Tag: innovation

Guide to using CGI for Ecommerce websites

Discover our best-practice advice when it comes to selecting images for an ecommerce website from our CGI experts.

This post will cover all aspects of ecommerce CGI images from: what is CGI, to why CGI can be a good option for ecommerce sites, to how to be efficient when using CGI, as well as pros and cons vs using traditional photography for ecommerce product websites.

What is CGI?

CGI stands for Computer Generated Images, which essentially means what it says on the tin: they’re images generated using a computer. We use professional CGI software called KeyShot to create our images – it’s one of the most powerful and accurate CGI software programmes available.

Barton Marine Stanchion Bullseye

You’ll probably have heard of CGI being used in video gaming, movies and advertising.

But many product images are now CGI because companies have recognised that there are many benefits to choosing CGI over photography. It is also common for retailers to use a hybrid of CGI and photography.

What defines an ecommerce website?

Ecommerce (electronic commerce) websites are exactly that: websites that allow customers to buy (and sell) goods and services via the internet, rather than at a physical location. A business can use an ecommerce website to process orders, accept payments via different methods, manage shipping and provide customer service. Some social media platforms have now become ecommerce platforms too, adding ecommerce functionality for their users to buy and sell. Today, it is expected that most retailers should have an online store presence of some description, whether it is their own ecommerce website or via a social network.

Buying and selling is not new, of course, but ecommerce has made it easier and a preferred way to shop for many customers. In fact, the total ecommerce revenue generated in the UK in 2019 was £693 billion, a massive 40% increase since 2015, and ecommerce now accounts for 16.5% of total business turnover.

Websites are no longer a “nice to have” for businesses. In 2019, 81.4% of businesses with 10-49 employees had a website, while 96.9% of businesses with 1000 of more employees had a website (seriously, what are the remaining 3.1% doing?)

So, it’s clear that customers love to shop online, buying everything from clothes to garden equipment, their weekly food shop, sofas, cars and even holidays. The home buying market has even started to move fully online (yes, really), with virtual tours boosted by the pandemic.

Consumer confidence in buying online has increased massively in recent years, again drive recently by the pandemic, as well as the increase in smart devices including mobile phones and home devices such as Amazon Alexa.

And yes, while we love to buy online, retailers need to make sure the products they are selling best address their target audience’s needs and challenges; something that only be achieved through comprehensive market research.

And once they’ve made sure they have the perfect products to sell, it’s important for website developers to continue to come up with solutions to improve their customers’ shopping experiences.

There are certain best practices when it comes to selling products online.

One of the essential elements to a good ecommerce website is images. You simply cannot sell a product without good quality images. Images bring a product to life.

Images help a user decide whether a product is suitable or not, for example – do they like the look of it? Does it suit their style? How do they feel when they look at it? Does it complement other products they own?

CGI portfolio

Product images need to be high quality (without slowing the website down) and show the product from different angles.

There are different types of images that can be used to showcase a product online:

  • Cut out images – showing the product on a plain background to emphasis the product and its features
  • Lifestyle images – showing the product against a background setting, such as a home interior shot or outdoors landscape
  • Action images – showing the product being used in some way
  • 360 spin images – a more recent edition to online images, which allow the customer to rotate the product 360 degrees to see the entire product.
  • Videos – not technically an image, but the use of video, showing a product working or being used, is becoming a prerequisite for online shopping.
  • Customisation options – if the product is available in different colours or materials, for example, the user can select from swatch buttons to change the customisation options of the product displayed.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) – the next evolution in ecommerce imagery. An innovative way to show the product in a real-life setting, such as your home (e.g. imagine being able to see a fridge in your actual kitchen before buying it, or check whether a pushchair will fit in the boot of your car).
  • User Generated Content – many e-retailers now encourage customers to upload images of a product they’ve purchased being used. Not only does this increase engagement and loyalty with current customers, but also instils trust for new customers who are more likely to buy after seeing others with the same product.

How can CGI be used to enhance ecommerce websites?

So, how can CGI be used by retailers wanting to sell online, and is it a good option?

Some of the image types described above, such as 360 spin and AR, can only be created using CGI, but for cut out, lifestyle and action shots, retailers can choose between CGI and photography. So we need to compare CGI and photography to address the pros and cons of each.

While CGI will never completely replace photography, the capabilities of CGI software have advanced enormously over recent years, meaning that images are now incredibly photorealistic and a very credible source of product imagery.

CGI also tends to be quicker and more cost efficient that photography. It can be time consuming and expensive to set up photoshoots.

Where CGI really comes into its own is with customisation. If a product is available in 20 colours, for example, photographing 20 different versions may take a long time. Multiple this by a few different products and the costs will quickly escalate. Whereas with CGI, once the first scene has been set up it is very quick to replicate for different colours.

It is also easier to create unusual angles with CGI, whereas a photographer will need jigs to hold the product in place and will then require more time in post-editing.

iPhone case CGI

So, CGI can be much more efficient, producing more images in a shorter space of time.

This is very important for ecommerce websites which may have thousands of different products, each available in various options.

Remember what we said earlier: to give customers the best possible shopping experience, a website should show all different options. Only showing some of the available colours or materials for example, will cause frustration for some customers, negatively impact their experience.

We also mentioned hybrid CGI earlier – this is a blend of photography and CGI. So for example, using CGI of a product placed within a real photograph. This gives the effect of a “real” photograph but circumnavigates any logistics or cost issues presented by taking the photography on location.

Pre-order: the beauty of CGI: One area that CGI excels at is using it for products that are not yet manufactured. Being able to create an image of a product that doesn’t currently exist means that pre-orders can be generated before manufacture, generating revenue before the product has even been launched.

Are there any downsides to CGI?

One area that can be problematic is colour matching, however, this can be an issue whether the image is a photograph or CGI – it can depend on a customer’s device as well as the settings.

For large amount purchases, such as a sofa, many retailers allow customers to order physical swatches to be mailed out – so this gets around any colour discrepancies.

One of the biggest drawbacks of online shopping is not being able to touch, feel and try a product, and while this is an issue for both photography and CGI, there are ways that sellers can try to circumnavigate this issue:

  • It’s important to increase customer confidence in the product before buying – 51% of shoppers believe the biggest drawback of online shopping is not being able to touch a product before buying. Customer reviews, tutorials and demonstrations, faith in the brand, excellent customer services and reassurance when it comes to returns and refunds will all help provide trust.
  • But good images, and specifically 360 spin images, AR images, user generated content all help to foster trust with customers. Although these images don’t allow customers to touch and feel the product, they enable them to view the entire product, interact with it online and see it in their home before purchasing.
  • AR technology is still evolving, but it is becoming more commonplace with ecommerce retailers and it’s estimated there will be 1.7 billion AR users by 2024. One way that make up brands are using AR is by enabling customers to “try on” their make up using virtual try-on technology.

Augmented reality

Key takeaways

The evolution of the partnership between CGI and ecommerce websites is exciting, and the possibilities for product imagery are endless.

  • Consumer confidence in buying online is growing, but good quality images can help to win trust.
  • No longer are standard cut out images enough on their own – customers expect 3D spin images, user generated content as well as video and even augmented reality.
  • Nothing can replace a real photograph, but CGI is a suitable option for companies that want photorealistic images at a fraction of the cost.
  • CGI is an effective tool for pre-orders campaigns, generating revenue before a product has even been manufactured.
  • Customisation is an area where retailers can save costs by using CGI.
  • The most important thing is to enhance the shopping experience for the customer. Anything that doesn’t improve their experience shouldn’t be implemented.

If you’re excited about exploring the idea of CGI on an ecommerce website please get in touch with our CGI experts.

Key takeaways from CES 2022

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the most influential consumer products shows in the world, showcasing the newest technology used in physical as well digital products.

Held every January in Las Vegas, this year saw a return to an in-person event after being paused for 2021. As product specialists, we are always intrigued to see what new technologies and products are featured at CES each year, so here are our key takeaways from #CES2022:

1. Robotics

Robotics played a massive part in this year’s show. Everything from fully humanised service robots to assist people at the airport or supermarket, through to cute robot animals that nibble your fingers for pleasure (whatever floats your boat!)

Ameca humanoid robot
Ameca humanoid robot

Our thoughts:

Robotics technology will start to be used more frequently, particularly in applications that are dangerous for humans, such as firefighting, conflict areas and perhaps even to avoid spread of viruses in future.

2. Invisible technology: colour changing cars

Undoubtedly stealing this year’s show, BMW’s E Ink is essentially an invisible layer of technology that can change the colour of the car from white to black, as well as add patterns.

Invisible technology has been emerging as a concept for the last few years. Automated and customised products are rapidly becoming more popular (we only have to look at home automated products to realise how ingrained they have become in everyday life), and now BMW have taken it one step further with E Ink colour changing technology.

BMW E Ink colour changing card
BMW E Ink colour changing car

Our thoughts:

We see this technology moving beyond simply changing a car’s appearance. It could also signal warnings to other road users, such as an accident or hazard ahead, or perhaps even highlight if a car has been stolen. In terms of customisation, your car could develop a personality linked to wearable tech, so that if perhaps stress increases your heart rate, the car could calm you by changing to a soothing colour or giving you an uplifting message, for example.

3. Invisible technology: smart audio

Following on the hidden technology theme at CES is a smart audio device which is like wearing a pair of invisible headphones. Noveto has developed the Soundbeamer 1.0 sound bar that uses facial recognition to target projected sound to the area just in front of your ears. You get a fully immersive sound experience while others around you will only hear a whisper.

Noveto smart audio
Noveto’s “invisible headphones”

Our thoughts:

We think this technology would be fantastic for long haul flights, eliminating the need for throwaway or reusable headphones, as well as in office spaces where Zoom calls are the new normal. 

4. Stylish wearable tech

Smart ring technology has been around for a few years, but at a considerably high price point. The Movano smart ring aims to undercut the price of its main competitors, including market leader Oura. The ring will gather and provide accurate data on customers health metrics including sleep monitoring, heart rate, heart rate variability, respiration levels, temperature, blood oxygen readings, step count, and calories burned. What’s more, the ring will make suggestions to improve a user’s quality of life; perhaps suggesting that your heart rate increased after drinking a few glasses of wine.

Movano smart ring
Movano smart ring

Our thoughts:

While health monitoring has been dominated by smart watches, we believe smart rings may overtake watches in the wearable tech space. The discrete nature of a ring means its more versatile and is easier to match with any attire. A smart watch doesn’t always provide the right “look” when going to a business meeting, for example, and if the watch isn’t being worn no health data is being collected.

What did you think of CES 2022? What products stood out most for you?

Why Is Sustainability Influencing Modern Product Design?

What are consumers looking for when they buy a product? Quality, convenience and cost are three major factors that they consider.

Over the past few years, however, another consideration has been added to the list – today’s consumers want to purchase products that are environmentally responsible. With this in mind, companies are now increasingly reinventing how they design their services and products, putting sustainability at the forefront of everything they do.

A Changing Mindset for Sustainability

Over the last decade, conversations have been taking place about climate change and its impact on the planet at the highest level.

The media is full of stories about the effects of global warming, so consumers are becoming highly aware of why they need to adopt a more sustainable approach to living. So much so, in fact, that customers will pay more for a product that is sustainably produced, and using eco-friendly products has been revealed in studies to make consumers happier when using the product.

bamboo toothbrushes for sustainability
Bamboo toothbrushes – no longer a niche product. Photo credit: Unsplash 

With an increased demand for sustainable products companies are, understandably, responding by transforming their processes to be more environmentally conscious. Not only does it appeal to their target market, it also helps to meet their own sustainability goals (and any targets set by government), as well as benefitting the planet. It’s win-win-win.

Single-use plastics have become a hot topic once again throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with the exponential increase in demand for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), particularly disposable masks and gloves. It seems our awareness around problematic ocean plastics has perhaps been neglected, overtaken by a necessity to protect ourselves from Coronavirus. And while plenty of brands have jumped on the PPE-wagon with branded merchandise available everywhere, the impact of single use PPE products over the course of the pandemic can’t be denied.

Single use PPE - Covid19
Photo credit: Unsplash

How Can Companies Make Their Products More Sustainable?

When it comes to product development, assessing the lifecycle of products is key. From the raw materials used in production, through to its end-of-life scenario, assessing possible alternatives to minimise waste and energy usage at every stage has never been more important.

Many companies are now asking product design companies to develop ways of making products componentised so that, in the instance they can’t be refurbished or recycled at end of life, they can be deconstructed to make alternative products from the components.

This is an important step for those of us working in product development to take. In the past when working for manufacturers we’ve witnessed huge amounts of product wastage on far too many occasions – perfectly good products that could’ve been refurbished, but instead were consigned to landfill.

It’s heart-breaking and completely unnecessary, and it’s our responsibility as innovators to implement a change.

Lego recently announced they have produced their first brick prototypes using 100% recycled plastic. Important? Absolutely, but perhaps far too late for a global company like Lego to have only taken this step in 2021. What has taken them so long?

Lego bricks plastic
Photo credit: Unsplash

Why Is Sustainability So Important When Designing New Products?

As an industrial design company, our focus on product development is always a sustainable one. A primary goal of our business is to limit the negative impact that we have on our planet, and to this end, we strive to ensure each and every product that we develop is developed sustainably.

Sustainable boxed water
Reducing plastics in bottled water. Photo Credit: Unsplash

We recently designed a range of eco-friendly packaging for a new wellness tea brand, PUR-E-TEA. The company’s values are centred around the planet and wellbeing, so one of the main requirements from the client was for the packaging to be as sustainable as possible. For us, looking for sustainable options is a prerequisite anyway, but it’s satisfying to work with clients that have the same values as us. We designed a slimline box to reduce the amount of material needed (whilst also saving on cost), and used chemical-free ink for the artwork. We limited the amount of plastics used within the packaging, and any that were necessary were 100% biodegradable.

Sustainability in product packaging
PUR-E-TEA slimline eco-friendly packaging

Not only do we seek out eco-conscious materials and adopt sustainable manufacturing methods for use in the products we work on, but we have also introduced environmentally sound changes to our business practices, including going paper free as much as possible. All of our product sketches are now made on graphics tablets instead of paper. We use the XP-Pen Artist 13.3 pro for all sketches, which we’ve found works perfectly for our needs, and during video calls while screen sharing we are able to sketch ideas and concepts to allow clients to visualise their product being designed live while we speak! Another way we try to be sustainably conscious is to seek out local suppliers whenever possible to reduce the distance products need to travel. We also encourage video calls with clients, and if face-to-face meetings are necessary, then we look to use public transport wherever possible. Simon also rides his bike to the office most days!

We are working hard to minimise our carbon footprint in line with the latest best practice within the product development industry, and to do our bit to protect our planet for future generations.

What our clients say.

  • "They were able to deliver an outstanding solution to a challenging brief"

    "I gave the team at Cornelius Creative a challenging brief, and they were able to deliver an outstanding solution, but more importantly did so a highly professional and efficient manner. I would certainly recommend them for any product design or marketing briefs you have. It was a pleasure working with them."

    Anand G, Hansgrohe
  • "Their interest, passion and care makes them feel part of your team"

    "Simon and the team at Cornelius Creative are fantastic. Their interest, passion and care makes them feel part of your team. They have a wealth of experience which was clear in our project and critical to the successful design. Simon was critical in the brain storming all aspects of design and functionality. Cornelius Creative always make time for you and are extremely approachable and helpful to talk through any aspect of the design. Cornelius Creative have a passion for delivering high quality designs, which is clear in our project. SailAI would highly recommend Cornelius Creative for any creative design projects, and hopefully we will be working together again in the future."

    Ben P, SailAI
  • "I liked their collaborative approach and commitment to getting the project done on time"

    "I worked with Cornelius Creative on a product launch for which they produced CGIs and product renders. It was a smooth process, I liked their collaborative approach and commitment to getting the project done on time and on brief. Very happy with the results and I'll surely work with them again!"

    Ernest O, Furnitubes Ltd
  • “They were able to look at my business as a whole and refresh my brand"

    I approached Cornelius Creative to help with my business branding, which had got a bit stale. They were able to look at my business as a whole and refresh my brand to make it more appealing to my customers. They made huge improvements to my logo and visuals as well as my messaging to make it more appealing. My brand is more recognisable now and I couldn't be happier with the result. I'd definitely work with Cornelius Creative again.
    Robert H, MKBS
  • “What an effortless transaction… Cornelius Creative exceeded all my expectations”

    What an effortless transaction. I had been putting off getting my patent drawing done as thought it was going to be a long and arduous job but Cornelius Creative exceeded all my expectations. A straightforward process, knew exactly what I needed and quick turnaround with less then 48 hours! Communication was 2nd to none.... I will 100% be contacting Cornelius Creative again for future projects. Thank you!
    Charlene D, Untainted
  • “We can’t wait to work with them again!”

    Glowpear has had the pleasure of dealing with Cornelius Creative on design, marketing and strategy. They are highly recommended, with the drive to succeed at a high level, amazing results, and a personal touch when dealing with us. We can't wait to work with them again!
    Simon L, Glowpear
  • “They exceeded all expectations. Their creativity and attention to detail is second to none”

    Cornelius Creative made a great impression from the onset. They were tasked to design a concept which was very different from the status quo and they exceeded all expectations. Their creativity and attention to detail is second to none.
    Steve C, Uthos

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