The challenge is real, you live it every day. Because your wares are not in a storefront shop, accessible to visitors whose visual and tactile senses are eager to give them the once-over, your primary goal is to create a visual image for their consideration. You want to show them exactly what they’ll be getting if they decide to buy.
But what is the best way to accomplish that? Graphic designers for retailers and wholesalers from the highest-end shops to co-ops struggle with illustrating their items in the most attractive and compelling manner possible.
Silhouette v. Composite Shots
There are two schools of thought—and two presentation methods—that dominate online commerce. One holds that products ought to be displayed as they will be used, especially with respect to soft goods and interior design. Assembling a room full of furnishings, or a complete wardrobe, for example, offers a visually pleasing suggestion for use, as well as a reliable depiction of how the product will appear in a typical ensemble.
Increasingly, however, retailers are moving away from these composite shots, hoping to offer more descriptive power to a single image through “silhouetting”: carving out the item and presenting it solo, with no background.
Which works best for your needs? To some degree, that depends on your sales platform and venue. Do you offer products on third-party vendor sites, such as Google Store? Then you’re aware that many will not accept anything other than a silhouetted image. Presumably this protects them against claims of false advertising.
Yet others prefer the cleaner approach of silhouetted images because they eliminate distraction. Placing a product image front-and-center keeps customers focused on that product, and doesn’t lure them away with a selection of coordinating or competing merchandise.
Not everyone needs a visual guide of how to implement something they plan to buy; however, for sites in which multiple images are permitted, you will always want to include one with your product placed in an actual setting anyway.
And for the sake of order, focusing on a silhouetted image for each item allows consistency along your product presentation. That can help create a visual brand in the mind of your customers.
Get the Picture?
Let’s go back a few steps. You may be an old pro with a proven method of acquiring and displaying photo of your stock. Or, you might be sheepishly hoping we’ll mention the art of obtaining art—in other words, “what’s the best, most professional way to get my hands on merchandise photos?”
Here’s a quick preliminary answer: Do your suppliers offer high-quality photos? If so, use them. They are Ground Zero in promoting their wares, and their motivation to offer representative, attractive shots is obvious.
Can you afford to hire a photographer? Depending on your profit margin, it may be worthwhile. They are trained to present stunning and accurate images, and they have on hand the top-notch photographic equipment to get the job done.
If your goods come from third-party vendors, or if you’re the crafty type whose stock is produced by yours truly, you may want to invest in a quality camera and shoot your own photography. You’ll have control over the final product, and you’ll save a bundle.
Photo Editing 101
OK. You’re sold on including a silhouetted shot for each of your products. And you’re willing to shoot your own stock. Now what? How do you manage to produce one?
If you’re editing your own photos, or asking a friend with some knowledge of graphic design to help out, there are somewhat uncomplicated methods for extracting the background from subject images, leaving behind a clean profile of your particular product. It requires employing semi-advanced editing features in imaging programs. Don’t despair: here’s a user-friendly tutorial from an affiliate of Adobe, producer of Photoshop. It also has fabulously helpful tips on improving every aspect of your image quality.
As always, your choice on how to present your products to consumers comes down to a matter of preference. But keep in mind the psychology behind remote buying, and the factors we’ve discussed that explain why savvy shoppers may want a more simplified view of what you’re offering. Mixing up alternate photos works nicely, but if your site limits you to a single image for every product, remember that you are selling a product, and not a room.
Today's Editorial Q&A is the last installment in our Q&A series. If you don't see an answer to your question, feel free to contact us!
We need copy written in a specific voice/style. Can Cennos do that?
Absolutely. At Cennos, we hire professional writers who are skilled in creating or maintaining the voice and style you want. We strive to fulfill the goals of each individual client and are fully capable of maintaining your voice. We view copy creation as a challenge and as each writer brings a view-point, our editor does a great job of matching writers to clients and providing all the training and feedback necessary to ensure that the needs and requests of the client are met for each and every SKU.
How are writers chosen/hired?
We’re fairly particular about our writers. While no one is going to win a Pulitzer here, we demand a high level of written communication skills and we work hard to maintain a diverse team. Every writer needs to meet our high standards for quality and be exceptionally efficient. With these skills at the forefront, and ample training, we’re able to maintain a stable of writers who can create interesting, engaging copy that meets the SEO and style demands of each individual client. The writing team is overseen by a managing writer and editor to ensure that each writer meets our standards and those of our clients.
Does every writer work for every client?
Absolutely not. We want our writers to become familiar with a select number of clients so that they’re really able to dive into the requirements and style presented to them. Most of our writers specialize in two to three clients and have become experts in the requirements of just those clients. In an effort to foster a true partnership, we encourage feedback from both clients and writers to create the strongest, best copy possible. Our managing editor plays a strong role in matching writers to clients and ensuring that the lines of communication between clients and writer are clear and open at all times. Our goal is to offer our best to our clients, and we go the extra mile to ensure that our writers are well-versed in the needs of whomever they’re writing for.
How do your writers maintain creativity?
Creativity is a funny thing and every writer is a little bit different in how they stay fresh. We look for writers with a diverse set of interests outside of work and find that encouraging a life away from work is critical in maintaining creativity. One thing Cennos does is offer some variety to our writers: by creating a set-up where each writer is well-trained in the requirements of more than one client, we ensure that copy stays fresh and inspired.
How does Cennos ensure that copy isn’t redundant or repetitive?
A strong editor is a must here. Having a single editor allows Cennos to learn the tendencies of each writer and to ensure that copy never becomes stale or monotonous. We strive for quality copy with every single assignment and our editor and writers work in tandem to ensure that our copy not only meets the needs of our clients, but is fresh and engaging, as well. We challenge our writers to always be improving and to always be reading and learning. Doing this helps keep the team interesting in their work and in always doing better than they did yesterday.
Today we give you the second of three Q&As with the Cennos team, this time Product Services. If you have a question you don't see here, feel free to contact us!
Tell me about the people Cennos hires in Vietnam? Are they fluent in English?
Every single member of our team in Vietnam are college graduates and all are fluent—reading and writing—in English. We recently surveyed our team and found 30% graduated with an English major, 50% with a business marketing major, and 20% with other majors. Before we even interview, candidates are assessed for English reading and writing comprehension, Microsoft Office skills, and internet search skills to ensure that they can meet the needs of our clients.
What hurdles does the time difference between in the US and Vietnam present? How do you work around the time difference?
The 12 to 15-hour time difference is a reality, but it really isn’t a hurdle at all. We prefer to think of it as a benefit as the end of the day in California is the beginning of the day in Vietnam. We’re able to accumulate files all day here in the States, and then as you go home, work in Vietnam is beginning. By the time you arrive to your desk the following morning, work is complete.
We have products that need data, imaging, and copy services—can Cennos do everything we need?
Yes to all three. Data entry services are our primary focus, and we do everything: product listing, categorization, attributing, imaging, and copy. Our team in Vietnam offers data entry services customized to our clients and our imaging team is able to provide all types of services, including silo’ing, room scenes, resizing, cropping, and background adjustments. Additionally, Cennos has cultivated a US-based copy team of dedicated writers who specialize in writing unique product descriptions with SEO keyword incorporation and romance copy as required by each client.
How does Cennos work to foster a partnership with each client?
Everything we do at Cennos is designed to create a partnership and we view every client as a partner from the very beginning. We learn your requirements—process, training, specifications—and replicate. We set benchmarks and project metrics with clients on a weekly basis to ensure that we’re always improving and always meeting your needs. We adapt with you as your business needs change and grow. Cennos truly takes a partnership view as we know, the better we do for our clients, the better we’ll do with our clients. We view ourselves as an extension of your organization. Our clients reflect that and have remarked that we’re “their team” in Vietnam—viewing Cennos as an extension of their organization.
This week we have the first of a series of three Q&As with the Cennos team. If you have questions that aren’t addressed here, feel free to contact us! Today, we start with Business Services.
We’d like to scale our ecommerce business and really grow. How can Cennos help?
There are 3 major ways we can help you grow—Scalability, Process Control, and Cost Savings. First, scalability: Cennos has the extensive manpower you need to grow. With no need to recruit and staff in-house, you’re able scale up faster and at lower cost. Second, process control: You know your business best and we work hard to learn and replicate your processes. Cennos is devoted to a strong focus on process and quality control to ensure you get the results you need. We excel at replicating client processes quickly. Three, cost savings: Ultimately, outsourcing saves your business money. You leverage our workforce and save money by not having to provide infrastructure, management, and personnel to complete the tasks you require.
What are the primary benefits of outsourcing with Cennos?
The benefits are many, but let me outline a few. Reduced management burden – with Cennos, you get team leaders, project managers, and a client relations liaison – plus all the data entry staff you need. There’s no need to hire all these people yourself and to provide infrastructure and benefits. You increase ramp up and scalability—with Cennos you can easily, seamlessly go from 1 data entry specialist to dozens in a very short amount of time. If you’re creating an in-house team, this kind of scalability just isn’t possible in less than a few weeks. And finally, outsourcing with Cennos is going to reduce cost by eliminating the bulk of the management burden.
Does Cennos offer a single contact point for each client?
Absolutely. This is just one of the ways that we work to create a true partnership relationship. You’ll have a dedicated project manager who’ll be there for initial project requirements, training, weekly update calls, and ongoing training. Your client liaison manager is based in California, so there’s no need to worry about issues with the time difference or language barriers. In addition, our copy team is all US-based, making it easy to loop them into your meetings and trainings should that be beneficial.
We’re particular about how information is presented on our ecommerce site, can Cennos adapt to our needs?
Yes, Cennos is built to be very flexible. You know your business better than anyone. We simply replicate your processes and then create benchmarks and metrics for improvement. We’re always open to feedback—in fact, we consider it a critical piece of the puzzle as it allows us to more precisely meet your needs. We know that in order for us to be successful, each and every client needs to be successful first.
I need data entry services but I’m not selling anything. Can Cennos help me?
At our core, Cennos is a data entry company. We’d need to have more information about what your specific needs are and whether they match up with our expertise, which is largely focused on ecommerce.
How difficult is it to get started with Cennos?
It really isn’t difficult at all and we pride ourselves on making the process as seamless as possible for our clients. We start with an initial training call with your California-based client liaison to learn all the client requirements and processes. We’ll ask you for a sample project around which to base training and collect feedback. The project is executed by our data team and returned to the client for feedback so that we can refine our processes to replicate yours. QA happens at various levels, including with your liaison, to ensure strict adherence to your requirements. Once processes have been fully implemented, Cennos works with you to set goals, metrics, and benchmarks to work toward. We send daily, weekly and monthly reports so there’s plenty of transparency, as well.
I’ve been known to invite a few friends over from time to time… And typically we’re gathering around my television, sitting on my couches, sharing food, and watching a favorite show, or a big football game. The streamlined design and functionality of the Techni Mobili TV Stand with Three Drawers in Walnut Finish is exactly what I need to entertain my guests without having to sacrifice the stylish and modern aesthetic that I’ve put together for my décor.
The overall dimensions of the stand are compact, giving me some options as to where to place it, yet its top is spacious enough to fit my large HD TV, plus a few speakers, or even a soundbar. Additionally, the beautiful natural walnut finish is simple and elegant, and is going to work wonderfully in my neutral and open living space.
What I find best about this TV stand are the three drawers: not only do they give me plenty of space to keep DVDs and games in easy reach, their placement creates shelving, perfect for storing my cable box, Blu-ray player and my sound receiver right by the television. They even hide the ugly cables and wires out of sight to keep the area looking neat and clean. With this media center, I'll be able to keep my living room open and looking great!
Who else is headed to Vegas at the end of the month?
We’re looking forward to the Las Vegas Market and everything it has to offer the world of ecommerce. Not sure we’re going to be able to get to all the displays and exhibits, but we’re excited to catch a glimpse of the latest and greatest in interior décor and home furnishings. From vendor exhibits to fantastic, highly relevant presentations and workshops, the Las Vegas Market is the best the West Coast has to offer.
Hope we see you there!
The Las Vegas Winter Market runs January 24-28 at the World Market Center. Mark your calendars—the Summer 2016 Market will be held July 31st-August 4th. Visit www.lasvegasmarket.com for more information.
I come by my reverence for feathered friends genetically, you might say. My father has long been a caretaker of these spectacular creatures, hand-making houses and feeders for them and engineering ingenious strategies for protecting their stash from ever-present squirrels (which, by the way, he also spoils mercilessly).
As a professional house-sitter (yes, that is a thing), I regularly encounter others who dedicate time and resources to making sure birds have a safe place; a temporary respite with seed, shelter— and access to water. Birds are especially vulnerable to excessive heat and depleted resources caused by climate change and drought. Compassionate homeowners have come to their rescue by placing bird baths in strategic locations.
I’ve seen some handsome bird baths in my time. Stone, cement, earthen pottery...they blend nicely with coordinating outdoor décor. They look charming in a patio setting. But often they don’t offer what the feathered fellows need.
Here’s one that does, and has caught my eye for a number of reasons, and not the least of which is its sheer beauty...
The Cauldron Birdbath Fountain from Home Gallery Stores makes me salivate. I’m wowed by its raw, natural appeal—but beyond beauty, I’m impressed with an attention to specifics that promises to pamper winged guests with the appropriate water depth and an ever-important cascading fountain motion, which offers a visual cue to draw them in.
The biggest surprise? Though it looks like an amalgam of exotic, expensive materials, it’s composed of economical, easy-maintenance, weather-friendly resin.
If you’re as committed as my father, my clients— and even I am—to the avian set, you should take a good look at this jaw-dropping find. It’s ecologically sound, aesthetically decadent, and really a pretty decent deal. Plus, you’ll make some new best friends who are capable of self-entertaining. Win-win.