How E-Commerce Retailers Use Lifestyle Photography to Generate Brand Value

Previously the exclusive tool of the world’s largest luxury brands, lifestyle photography has become the obsession of the Internet generation. The availability of high quality camera and image editing technology made this style a dominating element of digital marketing campaigns, which now can be harnessed by the e-commerce store owner.

Lifestyle vs. Product

Almost every online retailer with an e-commerce store selling physical products is deeply familiar with product photography. The need to accurately show consumers the product being sold is an integral part of the online shopping experience – without it, most Internet retailers of this kind could not exist.

Product photos favor clinical detail over showiness and pizzazz. Typically, they feature the product in question over a neutral or full white background. Alternately, they can feature the product in an attractive setting that speaks to the brand’s value proposition.

Lifestyle photos, however, are all about telling stories. These are the photos that not only describe what the vendor is selling, but also showing what kind of customer buys the product being sold. That extra layer of meaning is what makes all the difference in the world of online shopping.

How Lookbooks Work in the Context of E-commerce

The storytelling element that separates lifestyle photography from generic product photos is what gives it its unique power. Fashion designers have been using this type of photography for decades – incorporating narratives into fashion photography fashion statements called lookbooks for decades.

A lookbook is a collection of images showing an ensemble of products grouped together. Typically, they involve models and take place in exotic locations. Ideal for fashion editorials, they use photographs to illustrate the lifestyle a product’s consumer desires.

In the Internet-era, fashion is not the only industry that can benefit from a lookbook. Nearly any physical product retailer can use this medium to describe the type of customer it serves. That includes tech start-ups and kitchenware designers to furniture sellers and hygiene product manufacturers.

The lookbook gives consumers the information they need to distinguish between the products they would shop for and the ones that simply don’t interest them. It is a highly visual marketing tool that uses an environment, model, and narrative to describe the person who would buy the main product being advertised.

Use Lookbooks to Sell Online Products

By appealing to consumer emotion and imagination through lookbooks, online retailers can develop loyal brand followings. Social media users – especially on Pinterest – interact with and share lookbook content far more often than regular product photos.

Any product that addresses the need of a specific demographic can benefit from using lifestyle photography to drive home its value in the eyes of consumers. The more specific the demographic, the greater the potential benefits of incorporating lookbook photography on the website.

Follow these steps to make the most of your lifestyle photography campaign:

Step One: Use Demographics to Tell Stories

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Lifestyle photography needs to tell a story. Find out how customers find your products and what they do with those products to determine the personality of the customer. Once you hone in on a specific customer lifestyle demographic, you can create a story that matches.

In many cases, stories can come from real customers. This is the case for products that meet specific needs, such as sports equipment or technology products. Regardless of where the narrative comes from, it needs to address the specific demographic that the product targets.

Step Two: Don’t Skimp on Photography

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Since lifestyle photography has a completely different goal than product photography, it requires a different set of conditions for successful execution. Not only do e-commerce merchants need to hire a professional photographer, but they must also consider the location of the shoot and the specific model or models hired.

Good lighting and a professional make-up artist can mean the difference between a magazine editorial-quality shoot and a generic no-name lookbook. Faces tell stories and drive engagement on Instagram – and they’ll make or break your lifestyle campaign’s success.

Step Three: Ensure Website Compatibility

The simplest way to use high quality lookbook photos is by posting them on social media. If your website has a blog, you’re encouraged to ensure that it is compatible with the imagery in question.

For instance, if your website is based on BigCommerce, you can choose from a broad range of themes that support lookbook imagery. Themes are customizable templates that can profoundly change the look and feel of your site. The theme Lookbook lets e-commerce retailers tell their customers a story through mosaic-styled imagery.

However, the most enterprising online retailers take product photography a step further by offering user interactivity – custom-coded lookbook photography can be designed to link website visitors to specific product pages when they click on the products featured. The fact that lookbooks combine products from different sources offers opportunities for valuable cross-promotion, as well.

Use Product Reviews to Drive Sales – Conversion Optimization

Sample Product Reviews

As any ecommerce customer knows, product reviews are a critical part of the online buying experience. Analytic tools give you a unique opportunity to learn about customer psychology and implement solutions for addressing their needs.

Reviews aren’t capable of driving sales on their own – they need to be understood through analysis. Analytics turn reviews into tools for conversion optimization. You can use reviews to generate conversions, ramp up product reviews, and sell more products.

The intersection between analytics and conversion optimization is important because of how usage data can lead to better decision-making. For instance, a website with a high bounce rate may be poorly designed or addressing the wrong audience.

This is a situation that calls for optimizing the store’s conversion strategy. Product reviews are an ideal place to start.

Get Good Product Reviews

In the world of ecommerce, few messages are more powerful than an excellent product review. Almost every e-commerce platform includes some sort of reviewing mechanism – whether in the form of a one-to-five star rating or via lengthy, descriptive, and often entertaining comments.

The greater task of conversion optimization relies, in part, on racking up excellent product reviews. This is because having large numbers of good reviews establishes a sense of legitimacy that is almost impossible to generate otherwise. As eConsultancy.com points out, user reviews increase conversions.

• Having more than 50 reviews per product can lead to a 4.6% conversion rate increase.

• Customers are 63% more likely to buy products from websites that offer user reviews.

• Reviews keep visitors on-site.

88% of consumers consult reviews when making a purchase.

Reviews can drive conversions – but how can ecommerce store owners increase the number of reviews their products generate? In short, by asking for them.

Get Bad Reviews Too

30% of online consumers assume that product reviews are fake if no negative reviews are shown, according to Vendasta. When creating a strategy for online reviews, ecommerce store owners need not be afraid of the criticism that an unfavorable review entails.

Unless the review is so scathing that it absolutely needs to be censored, including it is usually a good idea. Leaving the occasional negative review in with a mostly-positive set of responses is a good way to give the process a sense of authority and trustworthiness.

Importantly, brands need to respond to negative reviews quickly and decisively. More often than not, an unfavorable review is one of the best chances for a brand to gain a new, loyal follower and publicly promote itself in a positive way.

Doing this successfully requires solving the customer’s problem and demonstrating that the business is committed to continuously improving itself.

Test Post-Purchase Copy to Get More Reviews

Knowing that reviews help customers make purchase decisions and that having only good reviews is undesirable, e-commerce store owners have good reason to get as many reviews as possible. With luck, the percentage of good reviews to bad ones will be in the upper 90s, showing that, overall, people are happy with the products or services they receive.

One of the first ways e-commerce store owners increase review responses is through better handling of their post-purchase copywriting. Most customers are generally willing to sign up for email newsletters or other tertiary services after they’ve made a purchase with a specific brand. Asking for a review can be one of the most valuable post-purchase actions a customer can make.

Successful post-purchase copy asks for a review without seeming insincere. Generating a sense of authenticity will produce the greatest benefits at this stage in the conversion cycle.

The following strategies tend to produce results.

• Offering return customers a discount code for leaving reviews can help incentivize the process.

• Some online retailers reach out to customers on social media. Any social media user who tags the brand or mentions it is likely to respond favorably.

• Follow-up emails work when they are targeted and narrowly focused. Run A/B comparisons to get an idea of what types of email marketing campaigns work. Digital receipts, for instance, enjoy a 65% open rate and a 10.7% click rate.

Reviews Offer SEO Benefits

On a concluding note, product reviews carry significant SEO benefits. Each review consists of unique, often keyword-heavy content useful for search engines, which can increase ranking. One of the most useful keywords that reviews help boost is “[product name] + review”, which is a top-performing search term for most products.