19 May 2024, 14:55
By David Brint Feb 27, 2019

Seeing the bigger picture online

Buying furniture is a considerable investment, and online shoppers expect high-quality, engaging imagery as standard to make an informed decision. However, according to research carried out by imaging and workflow specialist SpinMe on 20 well-known brands, only 17% are presenting core items – beds, sofas and tables – in a consistent way. Just over a third do not include detail shots, while only 18% feature a piece of furniture as part of a shoppable set. So how should furniture brands best show their stock online? SpinMe’s David Brint offers four tips for creating a compelling and inspiring imagery strategy that can instil pre-purchase confidence and boost conversions …

1. Keep the journey seamless

Shopping in-store is an immersive experience, where consumers can spend time exploring products – and online customers should be able to browse the digital aisles of a web store with the same ease. If they are looking for a new bed, for example, they will most likely want to click back and forth across pages to assess the range and compare. 

This careful consideration means products need to be presented in a uniform way or the browsing experience feels jarring. The number of pictures, type of shots, colour palette and layout should be identical across each category. This coherent approach will also reinforce brand identity.

Think big and maximise the space on product display pages. Some brands tend to squeeze their main image onto the left-hand side rather than let it take centre stage, or compress the picture to the point it can’t be properly viewed without using the zoom function. The same rule applies to additional shots. There is no need for them to be thumbnail size – shoppers will overlook them if they are too small. 

Ikea follows best practice here. Its sofa category is easy to navigate, and the design of each page aligns with the uncluttered, white, Scandi-style of the entire website. Although the main sofa images could be larger to make the most of the available space, the presentation is consistent – every sofa is shot from the same angle – and the page includes the same number and type of supplementary views. 

2. Details, details

People buy with their eyes, and retailers need to provide as much valuable and in-depth information as possible. Our study revealed that the number of pictures used to promote beds, sofas and dining tables varies between one and 14. Six well-chosen images will suffice, or the customer may feel overwhelmed. 

Shots of key features such as a sofa leg or table top should be included, as they draw the shopper’s attention to specific characteristics. Loaf does this well, with a granular shot that shows how the leaves of its extendable table slot together. 

In the same way, Furniture Village includes a helpful close-up of the controls of this recliner sofa. 

Size matters to consumers, especially with larger pieces of furniture that need to fit in a specific space. Oak Furniture Land is one of nine retailers in our study that includes a line drawing with dimensions, making it easier for shoppers to visualise an item in their home. 

3. Encourage customer interaction

To create a truly immersive experience, consider integrating technology to enhance imagery. Furniture often has multiple features, and to fully demonstrate the benefits, retailers can embrace rich media. 

While most brands we studied (80%) incorporate a zoom function, only just over a third (35%) feature shots that can be turned 360°. Giving the customer the opportunity to take control of a single image so it can be viewed from every possible angle offers a better shopping experience and an extra element to online viewing. 

Video is another way to engage shoppers, yet, surprisingly, three quarters of the retailers researched don’t use it. Not only does video enable the customer to see an item from various viewpoints, it’s a neat way of showing it with other products, as Bensons for Beds does.

4. Inspire shoppers to explore further

A piece of furniture is not a standalone item, yet our study showed that cross-selling online does not seem to have been widely adopted. Only 20% of brands offer chairs to match a table on the same page, or accessories such as a mattress or bedlinen alongside a bed. 

Among the exceptions is Heal’s. A ‘shop the look’ section with links takes customers directly to the specific product display page.

Loaf does something similar, with a link to its own ‘shop the look’ page.  

The web offers furniture retailers unlimited space to create a rich and aesthetically pleasing digital store. By focusing on providing a consistent visual experience, they will nurture trust and connect with customers in a meaningful way. 

David Brint is the CEO at imaging and workflow specialist SpinMe, which offers automated solutions designed to give photographers greater control and flexibility while enabling ever-faster production of high-quality rich media.

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