How Product Visualization Affects Sales

An interview with Outward's Gaurav Sethi

Author: Tricia Carr

June 27, 2017

Mobile’s smaller screens and consumers’ dwindling attention spans have made a brand’s visual experience more important than ever. 

eMarketer’s Tricia Carr spoke with Gaurav Sethi, co-founder and business development lead of product visualization technology provider Outward, about how retailers can benefit from improving their product visuals and the theory behind an interactive visual experience the company helped create for PBteen.

eMarketer: Outward works with retailers in the home furnishing industry to help them create 3-D product images and visual experiences. What is the core focus among your clients this year?

Gaurav Sethi: There’s a focus on having a consistent look and feel with visualizations that are accurate to the product—which helps to minimize return rates—and look uniform rather than the mishmash of imagery you often see. This year will be a transitional time for our clients as they go from having static product pages and inspirational experiences to something that’s much more engaging and interactive.

eMarketer: Retailers might think, “Why should I overhaul my photography division now? Will I see immediate ROI?” What would you tell them?

Sethi: We’ve gotten a lot of data over the last year on how visual experiences impact dwell time and other online metrics—including conversion. When retailers have product pages where you’re consuming information more interactively, you tend to stay longer and that’s tightly correlated with increased conversion.

Retailers feel comfortable making the investment [in visuals] because they understand what they save [by eliminating the traditional product photography process] but more importantly, it can amp up online metrics for product categories across the board.

eMarketer: What’s an example of an interactive visual experience you’ve helped create for a client?

Sethi: One example is the Design Your Own Study Space tool for PBteen. Instead of the idea that a product page is based on a single skew, this tool incorporates multiple skews in an environment that’s more relevant to the customer. On this page, you can configure a room using many different combinations of items and then add all of the items to your cart.

This tool is a proxy for a sectional builder that allows you to configure modular furniture, as well as a dining room mix-and-match tool that lets you try table and chairs combinations—there are innumerable use cases. These multiskew environments had been difficult to execute before product visuals were seamless and automated.

eMarketer: What are the flaws of traditional product photography in today’s ecommerce landscape?

Sethi: The beautiful photography that’s painstakingly created to be leveraged in catalogs and online is the same everywhere, but that’s not the best way to target consumers. Retailers spend a lot of time and money trying to understand their customers’ context and behavior across channels, but they’re pushing the same visuals across the board even though they know their customers much better than that. There’s an opportunity to visually target with much more granularity.

“Product pages are the revenue pages. … Retailers should have the highest standards for the quality of visuals on these pages.”

eMarketer: What should retailers be working toward when it comes to their visual experience?

Sethi: Product pages are the revenue pages. They’re the most important for [driving purchases]. Retailers should have the highest standards for the quality of visuals on these pages—that’s our focus.

Retailers are also getting started with augmented reality [AR]. It’s important to start testing and refine and revise so that you can release AR applications that have mainstream appeal—millennials can do it, and grandma can do it. The ideal tool will let consumers quickly visualize a piece of furniture in their space and seamlessly transition back to the product page. It’s important to start moving in that direction.