GS1 US announced it was collaborating with retailers, manufacturers, brand owners, suppliers, and solution providers to launch the GS1 US Best Practice Guideline for Exchanging Product Images and Attributes, Release 3.0. The guideline, originally introduced in 2012, has been significantly enhanced to help trading partners provide digitally-savvy consumers with richer product information and a unified cross-channel and cross-device browsing, searching, discovery and online shopping experience.
Michelle Covey, VP of Retail Apparel and General Merchandise for GS1 US, recently took time to talk with RetailITInsights.com about the guideline, product images and attributes, and the differences between 360º Imaging, 3D Interactive Imaging , and 3D Modelling.
Q: What are three key takeaways from the guideline for retailers looking to improve their processes for product information and images?
Covey: Brands, retailers, and solution providers participating in the GS1 US Apparel and General Merchandise Initiative collaborated on this guideline and gave careful consideration to the impact of their recommendation. They focused on three major changes from previous versions which reflect retail companies’ laser sharp focus on the consumer point of view.
First, the workgroup defined a more robust spectrum of attributes — characteristics used to describe the product. This guideline now defines an additional 127 attributes, bringing the total to 193. Many are keywords commonly used in consumer searches such as “dishwasher safe” or “reversible.”
They also designed the guideline to help companies set up products for all channels holistically, recognizing omni-channel is the new norm. Using the guideline, retailers can provide information consistency from store to online and develop best practices focused on consumer experience.
Third, the guideline places a greater emphasis on images by helping companies clarify how to set up images according to image options that are growing in popularity with consumers, including montages and 360º views.
Q: What are the product images and attributes essential for consumers to make purchasing decisions?
Covey: Today’s consumer evaluates products based on different criteria than what we’d consider to be traditional considerations of quality and price. Therefore, the newly-added attributes such as “Asthma/Allergy Certified,” “Handmade,” and “Material Country of Origin” become essential to the conscientious shopper accustomed to accessing key details about a product. They want to see how the product is made and if it will fit into their health concerns, lifestyle, or personal philosophies. Extended attributes help retail companies tell the story of the product. The guideline provides a singular approach for the whole industry by defining these characteristics and enabling companies to move faster and work more accurately to set items up online.
Consumers are also calling for a more consistent visual representation of products online so they can ensure that what they see is what they get. There has been much frustration when the perceived quality, look, and feel of a product falls short of what is presented when they open the box delivered to their doorstep. This guideline not only helps ensure clearer, more accurate product representations, but also provides standardized naming conventions and other operational best practices that help streamline the way retail partners exchange images.
Q: Explain and describe 360º Imaging vs. 3D Interactive Imaging vs. 3D Modelling
Covey: These terms can often be misapplied, however each serves a purpose to help give the consumer a feel for a product at various angles when viewing it online. The workgroup clearly spelled out the difference in the guideline to help clarify their differences.
360º imaging is product photography that rotates on a single axis while the camera takes pictures at specified degree intervals. The images taken of a product can be associated together in an interactive image. The user can rotate it to replicate the sense of a physical product in a digital setting.
3D product interactive imaging leverages 360º product photography on more than one axis. When the images are edited, formatted, and associated to the viewer, the consumer can rotate the product along the sides and the top.
3D modelling (also known as a 3D rendered model) is when a digital framework is created and then graphic layers are used to build a virtual object which, through software, can be rotated in any direction and manipulated by the user.
In general, product images — ensuring quality and creating efficiency in their exchange — are viewed in the retail industry as one of the most important assets in order to engage consumers and help brands maintain loyalty. A recent study found stunning product imagery hooks 78 percent of online buyers, and Salsify found 66 percent of consumers say they want to view at least three images of a product while shopping. It’s becoming clear that images can mean the difference between customer satisfaction and disappointment in today’s competitive environment.