Why photography is better value than video

Photography is more effective than video.

We had a meeting with a online retailer last week and refreshingly, they described their photography as ‘our shop window’ and said that customer research repeatedly told them how important photography was to them, which meant that they, as a business, held photography in high regard.

They didn’t have any video on their site at all, which is interesting considering all the editorial hype about video being such a huge sales driver that we’ve all been listening to over the years.

The truth about how effective video that is created to sell something really is, can be seen clearly on YouTube, and it’s very easy to find examples of videos that businesses and retailers have created that have only managed a handful of viewings – surely the main way to measure the effectiveness of a video?

Whilst it’s true that we love video – after all YouTube is one of the biggest search engines on the planet, this love afair with video doesn’t guarantee that the minute a business puts video on its website everyone will want to watch. The reality instead is that these videos will get little more than a handful of views, and most of those will be from the team that helped to make them!

This is something that UK fashion retailers like Next and Asos have experienced – we’ve noticed they appear to be scaling back their use and investment in video as a tool to sell individual product lines.

Video can have a role to play in a commercial website, but to get it right, video’s role needs to be considered alongside all the other content options, of which images are one of the most important.

When customers are shopping for products or information online, its all about speed; they want to understand a business quickly and they want to be able to find the information or the products that they want to buy, quickly and effeciently.

And this is where photography comes into its own – because of photography’s inherant ability to convey and deliver instant information and messages. Photography on a website can give an instant impression about a business, it can help customers’ intuative ability to navigate themselves to the place they are trying to get to, and if products are being sold, then the images depicting them have a huge impact on whether the customer decides to buy or not.

Also, because customers don’t have the option to choose to view an image, as they do with video, this means that 100% of the people who land on a site, or on pages that feature images, will see those pictures. So there is brilliant value to be gained from images in terms of their use.

Again, we were talking to a huge UK internet retailer a few months ago, who proudly told us that 20% of their customers watched their videos online. Which of course meant 80% of their customers didn’t! As this business was an online retailer, images were used for each product on sale, and this meant that 5 x more customers were looking at their photography than their videos, yet they pay very little attention to their photography (which shows), and have very likely disproportionately invested in video over the past few years in relation to what influences the most sales.

To work out if video will actually add value to a business, it’s important to recognise first that photography takes the leading role to make the first impression on a customer and is a key factor in their decision to go the place where they can make the transaction. This is then where video can be an option to give more information about something, such as a product or a service, but even here, don’t overlook the fact that photography may well do a better job.

For example, many retailers might offer a video about key features of a product. But photography can do this brilliantly; give a customer a series of the right images and they can scroll through them very quickly, and this makes for a strong customer experience, because speed is vital to internet shoppers. An internet shopper will be much more likely to first view a selection of images that they can process in a few seconds than watch a video that is going to take them 2 minutes.

As photographers, we need to keep pushing these messages about the effectiveness of photography into the market so that businesses, retailers and all photography clients are all reminded about the importance of photography in the digital age, and how brilliantly it fits with giving impatient and information-hungry customers access to immediate information about products and services these businesses are trying to sell.

It is precisely this immediacy that means businesses who are reliant on photography need to really pay attention to their images, and invest in producing them properly by using expert commercial photographers, who can create and fine-tune those images so they give their customers exactly the right messages that encourage them to buy.

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