"How do you do 360/3D product spin"? This single question is why I started Snap36.
After spending ten years listening to major online retailers across North America and Europe ask this same question, and watching their eyes roll back in their heads when I presented a convoluted (truthful) answer, I realized there had to be a simpler way. I had been a start-up junkie for almost twenty years, but it had always been someone else's idea and someone else's money. Our latest start-up, Scene7, had been purchased by Adobe and I found myself trapped in a big company, with very little mobility and autonomy ("Not that there's anything wrong with that"). I had spent most of my career in imaging and the web, and truly love the challenges of enhancing the online user experience, and wanted to stay in the industry. I did extensive research and realized that most technology entrepreneurs parlay their day jobs into their next ventures, so I kept my eyes and ears open…and eventually got lucky.
In late 2008 I was presenting at an eCommerce Expo in Germany. After my presentation I was walking the trade show floor when I stumbled into a jam-packed booth, and there in front of me was the missing piece of the 360/3D spin pie; industrial-stength, Darth-Vader looking, photography robots that completely automated the 360 product photography process. Combining this technology with the Adobe-Scene7 solution or shotfarm.com created what every one of my clients had been asking for…an iPod-simple way to "do 360/3D product spin"! This breakthrough, combined with the confluence in the market toward mobile/tablet shoppers (using HTML5 viewers) and a new generation of users demanding higher imaging expectations, convinced me that this is what the world had been asking for…and Snap36 was born!
Today, the market is just at the beginning of the adoption cycle and we are in a market leading position, with customers such as Walmart, Home Depot, Kohls, Golfsmith, Smith Optics and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, among many. Finally, we can answer the question, "How do you do 360/3D product spin"?....which has led to a new #1 question from the marketplace, "Why isn't everyone doing this"?
Everyone I talk to gets excited about 360 and 3D spin photography and the quantum leap in user experience that it produces. I mean it, NO ONE thinks it's a bad idea and EVERYONE says, "why isn't every manufacturer and online retailer doing this already"? "Good question", I answer, and personally I believe that within three years most of them will be. The buzz in the marketplace is there....from stodgy old manufacturers to forward thinking eTailers to edgy, fashion studios....everyone is talking 360 and 3D spin and eVideo. But until the major retailers adopt 360 spin photography in their internal studios, the average shopper will not see a ubiquitous, 360/3D experience. In fact, yesterday I learned of a tool distributor who is shooting a 360 video of every product they sell....they just can't figure out what to do with it. On the right thinking track, but lack of execution...which brings me to the point of this article.
We have all heard the "how to increase conversions and reduce returns" by providing a 360 and 3D spin user experience. These are very legitimate claims and, once executed on a site, will provide huge ROI for a company. But what about now? I am finding that the biggest roadblock within major online retailers to 360 and 3D spin photography implementation is that everyone is utilizing the "Big Bang" theory to roll out spin. Everything has to be perfect before we take the first step...
1. "IT is holding up building our new viewer".
2. "Merchandising hasn't figured out how to launch 3D".
3. "We've outgrown our studio space and need to expand first".
Again, all legitimate beefs....until you look deeper into the market, the available 360 photography solutions, and solicit feedback from customers already using them. Last week we stumbled upon an amazing fact that we had totally been overlooking.....Productivity gains and increased product throughput in studios using Snap36 360 photography robots!
A potential client asked us to provide references in order to substantiate the ROI on conversions and returns in our customers, so we called and asked them. All of the customers we spoke to said, "oh yeah, we definitely see increased conversion, reduced returns and increased customer satisfaction.....but the BIGGEST benefit we see is the ability to shoot 3-4X more product in the same amount of time"! WOW....we were a bit taken aback...in a positive way.....but holy crap, that's tangible dollars today....and....looking at the above obstacles....
1. Your present viewer is fine! Actually, it can handle up to eight Alt Views and you are only using two today. WHY WAIT?
2. Why approach this sequentially, when you can save dollars today in parallel? Shoot your products in 360/3D, only use the images you need, and then launch the Spin strategy when you are ready...sooner than you could if you would have waited! WHY WAIT?
3. Hmmm, you have six studio bays today that you have outgrown. What if you could get the throughput of eighteen (18) bays without ever having to break ground on a new facility? I ain't no Einstein....but WHY WAIT?
The beauty is, that now you do not need to "boil the ocean" in order to get started into the 360 and 3D Spin photography world. You can crawl before you walk, walk before you run...right, you get it! WHY WAIT? In three years when the rest of the world (including your competition) is spinning products, you won't be saying "damn, if only IT would have delivered that viewer...why did we wait"!
Based upon the activity at our Booth last week at the IRCE 2012 Event in Chicago, the world of online Retailing and Manufacturing are more than ready to adopt 360 and 3D Spin in a big way. The feedback was across the board from "can I send you a couple of products to shoot" to "how and when can you shoot my 10,000 products" and everything in between. Not once did anyone say, "this is a bad idea" or "this won't work".
Simple. Scalable. Affordable.
The fact of the matter is, that with the recent convergence of three things, 360 and 3D Spin Photography is ready to explode:
1. The emergence of iPads and Smartphones as the Shopper's Device of Choice.
- Who doesn't want to flip and spin products with their fingers to interact before purchasing?
2. The availablity and ease-of-use of HTML5 Viewers in the Marketplace.
- Scene7 and Shotfarm both provide 360/3D viewers, and Liquid Pixels has 360.
3. The focus and expertise of Snap36 to pull together innovative photography robots, workflow software and a flexible business model to help every client deliver their project, no matter how big or small.
- Whether it's in our studio or at your site, with our people or yours, we provide the proper solution. Clients love the flexibility.
Interesting comments from the show:
"Why isn't everyone doing this"
"This will be the norm in three years"
"I can't believe how fast you can shoot products and how affordable Spin is now"
"You just moved to the front of my Project Priority List"
"Can I invest in Snap36"?
Let's face it, eCommerce sites have been using the same old, static imagery on their product pages for fifteen years. It's time for a change. The tectonic plates are shifting, and there are deep rumblings in the epicenter of eCommerce. It is only a matter of time before the world sees the results, which will be a tsunami rush of 360 and 3D spin imagery before them.
In the first blog, we discussed hiring a one-stop-shop to handle all your 360 and 3D spin photography and viewer needs. The second blog discussed handling the viewer part or all of the process in-house. The final discussion here will focus on what we feel is the best solution to giving your customers a great online 360 shopping experience, a third party image server based rich media viewer.
An image server is a 3rd party hosted system that is able to adapt the image sizes to the device they are being viewed on. There is no good reason to send a 800x600 pixel image spin to an iPhone. Shotfarm has a great rich media viewer that is able to sense what device it is being viewed on, then serve up the appropriate formatted images. This allows the 360 spin to load quickly and be sized correctly for the devices screen, whether that be 27" display or a tablet. This eliminates "getting lost" in an oversized image and keeps the customers attention. Also, very "deep" zoom is possible as the system servers up the high res image section as the customer clicks on it.
Another advantge to a 3rd party hosted image server is that you will not need to worry about the ever changing tide of browsers and technology updates. Your viewer provider will be keeping a close eye on any changes and adjusting their viewer accordingly. Your 360 and 3D image assests will be online and accessable without your team spending precious time trying to keep up with the updates.
If your team has gone to the trouble of creating great interactive 360 and 3D spins of your products, you don't want to cripple the process by having a ineffective viewer solution. As we've discussed, there are several ways to get spinset image assets from the studio to your website. The 3rd party hosted image server has great advanteges for both large and small companies.
Three weeks ago I wrote a blog entitled, "Top 10 Reasons For Not Utilizing 360 Product Spin On A Website". Many people questioned me and asked why on Earth I would write such a negative article about the market that, in essence, we are trying to promote and build. I quickly explained to them that I wasn't writing about anything that anyone in the industry thinks is a mystery.....executing a 360 and 3D spin photography strategy is complicated, cumbersome and expensive....or at least IT USED TO BE! You see hassle, I see opportunity. You see cumbersome, I see simplified solution. You see expensive, I see expensive NOT TO DO IT....Let's take a look.
Number 10 - My products are too big...too little...too flimsy... too shiny... too many... too different... to shoot economically!
** Snap36 provides specific components to handle all, different types of products....from diamond rings to cars, strappy sandals to golf clubs, mannequins to grocery items. The robots are computer driven for precise and speedy photogrphy, allowing you to shoot tens to hundreds of products per day. Think it's not right for your products? We'll shoot it for free and help you determine the expected ROI.
Number 9 -It would be too expensive to ship my products to a studio...even though I have no idea how much a stamp costs these days!
Very good point. If you have large, cumbersome products or thousands of them, shipping can be an issue. That is why we provide our mobile POD (Photography on Demand) solution, where we will bring the studio directly to your facility to shoot your products. We can provide everything including cameras and photographers, or just the robotic equipment....you make the call.
Number 8 - We use Video instead of Spin....because I know how to run a video camera!
There is no doubt that Video is an effective eMarketing tool. Companies are seeing double digit uplift on products that are merchandised utilizing video. The same can be said for products utilizing 360 and 3D spin. Think about the interaction with a product. A video is perfect for a "how to" or to show real life uses and scenarios of a product, but it is a one-way broadcast. The user has no way to control the product interaction 360 and 3D spin provide this control. Think shoe salesperson directs me to the proper shoe and tells me all of the details....think video. Then you pick the shoe up, turn it over and around to examine the craftsmanship...think 360 and 3D spin. It's not an "OR", it's an "AND".
Number 7 -Our customers don't require our products to spin...or at least they haven't asked for it!
Customer satisfaction ratings go through the roof on sites that utilize 360 and 3D product spin. If your customers do not want an engaging experience, you are probably selling reams of paper.
Number 6 -We do Alternative Views instead, Spin is too complicated, cumbersome and overall really mysterious.
I am a big believer in Alternative Views....in fact, if you shoot your products using our 360 and 3D spin photography robots, you get your Alt Views for free. Also, if you just want to use the technology for your eight angles of Alt Views, we automate that process as well.
Number 5 -I would have to prove the ROI before management would buy in....as they are presently intoxicated with social, mobile and some other project du jour!
We have relevant ROI data from several of our customers, representing different product types. If this is not enough, come spend a couple of hours in our studio with a few products. We'll help you build your case for management....better yet....bring your management with you. As one customer said, "once you see these robots in action, this is a no-brainer"!
Number 4 -Our web team wouldn't know where to start to create a Spin Viewer....and it would take them to 2015 to deploy it if they did!
We have tight relationships with several Rich Media platform providers. We can help guide you to the right solution, whether it is Adobe Scene7, Liquid Pixels, RichFX or Shotfarm....or perhaps something completely different. Our background is deep in this industry.
Number 3 -The files would be too big and our bandwidth costs would go through the roof.... which would cut into our supply of Red Bull and Ho Ho's in the break room!
See my earlier blog on Image Servers....that's what they are for, to provide a way to serve up large files in a clever and efficient manner. You are right, you do not want 10MB files downloading to the browser...we have solutions for this.
Number 2 -It costs too much...at least that's what my neighbor told me! and last but not least....
Historically, 360 and 3D spin photography has cost 5X or more versus static photography. That is because the process was labor intensive or, an agency needed to recoup their costs for expensive, custom photography contraptions that they built themselves. Our robots and software are reasonably priced, and your ROI should be measured in months not years. We say, 360 and 3D spin photography at static photography prices.
Number 1 - I have no freakin' idea where to even start....but, thanks for catching my head!
Loaded and obvious question...simple answer....Snap36 was founded on the premise of providing a simple, one-stop shop for your 360 and 3D Spin photgraphy needs. Our hardware and software solutions are built by people who also use them in their own, working studios. They are constantly being upgraded to provide more efficiency. This provides our customers with an even more simple, scalable and affordable solution.
So, there you have it.... "Top 10 Reasons For Not Utilizing 360 Product Spin On A Website"....BUSTED!!
It was 2005 and the CEO of our company had just asked me if I would be interested in taking over our International Sales and Operations for our start up, rich-media company, Scene7. I never hesitated, and said "absolutely, when can I get my tickets to Europe"! Afterall, we had just finished our best quarter ever and the Scene7 Saas platform had tremendous momentum in the US, especially amongst the forward thinking Internet Retailer 200. Taking this flashy (no pun intended) solution to Europe would be a piece of cake, as we all know the Europeans are very visual and have an insatiable appetite for quality. Think Gucci, Prada, BMW, Mercedes, Harrods, etc. and you get the Euro picture. Who doesn't want to see their products on the web in high resolution, with the ability to zoom in to see the texture and fine workmanship, just as you would expect if you picked up a product in the market. Our platform was a natural for the Euro demographic....I thought!
Unbeknownst to me at the time, lay a sleeping bear in the middle of Europe...Germany! Where emotion is a four letter word and design and engineering are nurtured in the womb. I had been giving my sales presentation for four years, it was a finely tuned machine, and my hit rate was approaching triple digits, as the notion of having better, clearer, easier, more beautiful images on your website was a no brainer. I was unflappable....until I awoke the Grizzly, "Ve have been sooming on hi-res images for 10 years here in Germany....we get it, now go home"! I was taken aback, my American pride hurt a bit, I was second guessing my career move....how could this be, our technology was all the rage in the US. At this point, my German host noticed my bloodless face and warmed up a bit...he began explaining.....
"We Germans are shoppers, we go to the market, we like to look and feel, touch, smell and rub products before we buy them" (I also wanted to add reverse engineer, but I held my tongue). He added, "we are also innovators...if we need something, we just make it....like the ability to zoom on products on the web....this is how we mimic the market...how we can simulate the look, feel touch, smell...as close as is possible through a computer. We have been doing it since 1999". I was still a bit shocked, but dedided I better pursue my plan B, and approach the UK first....glad I did!
But it was here that I learned that if you really want to understand what makes people buy...what tickles their emotion to take action...what gives them purchase confidence....we should study the people who invented the marketplace, the ones who have been shopping for thousands of years, the ones who stroll and mosey and evaluate....not the gadget happy, ADHD, instant gratification consumers of the US....
Ironically, it was also here, in Germany, that I was first introduced to a technology in 2007 that I feel will contribute to the transformation of online shopping the way zoom did in the mid-2005 era. The cool, 360 spin photography robots that I discovered in Wiesbaden now make the process of creating these experiences simple, scalable and affordable. Yesterday's zoom is today's 360 and 3D product photography....and I believe that it will be ubiquitous in the US within the next couple years..I know, I know, I'm very old school...shouldn't I be focused on social, mobile, and all of the latest trends? Perhaps...but don't ask me....ask my good, German friends...they know!!
Over a decade ago when the dot.com bubble burst, one of the main concerns was still the bandwidth at which your average Internet shopper was accessing the web. The fact that over 50% of the people were still on dial-up, seems somewhat barbaric by today's standards. Out of necessity, there was a mad rush to provide a clever way to serve up high-resolution images over the web, without incurring the performance overhead. Several companies sprang up including Xippix, Equilibriium, Liquid Pixels and TrueSpectra to name a few. These products all provided a way for companies to get more productivity out of managing their images as well as an efficient way to serve up large images over the web….while also providing dynamic zoom, pan, resizing and spin. It was brilliant to break images down to a series of tiles and then only serve up what was needed in real-time….stream 2k to the site instead of 10MB. In 2002, Gistics Research created a study which estimated that a billion dollar problem was being solved by these products. We have come a long way in the past decade….
These image server products, through a series of successes, mergers and acquisitions created the basis for the success of Adobe’s Scene7 and Liquid Pixels, and to a lesser extent Equilibrium today. By all intents and purposes, these products created a small but very useful solution to bridge the bandwidth deficiencies of the last decade and create an excellent base to provide rich media solutions to Internet retailers. They provided an elegant solution for years and thus, commanded enterprise software prices. But recently, there is a growing group of naysayers who feel that the image server has run it’s product life cycle to the end, and that with the advances in bandwidth and CDN’s (cache data networks) the need for image servers no longer exists, or at least has been commoditized.
To the tech detractors, I would agree to a certain extent that the usefulness of the image server to the desktop is not what it once was….but lest we forget that we are in a rapidly evolving environment and the popularity of smartphones and tablets is changing the game. Yesterday’s dial up modem is today’s 3G network. Our quest for mobile accessibility has driven us to a new, deficient delivery platform for high-resolution images, and the image server is relevant again. Throw a new breed of start-ups into the mix, add popular tools like 360 spin photography and HTML5 viewers, and once again you have an elegant solution for online retailers who want to deploy rich media, with high resolution images onto multiple devices.
With high-end legacy solutions for the enterprise delivered by Adobe-Scene7 and interesting, new solutions delivered by my favorite, image-exchange startup shotfarm.com, there are plenty of options available for retailers and manufacturers today to take advantage of an old trick solving a new problem…..
When I was first introduced to shopping online I thought, “This just does not work well.” I tried buying different products online, but the product descriptions weren’t very useful and I thought it was just a waste of time and money. I usually sent the stuff back and went to the store anyway. I just really like being able to inspect the items, thoroughly, before I commit to my purchase.
Well now, shopping with 360 product photography changes the game completely. It goes beyond the confines of a standard, one dimensional photograph. The ability to move a product around and zoom in at any point is awesome. I’m obsessed with 360 product photography! In fact, if a website is not up-to-date with this technology, it’s hard for me to shop on that site.
As a new mother, I’ve started taking advantage of shopping online. It saves me a ton of time because I don’t have to run to the store constantly. I mean, let’s face it, we know how often things break and/need to be replaced. So, now when I shop for my kid’s things like toys and furniture, it’s like I’m in the store. I recommend shopping this way to anyone too busy to pop in the store and wait in line.
The electronics industry is in its heyday right now. From hand-held GPS units to HD televisions, consumers can't get enough of these products. They allow us to enjoy music anywhere, video chat with friends half way around the world and capture everything in HD video or dazzling mega-pixels. These products have become a part of our daily lives and consumers are looking to the internet for the wide range of options and competitive cost savings. With all this technology, though, the online shopper has become more savvy and is expecting more from their online experience.
If the consumer can see all the intricate details of a digital technology, then they will be more likely to convert on that product. Being able to see a digital camera from all sides allows them to see button and grip positioning to better understand how they might hold or use the camera.
360 product photography allows a consumer to rotate and zoom in on all those buttons and rich features that make electronics products unique. Even traditional large electronics pieces can benefit from spinset photography. Everyone knows what a stereo receiver looks like, but the a spin can bring fresh and informative perspective to your product information page. While a few images can tell the story of many products, a spinset can do it in a simple and refreshing way.
Can 360 product photography bring consumers closer to the products they are looking for?
Today, tech-savvy consumers are looking for a visually rich online buying experience. They want to see large, bright images of a product that they can interact with. They are not sold on a single flat image like they used to be. 360 and 3D spin photography is a great way present a product while giving while satisfying these needs. Interactive media and "360" is everywhere today. Even at the Golden Globes, they had the E 360 Glam Cam set up on the red carpet.
One problem facing internet retailers and their photographers has been the fact that capturing multiple images of a single product is very time consuming and therefore not cost effecetive. Equipment such as the FotoRobot System solves that problem. Robotics and automation have been used for decades in the automotive industry and have been proven to increase output with consistent results. Efficeint, reliable, accurate and repeatable are just a few words that come to mind when discussing computer controlled machines. Photo robots allow the photographer to concentrate on the lighting while moving alot a product throught the studio in a short amount of time. They will no longer need to worry if they have captured the correct angle or be constantly reconfiguring their set.
The combination of automated 360 photography equipment and a rich media viewer will allow an online retailer to give their customers what they are looking; a satisfying, rich media based, interactive buying experience.