If you’ve been following along on the latest online store tech and 2020 ecommerce trends, you already know about how ground-breaking advanced visuals like 360° product photos are. By now it’s pretty evident how effective this tech is — the question is how can SMBs and grassroots ecommerce brands take advantage of them?
In this guide, we take a practical approach to using 360° product photography for ecommerce, specifically how you can do it yourself and which tools are most useful. Take a look below and give your customers a visual treat to set you apart from your competitors.
360° Product Photos: Overview
One of the biggest problems in ecommerce is customer’s can’t interact with the products they want to buy. In brick-and-mortar stores, they can pick things up, try them out, and specifically see them from all different angles. While ecommerce can’t exactly match this, it can offer the next best thing with 360° product photos.
For one thing, 360° product photos give shoppers a more complete 3D view of the product, rather than the static 2D one. This gives them a better comprehension of the item, both enticing them to purchase it and decreasing the amount of returns due to misunderstandings.
Additionally, most 360° product viewers allow customers to “spin” the image as they want, letting them “scratch the itch” of interacting with a product like they’re used to from brick and mortar stores.
This isn’t just theory either. Most companies that implement 360° product images, or “spinning product images,” see a boost in sales. Although statistics vary, most see an increase in conversation rates from anywhere between 10% to 40%, compared to products without them.
The good news is that you can make your own 360° product images rather easily. It’s essentially a two-step process.
1. Take a series of 2D photos
Despite how 3D the final version looks, 360° product photos are really nothing more than a series of 2D images. The first step, then, is to acquire those images.
Experts recommend using one picture for every 3-5 degrees, leaving you anywhere from 120-72 images. While you can simply walk around the product and take pictures by hand, for the best results we recommend investing in a turntable. That will keep the lighting and background consistent, and allow you to more accurately space out the degrees between camera angles.
However, you also need to factor in file sizes, loading times, and how 360° photography will affect your site speed. To create a more efficient or cost-effective image, you can use as few as 36 images (one every 10 degrees) or limit your scope to 180° so that the shopper only sees one side of the product.
No matter how many images you use, it’s best to reduce their individual file size to 12-17 KB. You can use a lossy image compressor to keep the image quality intact.
Don’t forget to follow all the traditional rules for ecommerce product photography. You can even do it on the cheap with some smart photography hacks.
2. Add a 360° product photo viewer to your site or page.
The scariest part of 360° product photography is turning your series of photos into a single image, not to mention publishing that image online in a way that users can interact with. But the truth is, that’s actually not that hard — all you need is the right tool or plugin and it’ll do the work for you.
Different platforms use different tools, so we’ve broken down this section by channel.
Amazon allows 360° photography, however there are more than a few restrictions (as of November 2019). For starters, you must be a brand-registered company, and you must have a vendor account, not a seller. Moreover, 360° photography can only be used in select markets — the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany — and only for select product categories:
- Home Improvement
- Lawn & Garden
- Sports & Outdoors
If you meet these criteria, you can enable 360° product photography on your Amazon page. You still need to adhere to the Amazon Product Image Requirements, including proper naming conventions, pixel dimensions, color codes, and standards (i.e., products much fill at least 85% of the frame, use white backgrounds, etc.).
WooCommerce, through WordPress, uses their own branded plugin, WooCommerce 360° Image. For an annual fee of $49 (single site), you can easily add 360° viewing capability just by uploading your photo series directly into the plugin.
The WooCommerce plugin is essentially self-sufficient. After uploading the images, it automatically formats them for the viewer. Features like the navigation interface and mobile touch controls are added in the plugin itself, so you don’t have to code or do any extra work.
Like WooCommerce, Shopify has apps that handle all the technical aspects of 360° photography for you. They even have a few different choices, depending on your budget or what kind of effects you want.
We recommend Spin Studio, a happy medium between price and quality. This app builds the animation for you after you upload your images, and handles the navigation interface and the mobile touch controls, with additional customization features if you prefer.
The prices are affordable, too: $4.95 per month for 10 spinning images, $9.95 per month for 25, and $19.95 per month for 100. They even have a free, single-image trial package so you can test it out on one product.
With only a camera and the right software tool, you can have stellar, top-tier visuals on a site of any size. Anyone who’s taken their own product photos before can easily add this to their site with just a small investment in the viewer tool. Better to get used to creating 360° product photography now while it’s still new and novel; otherwise, you’ll have to learn it in a few years when it becomes standard.