How Does Your Shop STAND OUT Online?

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I was recently scrolling through Instagram and something caught my eye, and I started backtracking thinking there had been a glitch. I had just seen the same photo twice in a matter of swipes. As it turned out, it was not a glitch at all. It was two images from two different clothing boutiques that looked nearly identical. At first I just thought “What are the odds”, but as I got thinking about it, and how common those two images were to other content I see daily, I realized the odds were actually very high that there were near identical images from shop owners splattered all across social media.

Now, I don’t want to embarrass anyone or call people out without their permission, so I won’t be posting images as example. I’ll leave that to your imagination, because the majority of us have seen them numerous times, but they usually follow the criteria of:

  • outside

  • single female modeling

  • heavily filtered or edited

  • posing on a street, sidewalk, in a yard, in a driveway

And there wouldn’t be anything wrong with this if four million other people weren’t also doing the exact same thing, but this is absolutely why you need to stop doing it right now. I figured my knowledge on the matter might not be the only one worth consulting so I asked two respected photographers, who have experience working with business owners to talk all about product photography for marketing. Jenn of Jenn Marie Photography , Julia of Julia Rabkin Photography , and I- retail expert at large…all gave our opinions on why you need to do something different and how exactly to start right away!!

Q: What is your opinion when you see all of these shops on social media posting images that look so similar?

Jenn: For me, I tend to zone out when I'm scrolling and I see something like that over and over again. It's when I see someone showing me something interesting, shocking, or even weird that I actually stop to take a second look or "slow my scroll" as they say. Even then, in order to RETAIN the interest, it has to be aligned with their brand and what they're trying to tell me with it. [ This one kind of image] is something that has been pushed on people so much [and so frequently] that they are immune to it, and it really doesn't speak the truth to what you're trying to do nor [ does it ] draw people in. 

Julia: I think it’s boring, unless the product is really unique and stands out right away. I will scroll past without thinking too much of the content.

My thoughts: This works for influencers because they got on the bandwagon BEFORE everyone was doing it, they’ve become elite at modeling, taking high quality images with professional cameras, they go looking for unique backgrounds, and MOST IMPORTANTLY they aren’t SELLING only product. They’re selling themselves and their life style. When you throw a shop into the mix that doesn’t have the built in influence and is just “trying to be like” someone (or in this case A LOT OF SOMEONES) who have already done it, and done it better, you’re essentially wasting a lot of your time. What’s pushing a consumer to purchase at one shop over the other when you can barely tell them apart? In this case, blending in is not doing you any favors, and trying to look like an influencer is going to have a lot of people passing you by instead of looking at your products.

Q: How do you think product photography can improve this?

Jenn: This is SO HUGE! Product photography does a few things for your imagery. 
1. A good product photographer will do extensive research into your brand, it's philosophy, and really get the to heart of your business. 
2. Having true product photography allows a second set of eyes and influence into your imagery. A new perspective can really amp up your game. Sometimes we get stuck in these rotations and keep doing things the same way, and adding another person into the equation with a new artistic approach will help get attention. 
3. Consistency is KEY! There is nothing more obviously unprofessional than inconsistent imagery. It looks cheap, it doesn't allow people to buy into you brand, and it doesn't tell a story. There's nothing that makes me crazier than a shopfront IG feed with a million cell phone images that don't blend together or carry me along and SCREAM to me what I can get at that store.

Julia: I think product photography can be a huge asset to sell the items and highlight their positive and unique features and downplays any negative features and also makes a true representation of color, scale, etc .

My thoughts: Product photography usually includes creative direction and a theme. It improves consistency and quality control in your images. You can shoot a WHOLE COLLECTION together which helps you sell outfits and makes great marketing campaigns for weeks of social media content. It ensures that you’re showcasing your product in the best possible way. This is about the products, it’s not about the model, or you, or the store, so getting as many quality images is important. If you’re selling online exclusively these are the images that are selling your product. Your customer can’t walk in and feel the fabric, inspect it with their eyes. They can’t hold the details up for a closer look. Your images have to do all of that for them, so they can make a good decision on purchasing. Wouldn’t you like to take the guess work out of it, so you can move the product easily?

Q: How important is it to shoot a collection together?

Jenn: If I am a shopper, and you are there to tell me WHAT to buy, showing things together will naturally draw shoppers to those specific collections as a whole. When they see it together, they need it together, therefore increasing your sales based on the imagery. 

My thoughts: In a time before the internet, catalogs were how stores got their product seen, and fashion houses STILL release a lookbook for each new season of product. Specialty retailers still shoot marketing campaigns and set their floors by the trend, theme of each collection (and season) as it rolls in for consumption. Are there different rules for small privately owned boutiques and retailers? Well, there are no rules because owners can do what they want, but that system has worked for decades and decades. As Jenn said a collection shot together ( with multiple models, styled with props and a location) just help your brand, they uphold consistency and they sell product together!! Yes, it’s more expensive but the ROI is also incredible. If it wasn’t- corporations wouldn’t still do it.

Q: What can a styled shoot do for products?

Jenn: EVERYTHING! This is the biggest service that I provide my clients. A styled shoot allows you to see your products in a real-life way. Every potential shopper can see your products ACTUALLY BEING USED! How many lipstick commercials do you see with a tube of lipstick sitting on a shelf? NONE! It's on a model, she's going to the club, making out with her boyfriend, and then looking back at you and showing you it's still there. People don't want to see a purse. They want to see themselves USING the purse. At a party. Going to work. Riding the train. This is what styled shoots do. They put your product into the ideal world of your shoppers.

Julia: Styled shoots are great because they create polished branding and a cohesive and high end look that represents the brand .

My thoughts: I think there’s a misconception that styled shoots have to be fancy or high end. They can be as casual as you want them to be. It can be as editorial as you want it to be. It’s supposed to add quality, not make your product or brand into something it isn’t. At the end of the day it’s about selling the product, and standing out from all the other shops that are trying to sell similar products. It’s going to come down to how you framed the product, and how you sold the experience people will have in that product.

Q: What do you suggest shops do if they want to take images with their phone or their own camera?

Jenn: Instastory! [ put them in instastory so the lower quality doesn’t disrupt your brand consistency]

Julia: Clean backdrops, nothing too busy. You can get a backdrop and autopole for fairly cheap.

My thoughts: I would be really mindful of what’s predictable, and go in an entirely different direction. Your neighborhood doesn’t make the best professional background. A lot of busy things going in the background can take away from the product. Don’t forget to shoot the product from multiple depths and from multiple angles.

Q: Why do you think we find a lack of creativity in images like this?

Jenn: Because we're all programmed to think people like something, only because it worked for one person. We settle into someone else's success comfort zone, follow all their rules and their path, only to find out that we aren't them (SHOCKER!). We have to forge our own path. 

My thoughts: Honestly, there’s not a lot of direction out there for shop owners telling them not to do this, and without that guidance they see what other shops are doing and they copy. Honestly, it’s a combination of not knowing any better, and cutting corners . I know shop owners might feel offended by that because they work really hard, and taking images (even if it’s from your phone) can be time consuming and a whole lot of work!!! Hiring a photographer and setting up a shoot is even more work AND an extra expense, so they try to do it themselves. Playing it safe comes at a cost. You must challenge yourself to do things different than what everyone else is doing! If you have the results to back up that your images are helping you to sell product that’s one thing, but if they aren’t, and you’re also struggling to get noticed and get followers on social media then you have to know that the content is blending in and it’s time to try something new.