Part 1 of 2: Laying the Groundwork for Successful Visual Merchandising Online
As more and more farms make the leap to online shops and marketplaces to seek new customers and compete in an increasingly global marketplace, it is important to consider your online presence. At a farm event or open house, you may be able to rely on your alpacas to help “seal the deal” while visitors touch and try on products. How can you capture the same success in the digital world? That is where visual merchandising and photography come in!
Regardless of where you sell online, it is imperative that you consider the way you present products visually through product styling and photography to best reach your target audience.
1. Your Brand is the Foundation
Before you even think about photographing your products and posting them on your website or social media, stop and think: what story am I telling with my business and who do I want to tell it to? A simple way to begin establishing a brand is to think of three adjectives to describe your business and the way you want to be seen by online visitors. Perhaps you visualize your company as homegrown, sustainable, and heirloom. Another farm selling the same products might prefer to be viewed as elegant, high-end, and chic. These three simple words can serve as a framework for your visual marketing. If you translate these words into your marketing and product postings through product styling and photography, you will set the mood and attract shoppers who identify with your brand!
These two photographs are styled and shot quite differently. Which one would work better for your brand?
2. What Stories do your Products Tell?
As you establish a cohesive identity for your business and identify your target audience, think about the products you are selling. While you know the products are great, you need to find a way to help your online customers understand how the products might fit into their lives. This is even more important when they can’t see them in person! Before you begin posing and photographing products, think about how the products can grab your customer using imagery alone.
One of the easiest ways is to tap into the question: “what is it made of?” If you’re selling U.S. alpaca products, a photograph of the product next to processed alpaca fiber serves to connect the products to their origin: the alpacas themselves! Another method is to suggest where or how your potential customers might use their products. Perhaps you are hoping to target the hunting and fishing market with your BOLD Orange Watch Caps and Camo Hunting Masks. What better way to do so than by showing a hunter or fisherman outdoors wearing the product with his or her gear? Recently, we spotlighted our Fleck Beanie as a lightweight, versatile hat that was perfect for chilly fall mornings on the water.
3. Styling your Products
This takes us to styling the products for photographing. Always keep in mind that the product is what you are selling. While props certainly add interest to your product photos, they should never distract or take away from what is most important! When you add props to your photographs, experiment with different techniques to create interest and increase understanding:
Take a look at the photograph we recently took to spotlight our Cozy Baby Blanket:
When we styled this photo we wanted to show our potential customers (and yours too!) how you can utilize our product while also highlighting the Cozy Baby Blanket’s wonderfully soft alpaca fiber. What better way than to illustrate someone thoughtfully packing it as a gift for a baby shower?
The gentle hands suggest the delicate nature of the fiber, which, when pictured with the alpaca toy on the left, connect the viewer to the blanket’s animal origins. The stork illustrated on the card on the left confirms that this blanket is meant for a baby. The overall composition is suggestive of a pyramid, with the white box serving as the pinnacle of the pyramid and the other objects expanding diagonally, making the pyramid’s base. During placement, objects (such as the alpaca toy, tape, and scissors) were grouped and layered to create more depth and visual interest. While we took a number of photographs, the one we chose to highlight captures our Cozy Baby Blanket perfectly!
Start brainstorming about your brand, the stories you want to tell, and the styling you will use to help share it in order to grow your online business this year!
In Part 2 we will discuss the more technical aspects of product photography: the photography itself, and editing your photographs!