How to get better photos for your ecommerce sites

Photos are super important for ecommerce sites so here’s a few tips that might help you to improve yours. We were doing this exercise for a hotel and the main places we needed images for was the company, native web site, travel sites like booking.com, google business and maps, Facebook and Flickr.  Run an analytics report in google analytics, the site you’re using like Facebook or Booking.com or whatever you use and a site backup before you start so you can see the improvement. You want to see search and conversion ratios improving and ultimately sentiment and reviews improving as you empower customers with more information. 

Much like video, be realistic about what you can do with your current equipment and skill levels. I have basic equipment (smartphone camera) and very low photography skills so I know from the start this isn’t going to be a National Geographic award winning exercise. We’re talking snappy, point and shoot stuff for social and ecommerce photo albums. If you are entering architectural awards then you want to brief someone specialist like Simon Devitt who is amazing and at a whole different level of skill and budget. The hobby ‘oh look I have an SLR camera’ person can be your greatest time wasting nemesis. 

Get together some people in your marketing team and write a list of what you need for customer and SEO purposes. You’ll find (with customer content especially) you have a lot of the same types of photos. For example, if you are a cafe you’ll have lots of photos of coffee cups and probably none of the toilets. If you are a hotel you’ll have the front entrance and not the layout of the bathrooms. You want product and ‘answering questions’ type photos that communicate features like:

-does it have free wifi in the room? - photo of person on laptop in room and free wifi sign
-is it child friendly? - photo of child at cafe
-what is the room layout? -photo of room layout and floor plan
-when you say swimming pool is it a resort pool or a lap pool? photo of resort style pool

People are looking for lots of accurate information so as much as you want to put your best foot forward, be careful about showcasing your $300 room when you’re $99 room is the one that most people buy on a deal. If your photos don’t show a true representation of what people get, then you’ll get negative reviews and it’s just not worth it. 

Write some groups ‘newly refurbed rooms’, ‘old rooms’, ‘one bedroom’, ‘two bedroom’ and make sure you cover off different options people might purchase. 

Smartphone cameras are fine just make sure the size is correct for output for example booking.com want quite big images at 2048 x 1536. I’ll say that again: SMARTPHONE CAMERAS ARE FINE. Most of the images your customers post will be from mobile so it’s not a big thing to have some that you took in the mix to front-foot parts of the business you want to show. 

The worst thing you can do is wait around for the perfect photo of everything and then have customers tag and upload all their ugly photos because those will be the ones that appear in search and on sites like Facebook. Put your OK one’s up first. 

Release the hounds. Set everyone off to take photos in the group they’ve been allocated. Try and take photos early in the day or in the evening so the light works but again, don’t get too fussy or you’ll never get around to doing it. We just drew up a little grid and had one person responsible for a part of the business e.g. you are doing two bedroom units in the new part of the building and getting everything on your SEO list. Photos with people in them are prioritised on a lot of sites so make sure you ask anyone’s permission before you publish them in an image- customers or employees. 

Set a deadline and have everyone come back for the upload. Taking photos is the more fun part so watch everyone run away when you get to the boring editing, uploading and tagging part. Have one folder for each part of the grid and put all the raw photos in the folder. 

You want everyone editing and tagging so we used Picmonkey because it’s free for basic things like resizing and cropping. If you have multiple computers that can do Adobe Photoshop or something else that’s great- just don’t be restricted by only having a designer to do it because it’s really slow and you won’t get the volume you want in a short timeframe. Picmonkey struggles a bit with the big 2048 images in browser but just stick to cropping and basic stuff because if you fiddle around with colour setting they’ll all look different and the app crashes too. 

Set a file naming convention like ‘one bedroom new 2048 bathroom’ so other people can use the images again. We resized to 2048 x 1536 for booking.com and went to a standard Instagram square because I just like those at the moment and they’re quite handy to have for social sites - 410 x 410. Do both so you should have three types of each picture 1. raw 2. 2048 3.410

The most important ingredient at this point is coffee and headphones because it’s time consuming but listen to Soundcloud and you’ll get through it. I recommend Cay Taylan’s full album for ultimate photo resizing performance. After a Cay Taylan’s album length of time, you are ready to start publishing. 

Start uploading to the sites. Put one person on each site and make sure they’re working off lists so you cover everything. Booking.com has a tagging directory so that can be a good one to follow. Use your SEO keywords lists as well so the images are tagged correctly. It’s really easy to rush this part and not get the most out of it so try and channel the art direction enthusiasm into photo tagging and people will soon figure out there’s a lot to get through and not be so fussy with the images. If the image is 80% OK, use it. You can go back and update the exceptions later but try and stop people rushing off and taking more photos in the first batch because your uploading soldiers will desert you and leave you with three pretty photos of the main lobby and none of the bedrooms. Just remember that your customers will quickly boost up a photo without too much thought and it might not be flattering so get your ones up there and live. 

Tagging can take ages so really perservere and keep everyone on task because you won’t want to go back and do it later. Next morning, have a quick review of the images that are live and then you can make a list of any you missed or that are really terrible and need a reshoot. You want lots of images, about 20-30 on each site of decent size and quality all tagged up with descriptions and albums and any other helpful meta data like hashtags or geotags. 

Put all the final images into folders and back them all up to somewhere central and cloudy like google drive or dropbox -even though they are live on the sites it just makes it easier for the future. Getting urgency on to the job and powering it out in one or two days is much better than dragging it out with designers on $$$$ hourly rates and then you can go back and get some hero shots later if you want for specific campaigns. Hope that helps and when you run your reports again, the conversions are up and the reviews are positive :)

data: mobile operating system actual use in New Zealand

Trade Me labs have released some data this morning you might find useful. We're still planning and building in a very Apple-first way which isn't wrong (ios is still at 41%) but you might want to think for future people resourcing and campaigns about how Android is going to work for you. I'd write more but I think @tarkwyn has provided the amazing commentary you need. Good job Trade Me and thanks for releasing such high quality data from a big sample size of actual use. WIN. 

Trade Me Touch (touch.trademe.co.nz)

The little green robot is storming all over Touch this month with Android growth charging ahead.  This is fuelled by a few things, including our adoption of iOS Smart Banners on Touch in some areas.  Unfortunately there still seems to be a staunch contingent of Android 2.x users.  If this is you (or someone you love) then perhaps this search might be in order?

Jun 2014 Operating Systems Touch

That's all for the first half of 2014, we'll be back in October with the next batch.  As usual, please send your comments and questions to us @trademelabs (and/or to the author @tarkwyn.)

How to spot a heartless showroomer

I went for a haircut the other day and that was nice because sitting reading magazines and having cups of coffee brought to you is lovely. The most lovely thing about this week’s service experience was that it was in a big renovated house so people were all very relaxed and friendly and talkative. 

How great Lorraine Downes’ hair is on the front cover of the Women’s Weekly was the main topic of conversation.  The hair stylists said they are getting lots of requests for that haircut and that doesn’t she suit it and doesn’t she look great and isn’t she ageing well and yes, she is still really beautiful. 

It was then also agreed that going from long hair to short hair ‘takes confidence’ and Lorraine Downes seems really nice and she’s married to Martin Crowe and the young hairdresser didn’t know who he was and the other people all felt old. One of the older customers called him ‘Marty’ because she met him once and meeting Martin Crowe once means that from then on you call him ‘Marty’…good to know; put that in your Evernote. The person cutting my hair said ‘yes it does take confidence to go from long to short hair and she was really brave’ and I nodded and admired her courageous act on the Women’s Weekly cover. 

Then the conversation moved on to lipstick. The young hairdresser who didn’t know Marty said she was ‘all about’ lipstick and that her favourite one was a Mac one called Morange but that it was expensive so she wasn’t wearing it today because she kept it for good. Another lady suggested that she could ‘maybe buy it online a bit cheaper’ but that she herself didn’t buy things online because that was called ‘showrooming’  and she ’didn’t have the heart’ to do such a despicable thing. 

“It’s destroying all the retailers this showrooming. I wouldn’t have the heart to go in a shop and look at something and buy it online”

Goading young impressionable hairdressers into heartless acts of showrooming Morange lipstick. The shame. 

So just to review:

Lorraine Downes= takes confidence /lovely/ probably not a show roomer/highly requested hair style

Showroomers=heartless/destroys retailers/may or may not wear Morange lipstick/not highly requested hair style

I didn’t have the Lorraine-Downes-confidence to point out that going and looking at an iPhone in an Apple store and then buying it on their website was also showrooming and that it was something that certain brands and retailers encouraged and are very excited about the future of and that are lots of online retail brands like Asos that are doing really well and creating jobs and giving people more choices. That there is also ‘reverse showrooming’ where you look at something online and go into a store to buy it which is actually how I ended up at that particular hair place. So I just kept my non-feelings to myself, drank my nice coffee and didn’t share the dark truth that I too was a heartless showroomer. 

Personalising customer care when you have a bit of a fail

It’s Māori language week so I’ll give you a personalisation lesson and a Māori language lesson at the same time. 

So once I got in trouble for writing kūmaras on a big in-store sign retail hanging aisle banner thing. It’s a tricky word because kumera is also correct and you often see it spelt incorrectly as kumura and nobody really knows what Ipomoea batatas -sweet potato is. 

 “Peel kūmaras …”

That’s what it said and a woman called the call centre and complained that she was going to take the company to the Māori language commission for hate crime against her language. After going through about three tiers of call centre staff, she was put through to me in marketing which was a bit of a fluke because as it turned out, it was my fault. 

The woman launched about the deep offence it had caused her and that companies like mine deserved to be taken to account for colonial imperialism something and lack of respect for something else and we needed to be held to account for our ignorance and oh dear it was getting very serious. 

You see the plural of kūmara is kūmara and I had butchered the word by adding the English -s ,and, as an official language of New Zealand it deserved to be written correctly and not anglicised. The Māori language has no ’s’. She had a point. 

“Yeah that was me. I actually knew that one... ‘kumaras’ — wow that is a shocker. Sorry about that.”

The woman stopped her download and started laughing. She actually started laughing. 

“That was you!? Do you write the recipes? Look, it’s not a big deal it’s just that I’m a Māori language teacher and I hate seeing people learn the wrong way in public spaces. That’s a really common one.”

We had gone from letters to the editor and formal government office complaints to laughing at the ‘kumaras’ because I was a person who made a mistake and not a giant retail brand with no respect for te reo Māori. 

We talk a lot about personalisation from an ad serving or search point of view but don’t lose sight of what it can do for you from a communications point of view. That same conversation could equally have happened on Facebook, Twitter, or a company forum. Getting your real people to explain (or say sorry) can make a big difference and customers will be a lot more understanding if they can see that you are human like them. 

“Peel kūmara …”

So there it is, no ’s’ in Māori.

How to stay happy at work building toilet roll forts

When I was 14 I worked at a supermarket packing groceries. 

I was a youth worker on $4.25 an hour (before tax) and made 60 something dollars a week working 4pm until 8pm after school. 

I was rich. 

No I’m serious I thought I was. When you’re a kid living at home with no rent, utilities, car bills or— well any overhead at all- you can actually have quite a good time with 60 bucks and it came in every week. It was pretty great. 

The next peg up the promotional ladder was Checkout Operator but the owner thought I was too dumb and promoted everyone around me and I stayed as a Packer. I know he thought I was too dumb because he said it to my face ‘I think you’ll struggle with the operator training. It’s for the best really.’ So with the door fully closed on my future as a supermarket checkout operator, I was given the most mindless and simple part of the store to take responsibility over- the toilet roll and tissue paper aisle. When the checkouts weren’t busy the idea was the you go and tend to your little plot in the store. I loved it. 

Toilet rolls arrive in the storeroom in massive cardboard boxes. Next time you are at the supermarket ask them if you can go out the back and play in the toilet paper and paper towel deliveries. They won’t let you, but it’s a great time like giant soft Lego. Because I was labelled as a bit thick, it was the best place for me because you can’t break anything and you just build huge forts of paper towels and 36 roll Sorbent toilet paper outers.  Then you make little lists of what’s missing out on the shop floor and load up a stock trolley from your toilet paper fort. 

There are different sizes and colours of tissue boxes, Christmas editions, promotional ticketing and bonus ‘buy 6 get 2 free’ offers. People would ask me for my expert advice on toilet rolls and would tell them what the best deal was that week and show them the new tissue ranges with Penguins on them. Crushed corners on tissue boxes are the worst and you get that when the giant boxes are thrown on to the floor of the storeroom from up in the pallet racking (there’s a pro tip for you next time you buy tissues). I would always retrieve my own tissue outers because there were no crushed corners in my magnificent display.  

Most supermarkets don’t have Packers now and the Checkout Operators have turned into self-serve robot kiosks so I finally get to scan the barcodes myself which was the most coveted part of being an Operator and not a Packer. Sometimes, you’re better off to just roll with the changes on the shop floor, enjoy building paper towel forts and not wait for someone to anoint you as Checkout Operator because there’s probably something better out there for you and you never know-you might still get to have a go with the scanner. 

Research: Customer expectations of mobile for omni-channel retail

Nerdy research o'clock. Decent data is quite hard to come by for omni-channel, so here's some that looks OK from Accenture and Forrester. The mobile commerce figure was a bit of a head scratcher for me. 

Two thirds of customers expect retail sales people to have a mobile device? Wow that's good I guess (linking in to the viewing mobile as a tool rather than a wizzy gadget idea we talked about before) but seems high to me knowing not very much about it all really. 

The only time I can remember a full mobile sales experience was at an Apple store and I was very excited and said "wow that was all done on mobile that was amazing" or something similar to the chappie in the nice blue shirt. And then he said something like "yeah...when it works" and then we did the knowing 'yeah out here in the real world, we know how things are' awkward laugh and then I went home. 

I must raise my expectations about sales people and *new word I learned today* mPOS -mobile point of service. 

"Hi do you guys not have mPOS?--gee I was expecting it nevermind I will have to walk to the counter" --next trip to Target. 

Australian mobile ad spend quadruples plus big moves in retail display

Mobile advertising quadrupled in 2013, increasing 305 percent year on year to reach $349.2m in the twelve months ending 31st December 2013.  In the December quarter it represented 14.3 percent of total online expenditure, up from 11 percent in the previous quarter.  Video advertising reached 15 percent of display revenues in the December quarter, a 72 percent growth on 2012.  Display advertising also experienced particularly strong growth in the December quarter, reaching 35 percent year on year growth.

Motor Vehicles, Finance, and Retail were the top three dominant General Display industry categories in the December Quarter, representing 41.3 percent of the reported General Display advertising market. This was up from 40.2 percent in the December Quarter 2012.

Retail was a big mover this quarter, increasing its category share from 8.8 percent in the December Quarter 2012 to 10.5 percent  in the December Quarter 2013. This has been the strongest quarter for retail category share since the commencement of industry category data collection in 2008. The strength of the retail industry category for General Display advertising this quarter was also reflected in the greater retail movements in the market. Shoppers spent a record $22.6 billion in December 2013, following strong sales in October and November.[1]

IAB Australia’s Online Advertising Expenditure Report February 2014

Scaling agile for social media marketing

I’m just having a quick look at this info from Spotify and thought I’d post it up-mainly so I remember where I’ve put it. I think marketing has to really rethink how we are structuring and managing workflows. Mainly due to our dependence on agency and TV as the driver of activity. 

We need to learn from other industries and functions so that things can be sped up and made more agile for real-time communications. It’s probably the test and revise part where we need to improve the most and waiting 12 months for an agency 360 campaign review is no longer practical. Retail, CPG and media industries have historically been very good at delivery to deadlines so I don't think it’s a matter of dropping everything and thinking software development has all the answers but around areas like legal sign off and A/B campaign testing, there is certainly room for improvement. 

Anyway, have a look through the Spotify resources. Another good resource is a book by the founders of Flight Centre who also took to the tribal organisational designs. I read it a few years back now and I think Vodafone tried to adopt some of their approaches as well? Can’t remember. Anyway. Another nice example of 'here's how we do it' content: whitepaper and infographic for your pleasure. 


Related:

Skroo the Rules - Flight Centre Ltd by Darryl Blake ISBN 9781863503471 / 1863503471
How do we structure our communication agency partnerships for social?
Here’s how we do it


Why are company YouTube accounts so boring?

I’m very grateful to the great #BeamishEra vlogger Lewis Bostock for enlightening me about why companies get it so wrong on YouTube: ‘they think it’s TV’

If you want your YouTube account to get way less boring, the first thing you need to figure out is that it’s not TV. Most companies will get a videographer to go and produce a little customer story, edit it all up in FinalCut Pro, put it through some sign offs, and then publish the final result to YouTube. The content is usually stale (weeks or months old), scripted and broadcast. There is no interaction and the features of YouTube that make it so powerful for audience building aren’t used. All you’re doing is dropping a TV ad on a video site. 

Compare that to some of the current masters of YouTube audience building like Tyler Oakley, Zoella, or one of of my current favourites, Sprinkle of Glitter Louise. 

I recently introduced my Mum to Louise and Zoe.  She’s 65, doesn’t use YouTube and has no idea what a ‘social media’ is. I gave her the laptop and hit the Play button.  Half an hour later, I came back and she was still sitting there chattering out loud like a budgie to Louise and Zoe about their clothes and makeup purchases as the playlist ran through.  She had figured out how to press the ‘Skip Ad’ button for the very nicely crafted 30 second Beiersdorf AG Nivea Body Wash pre-roll ads-she didn’t want to watch those-but was more than happy to sit for 30 minutes and hear two young British women talk about health and beauty products. 

Why?

They were talking to her. In most of the videos, Louise and Zoe had purchased some products (clothes, shoes, makeup) from mainstream retail stores and they had come home and were showing what they had bought. It’s a very common social routine and my Mum immediately understood what was going on and joined in accordingly with ‘oh that nail polish is a nice colour’ and ‘yes I like the handbags with small inside pockets too’ and ‘I never know whether to get dark brown or black mascara either’.  The content was relatable and because they were having fun digging through their shopping bags and commenting on everything, my Mum wanted to join in and have a comment too. 

The second thing the new generation of bloggers are doing very well which we didn’t see so much in the #beamishera of vloggers and we don’t see at all on company YouTube accounts is the unashamed use of call to actions. 

As I mentioned, my Mum doesn’t use social media so she doesn’t really get what comments and shares and subscribes are. So she couldn’t work out why they kept asking her to press things at the end of the videos. I explained to her that it helps Louise and Zoe make money- they do this stuff for a job. That was bit mind blowing for my Mum so  I had to give her a crash course in the online content eco-system but the point is, she was more than happy to do what she was told and click the buttons to help them-she liked Louise and Zoe. 

Companies serve up client story videos and everyone smiles at the end and it fades to black, or worse still, a screen jumps up with a  URL to go back to the company’s main homepage. Boring plus. 

Watch what people like Tyler Oakley do. He asks/tells you to subscribe and like his videos ‘so that I can keep doing this’ and invites you to watch another video of his, reply to a question he asked in the comments, come and see him at a live event: he’s very blatant about what he wants you to do. Companies can do the same. Blatantly ask your audience to like your videos. Ask them to support your software by signing up for a free trial account ‘so you can keep doing this’. Ask them to add their YouTube channels in the comments so you can subscribe and support their projects. Make playlists so people like my Mum will sit there and keep watching your videos. 

It’s easy to get intimidated looking at the views and subscribes of some of the successful YouTubers. Don’t let that put you off but do look at the tactics they use and step away from boring, TV-centric videos by simply talking to people and inviting them into your channel.  A handful of authentic customer interactions is worth a lot more than a hipster-crafted brand extravaganza that nobody cares about. YouTube isn't TV so try and break that mindset and you'll get far more engagement with your content. 

Photos from the #BeamishEra New Zealand YouTube Gathering 2009