Nothing frustrates online shoppers more than seeing a thumbnail or other small photo of a product and clicking on it to take a closer look, only to see a grainy or blurry image pop up. Even if a photo is clear, customers will likely want to see the product from various angles; and if they can't do that, they'll go to a different site where they can.

Think about when you walk into a brick and mortar store and you see a product you want to buy. You don't just look at it on the shelf and make your decision. Whether it's a demo model or the real thing, you pick the product up, turn it around, turn it upside down, feel the weight of it, check out all the details, and generally size it up against similar products you've looked at.

When you have excellent-quality product photos on your website, you allow shoppers to (virtually) do just that kind of assessment. They can zoom in on details and really get a feel for a product even if they can't physically feel it. Add 360-degree photography and video into the mix, and it's the next best thing to being able to handle the products.

Good photos will get people into your e-commerce store; excellent photos will get people buying your products.

Video Usage = Stacks and Stacks of Cash

E-commerce site uses both manufacturers' videos and their own in-house product videos to sell houseware items. According to the company's marketing director, Cathy McManus, shoppers are 144% more likely to add a product to their cart if they've watched the product video than if they haven't.

The company pays a flat monthly fee to video production company Invodo to create and host the videos; comparing the videos' impact on sales to the monthly fee, McManus says the company is close to getting a 10-to-1 return on investment.

The products that are best for the video treatment, the marketing director says, are the ones that have any complexity related to them, like installation, or ones that are able to fold or move in a way that is not apparent in photos or text.

McManus also expects the videos to cut down on the rate of customer returns and complaints, because customers better understand the product prior to purchase.

Fashionable Photography

Amazon is so dedicated to stellar product photography that the online shopping behemoth has a 40,000-square-foot building in Brooklyn that has been transformed into a giant photography and videography studio for taking fashion photos and creating videos for its three clothing-specific stores: Amazon Fashion, Shopbop, and MYHABIT.

Broken up into 28 individual bays, the space includes styling areas, photo and video studios, and editing suites that all work toward making Amazon's fashion offerings appear more glossy and less like they came from a stock photography site. On average, about 19,000 photos are shot there every day, of which about 2,400 end up on the Amazon sites.

President of Amazon Fashion Cathy Beaudoin says high-level photography is so essential that she likens the photos and video to virtual sales associates.

Zulily Does It In-House

Like Amazon Fashion, e-commerce site Zulily believes so highly in amazing product photography that it does virtually all product photography in-house in 35 mini photo studios sprinkled throughout its office space.

The company employs its own photographers and uses its own employees and their children as models. Having 35 mini photo studios isn't going to work for every company, but professionally done product photography should be an investment on every e-retailer's priority list.

Due Maternity Turns It Around

Even better than a lot of photographs from various angles is a 360-degree representation of a product that customers can turn in any direction via their mouse or screen. This is the virtual equivalent of being able to pick up a product and turn it every which way so you can see it from whatever angle you want.

The true beauty of the 360-degree experience is that the customer is the one who controls it. Customers don't have to rely on your photos to see the product the way they want to. They can view it from the angle they want and check out the details they deem important. Giving them the ability to view it the way they want empowers them as shoppers and gives them a sense of ownership of the product that they don't get from merely looking at photos. reported a 27% increase in sales when it implemented a feature wherein product images would start spinning slowly when hovered over with a mouse, giving a full 360-degree view of them. That little dynamic element increased sales 27%.

That's no surprise considering that an Adobe Scene7 survey found that a whopping 91% of people want to be able to virtually pick up and handle a product.

Snap36, a company that specializes in 360-degree photography, claims that products accompanied by a 360-degree photo result in a 30% increase in sales and equate to a 32% increase in time spent on your site; plus, it says, customers are 85 times as likely to leave a positive review than a negative one because they can more clearly see the product prior to purchase.

* * *

Beautiful, professionally shot product photos and videos increase sales, cut down on returns and complaints, and turn customers into repeat customers.

The Web continues its march toward becoming more image-centric, and any e-commerce site not willing to invest in product photography is already being left behind.

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How Excellent Product Photography and Videos Increase E-Commerce Sales

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image of Rafael Romis

Rafael Romis is founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Web design agency Weberous, which helps businesses boost their online presence.

Twitter: @rafaelromis

LinkedIn: Rafael Romis