After five months of growth Contastic was picking up steam. We had hundreds of users on board and real revenue starting to trickle in. However, it was not enough to sustain our costs as a business. We had only three months of cash in our personal bank accounts left to survive. With that dwindling lifeline in mind I jumped into the process of fundraising.
It started with a bang; I made a long list of all the investors I knew from our time at Lightspeed. Everyone took a meeting – leading to at least a hundred coffees and calls. With each meeting we heard a new opinion that led us to create countless iterations of our pitch deck – presenting our company in a new light each time. Little did I know this would all be for naught.
I’d fallen into the classic trap of sales – failing to qualify. We were taking advice from many investors who chose not invest – no matter how we pitched ourselves. By taking their advice we scattered the messaging and wandered away from what really mattered – Contastic.
After setting into a feeling of hopelessness from all of the conflicted advice, I just gave up and pitched the next investor we met like a customer. The product we spent months refining had come to a sharp focus that could be conveyed in about a minute:
Simply put – Contastic tells sales teams who to contact, when to reach out, and what to say to close a deal. This saves time and increases prospect conversion rates. Focusing on this pithy value proposition led to instant and binary results.
Investors began to either instantly love our product (we closed one spectacular investment with a 30 minute phone call), or they would simply opt out. This eliminated the slow no – investors who would waste my time with endless questions and requests for information, but never invest. Investing in the early stage is purely emotional. Either it’s love at first sight, otherwise no amount of rationalization will get you there.
Armed with this knowledge, we ended up closing our lead investor on week two – with the rest of our round closing with a snap in the two weeks following the lead. We ended up raising almost double what we had originally intended. At the outset of the process our very survival was uncertain, but by its end we have the support of the very best in the world:
Although raising money concludes our series here, it’s only the beginning for Contastic as a company. This round of funding arms us with the means to compete in the big leagues. It’s up to us to sprint to build a real business. Closing our round is not the end – it is the beginning – the punctuation of a starting pistol. Now, it’s time for us to run.
I’m an engineer who loves to sell. My career started out in big data engineering for Microsoft evolved into a sales role that landed me as the founder of Contastic (getContastic.com). I bring the hard data-driven approach of an engineer to the softer science of sales. It’s always a pleasure for me to meet new people and help them evolve their sales practices. I blog at blog.cykho.com and tweet @cykho.
Written by Kyler Patterson
Friday, August 22nd, 2014
In March of this year, Facebook made some changes to the way in which ad campaigns are managed; essentially providing for better campaign management via increased granularity. This allowed for significantly better A/B testing; one example being the ability to split mobile ads into a unique ad set separate from regular newsfeed ads, which proved to be exceptionally helpful. Eight months later, they’re at it again with a new update.
Advertising Update 2014
On August 13th, Patricia Lai posted news on the Facebook PMD about new changes in the structure of campaigns. For those who like to exercise as much control as possible over their campaigns, these will again be welcomed changes. Let’s take a closer look.
What You Should Know
The biggest change for the September 2014 update is highlighted in the picture above. You may remember back in March, Facebook updated the campaign structure as follows:
- Campaign: Objective
- Ad Set: Schedule and Budget
- Ad: Creative, Placement, Targeting and Bidding
The most notable change was the introduction of the ad set. For this update, Facebook will be reversing the roles of ads and ad sets.
With the new structure, it will look more like this:
- Campaign: Objective
- Ad Set: Schedule, Budget, Bidding, Targeting and Placement
- Ad: Creative
When Is The Change?
September 1st, the rollout will begin on Ads Manager, Ads Create Tool, and Power Editor. By mid-September the rollout should be complete and all advertisers will be able to start using the new structure on October 1st.
If you are an API developer, you will have at least 5 months to update your systems because they will need to work with the new system by January 2015 at the earliest.
Advertisers, if you are using Ads Manager, Ads Create Tool, or the Power Editor, then you will see this change soon. If you are using a third party tool, you may not notice the update until 2015.
As for your existing campaigns, you do not need to make any updates to them at this time. You can continue to run these until January. At that time, Facebook will have the option to migrate existing campaigns within the Ads Manager.
Major Hints For Coming Updates
“This will also pave the way for launching advanced delivery controls, audience management, and a campaign spend cap in the near future.”
It is very exciting to see this platform evolve. Hopefully these new advanced controls will prove to be another useful evolution.
What do you think about these new changes and the path that Facebook is on with their advertising platform? Will it become everything that Adwords isn’t, or just another platform that doesn’t live up to the hype? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Brandi Bennett
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Most businesses opt to use Twitter or Facebook as a means of communicating with their customers, or their potential customers; though there are those that are willing to utilize G+, they often do so as an afterthought, making it a nice place for many of us to hang out who don’t like dealing with advertisements in our news, information, and social escapades. Still, with Facebook starting to trail behind the others, as it increases the amount of advertisements and decreases in popularity, many users are starting to turn to G+ as the next big platform.
What Does This Mean For Businesses?
You may want to get on board with G+, and Google’s making that easier than ever for you to do now. All e-commerce business owners use some form of analytics in order to determine the best moves for their business, allowing them to find out where they want to take things from here, so to speak.
While this has been somewhat possible through social media as well, many business owners find that they don’t want to pay the additional fees needed in order to access this information, leaving them questioning as to whether or not they are doing things right on the social media platforms. Well, no more!
G+ now offers businesses the ability to access all of the analytic information that they need in order to determine the best methods of connecting with customers, identifying what is working and what is not, and, perhaps more importantly, works to increase the amount of control that small businesses have over their promotional activities. Offered as a part of the service now known as “Google My Business,” small business owners are able to manage many aspects of their online presence, including search results, maps, directions, reviews, and the analytical data offered to them through the use of G+.
Time To Make A Change?
Google’s always worked to try to provide users with all of the information that they could ever possibly need or want (and then some), but now it appears as though they are working to take care of not just individuals but businesses as well. With all this available readily at your fingertips, perhaps it’s time for you too to consider making a change; if not permanently, at least working to include G+ in your retinue of tools.