Social networking and decent photos boost your online business

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I attended the Drapers/Retail Week Ecommerce Summit 2010 for the second year running last week and to be honest it felt a bit strange, being what seemed the only independent company there.

Mingling amongst the likes of Schuh, Sole Trader, Calvin Klein, Woolworths, House of Fraser and more big names, I started to feel out of my depth but then I thought why should I, it would be great to learn what these guys are learning as I bet I can implement any changes quicker than them and that’s the good thing about being an independent company.

There was some interesting information from IMRG:
• Online growth in December 2009 was up 17%
• 41% of consumers plan to spend more online next Christmas
• Christmas day sales £132m: up 29% on 2008. Fewer customers but higher basket spend
• Strong growth sectors in 2009 were Clothing, Footwear & Accessories
• Overall conversion rates were down in 2009 due to customers researching more, which to me indicates more research needs to be done by companies as well
• An odd & interesting bit of information is that across the board online-only stores saw a decrease of 7.6% in December versus multi channel retailers who were up 13%. This was an indication that high street retailers are getting their act together with connecting their online business & bricks & mortar stores
• Interesting eBay fact that in December across all eBay countries 1.5million items were purchase on a mobile phone!

Communities for websites were also a big part of the summit with many discussions and presentations on the use of social media, reviews and how best to interact with customers. Did you know if all the registered users on Facebook lived in a country it would be the fourth largest country in the world!!!

There were some interesting presentations that talked about successful campaigns such as Art of the Trench by Burberry, this was good to see a top design brand connecting with customers though communities such as facebook & it also created an awful lot of press over the site. ASOS were also mentioned a great deal for the use of their own community, Facebook and Twitter, which is always good to follow.

How I look at communities is you can really use it to sell, sell, sell: it’s a place to connect with your customers more, an extension of your customer service if you will. Facebook and Twitter can give your online business a personal feel which is what online retail is sometimes lacking.

There were also discussions on bloggers, and in fact we had the chance to meet a panel of them. It was interesting to learn that the public are trusting bloggers’ and reviewers’ opinions more & more. That’s why if you have a website it is essential to add reviews to your products.

Images were also a massive part of discussions including a presentation from one of the creators of Adobe 7, these are the guys that offer the software for imaging and video to most of the top sites in the US and UK. In a survey offered by them, customers ranked importance of images as

• Quality of image 94%
• Alternative images 88%
• Zoom 85%

At the end of the day no matter how much content you offer a customer the image is key to selling an item. Make it clear, offer alternative views and increasing in popularity is showing the items in context, i.e. on a model. Video is really helping with this too, with clothing shown on catwalks. Some top sites for images are:

An interesting US site called These guys have added the ability for customers to upload their own images of camping equipment. The company adds the standard product pic then customers can upload their own giving better views of the product but also real customer opinions and reviews too!

It would be easy to dismiss all of this and say ‘We haven’t the money or the time’ but for any business – large or small, on eBay or just a website – elements of this are vital to your growth. Even if you spend an hour a week improving the quality of your images it is a start, but if you are looking to really grow then spend time and a little money on creating a community around your site. We started really working on this in November and the signs are very, very good on increasing turnover!

13 Responses

  1. Interesting stuff. ASOS seems to be the trail blazer amongst UK websites and makes the most of customer interaction. There must be an awful lot of money going into that business as well as coming out.

    Do you do your own images Stuart?

  2. I use big images on listing. It is easier to scroll down listing and view these than open up ‘enlarge box’ for gallery, and I certainly wouldn’t pay for extra photos or other ebay photo enhancements.

  3. I like the idea that a ‘zoom’ function is recommeded 🙂

    Maybe my website will get some users now LOL

  4. I have the same picture hosted on both eBay and within the listing on my own site. should one or other hosting go down buyers can still see a picture of the product.

  5. Could someone please tell me how I can contact eBay? I think we have been scammed. I saw a motorhome on Craigslist. The seller said he had decided to go through eBay Buyer’s Protection Program. The money was transferred and we were contacted by an eBay Customer Service Specialist (I think he is bogus). It is now 3 days past the day the motorhome was supposed to be delivered to our home. Neither the seller nor eBay Specialist will anwer my emails. I think we have been taken.


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