Tag: marketing

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.

What is a product roadmap (and do you need one)?

If you’re developing a product, you’ve probably heard the term ‘product roadmap’ floating around.

But what does it mean, and do you need one?

What is a product roadmap?

Simply put, a product roadmap is a vision of your company’s evolving products. It is a strategic document that outlines plans and allows visibility on which direction the company is heading. The roadmap is usually rolling or agile over a specific time period, which when developing physical products is usually 3 – 5 years. It tells you which products will be delivered, and by when.

Essentially it’s the road your company will be travelling on and what products will be launched along the way. Like an actual road, there may be some bends and twists along the way, and even a few diversions!

Photo credit: Unsplash

Who is responsible for the product roadmap?

The product manager is ultimately responsible for creating and owning the product roadmap, however, there will normally be other stakeholders around the business. The following departments will usually have at least one nominated stakeholder:

  • Executive board
  • Product team
  • Design and Engineering
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service

Depending on your organisation, you may also have some external stakeholders.

product roadmap

It’s vital that the product manager updates stakeholders on a regular basis. They’ll need to arrange meetings to communicate updates and collate feedback, but ultimately it’s the product manager who owns the roadmap and is responsible for keeping things moving. If there are delays that will impact the agreed strategic vision then these need to be communicated to stakeholders. The roadmap will help to manage and align the stakeholders’ expectations.

Why do you need a product roadmap?

As outlined above, the roadmap is the organisation’s strategic vision for the future. It’s an essential document for the business. Without it, you won’t have clarity of which products are being launched.

It communicates the product vision clearly and aligns product goals with overall business goals. The ultimate objective being to launch commercially successful products with a healthy return on investment.

The roadmap translates “technical” jargon into concise language that all stakeholders can understand.

Product roadmap meeting
Photo credit: Unsplash

It allows priorities to be communicated easily, which is particularly useful when difficult decisions need to be made (such as which features can we afford to include in the development, and which need to be scrapped).

The roadmap facilitates different departments to work together, resulting in a smoother development process with the outcome being a better product for your target audience.

Simon Cornelius, MD of Cornelius Creative says:

“A long-term strategic product roadmap gives businesses a great foundation for future product launches and exposes the maximum potential from existing product ranges.

A well thought out roadmap identifies potential gaps in a product portfolio as well as gaps in the marketplace. It allows businesses to control their product lifecycles, ensuring that outdated or poor performing products are superseded by new product developments before it is too late. This ensures a continuous revenue stream, as well as helping to plan new product launches, by giving a firm indication of deadlines to complete the development and hit significant selling milestones, be it a trade show, or seasonal time of the year to maximise the product’s initial uptake.”

What should be included in a product roadmap?

The content of your roadmap depends on your organisation, and your audience. The size and structure of your company will determine the complexity of the roadmap, but there are certain aspects that should be included:

  • The overall vision for the product(s)
  • Requirements (what you need to get where you want to be)
  • Project timeline, complete with timed goals
  • Metrics, how things will be measured

Best practice tips for a killer product roadmap

  • Make sure the company’s vision is clear: it will be the overall guide for the roadmap.
  • Don’t overload the detail: keep it top level with your audience in mind.
  • Make it accessible to all stakeholders: and keep communication regular.
  • Review and update regularly: make changes when necessary – it should be flexible.

Next steps:

Are you looking to create your next product roadmap? Our team of experienced product managers can help.

Contact us today and we’ll take you on the first step to planning commercially successful products.


8 signs your product is dying (and what to do about it)

Every product that launches into the market goes through four stages of the product lifecycle: introduction, growth, maturity and decline.

When the product reaches the decline stage, profitability will start to fall until it is no longer commercially viable to continue production, and it will most likely be discontinued.

In some cases, the original product will be replaced, either by a newer version with updated features or design style, or perhaps by a brand-new product. Car manufacturers, for example, update models every few years. The name continues but the older models are phased out, replaced by newer versions with updated technology and more modern designs. Eventually the model may be discontinued to be replaced by a brand new model e.g. Ford Escort – Ford Focus.

While the span of each product’s lifecycle is unique, (some tend to spend more time in the maturity stage), they will all eventually reach the decline stage. There may still be some core loyal customers, keeping the product afloat, but overall demand will continue to fall.

Think back to products that used to be popular; cassette players, typewriters, video recorders, even the Nokia 3310 (remember those? 😊). They will either have a very small production run now or will have ceased production completely. Eventually only second-hand products will be available, perhaps cherished by enthusiasts and collectors.

WHY DO PRODUCTS DECLINE?

 Decline is a natural part of the product lifecycle. Typically, when a new product is launched, it will be expensive to manufacture and therefore expensive to buy. As demand grows and production costs fall, competitors will start to sell rival products and the marketplace will fill up. The product will experience a period of growth followed by maturity.

There are several factors that may cause a product to decline, such as saturation of the market or the introduction of more innovative products, which will lead to a fall in popularity.

product-lifecycle-1024x674

Some companies will try to keep a dying product alive for as long as possible – clearance sales, special deals etc, but this is simply delaying the inevitable as the product will continue to lose market share until it doesn’t make commercial sense to continue production.

HOW TO SPOT IF YOUR PRODUCT IS DYING: 8 SIGNS

how-to-spot-if-your-product-is-dying-scaled

1. Customer interest decreases

The interest in the product will fall – less chat on social media, fewer calls and email enquiries.

2. Competitors are launching ‘me too’ products

Competitor products will be launched that imitate the original. Production may be moved to the Far East where it is cheaper to manufacture.

3. Market share reduces

Competitors with newer products are stealing market share from you.

4. New technology launched, product is outdated / unsupported

The product will be unsupported by new software which will affect performance and customer satisfaction.

5. Product is only bought by loyal or existing customers

Demand from new customers will fall, the product will only be bought by existing customers.

6. Necessity to drop price to garner any sales

The only time sales are made is when the price is reduced, which will eat into any margin made on the product.

7. Decrease in marketing spend

Advertising spend will be channelled towards other products that provide a better return on investment (ROI).

8. Production / supply chain costs increase, while sales do not

As demand falls for certain components, it may be more difficult and expensive to source them. If you notice production costs are going up, yet sales are going down, it’s because the product is declining.  

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PRODUCT IS DYING

Before a product reaches the decline stage of the lifecycle, the next generation product should already be in development. This is especially important if you operate in an industry where new technology is regularly released. Ideally, you should be working to a rolling three or five-year roadmap, with all future product launches mapped out.

Working on the next product development will ensure that your business and its products are always in demand, and keeping up with competitors to protect (and increase) your market share.

However, if your next generation product is delayed, there are some ways you can exploit the existing, dying product to generate some more sales – think of it like using a defibrillator on your product to restart its heartbeat.

Sony Walkman obsolete product

Photo credit: Unsplash

1. Reach new customers

You can try to revive the existing product by attempting to reach new customers, for example by using different marketing channels or platforms. This may require some advertising spend, but online advertising methods can be excellent value for money, and the payoff in extra sales may make this a worthwhile exercise.

2. Rebrand or redesign

You can redesign the existing product and launch it with new and improved features. Rather than developing a new product, a redesign of the existing model could be a quick cost-effective solution to boost sales for a short while. Rebranding the product may also boost demand temporarily. But ultimately, unless significant updates are made, you are delaying the inevitable.

3. New product development

Ultimately, the only option will be to develop a new product to replace the dying model. This is the most expensive solution, but it will have the most long-term benefits, and is essential if your business is to continue growing market share.

When you start developing a new product, it’s essential to conduct market research amongst your target audience. Look at reviews and feedback of the declining product. What do your customers love and hate about it. Invite some of your loyal customers to offer honest feedback via surveys and focus groups. And invite people who are not your customers, too. It’s just as important to hear what they have to say – how can you turn them into a customer?

Once the research is conducted, you will have an idea of the essential and nice-to-have features for your product. You will also know the price point that customers are willing to pay. You can then start developing a product that meets the needs of the target customer at the price they are willing to pay. During this process you may discover that some of the nice-to-have features are not commercially viable and will have to be dropped for this particular product.

We work with our clients to ensure thorough market analysis is conducted for all new product development – which also includes researching and comparing competitor products.

If you’re ready to start your next product development, get in touch with our team today.

Thinking about hiring an agency? 8 reasons why you should

Whether you’re a small business owner, product inventor or maybe even an R&D or marketing manager within a larger organisation, at some point you’ll probably be faced with the need to hire an external agency or consultant to assist with a project.

You may be reluctant to hire a consultancy. There may be some thoughts going through your mind:

  • Agencies are expensive
  • The consultant will take over the project and change its direction
  • I had a bad experience with ‘ABC agency’ and it’s put me off using anyone else

Let’s face it, a lot of us have had experiences in the past with the ‘wrong’ agency.

But the truth is, when you find the RIGHT agency; they naturally become an extension of your organisation. They increase your workforce, skills and experience, and can even reduce the cost of your project.

So, if you’re asking yourself: do I really need to hire external resource? Take a look at some of the benefits of using the right agency:

1.) EXTRA RESOURCE WHEN YOUR INTERNAL TEAM IS STRETCHED

This is perhaps the most obvious benefit to hiring an outside agency. Quite often, R&D and marketing teams are stretched working on current projects. Add in internal meetings, calls, emails, other office distractions (including colleagues!) and it’s no surprise that a lot of teams are often at breaking point. When you have an important project, a new product development or an important product marketing launch, hiring an outside agency with the capacity to focus on the job in hand without distraction can release the pressure on your internal team. The outcome is a speedier project with better results.

2.) NOT LIMITED BY COMPANY CULTURE OR PAST PROJECTS

Innovation is limited by our past experiences. Your internal team is highly skilled but they may be influenced by previous projects, or they may be reluctant to push boundaries in fear of disturbing the status quo. An outside consultant can expand horizons; they aren’t bound by your company culture. This may mean some of their ideas are a bit “out there” but it’s good to break the rules sometimes.

3.) THEY CAN BRING FRESH IDEAS TO THE TABLE

Building on from the previous point, a good consultancy will bring new ideas to your company, after all, what are you paying them for? They may improve the design of the product or marketing campaign by suggesting ideas otherwise not thought of by your internal team. They’ll have had different experiences to your team, perhaps in different industries, which will bring new ways of thinking to the project.

4.) THEY WORK TO A DEFINED PROCESS

A good product design or marketing consultant will have an efficient working process with specific stages (take a look at our design and marketing processes). This will help to keep the project running to date, and may even help to reduce overall timescales.

5.) THEY HAVE ACCESS TO TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT

Depending on the project, you may want the agency staff to use your equipment and software, but a decent agency will have their own professional equipment setup. This means that they can work either remotely or in your office, depending on your needs. A good consultancy will have a full suite of professional equipment that you may not have, such as 3D printers, enabling you to have prototypes made quickly for a reduced cost.

6.) THEY HAVE VALUABLE CONNECTIONS

Agencies work on lots of different projects and in doing so build a wide network of contacts. Their connections can be valuable to your project; they may help to reduce costs of materials, tooling, or perhaps advertising costs. They may have contacts at various publications to help with PR. As well saving money, these connections may also help to increase the scope on product designs.

7.) SUPPORT SERVICES ALL UNDER ONE ROOF

A holistic agency (like us!) will look at your whole product portfolio, design and marketing needs. They can support you along the whole product lifecycle – from concept to market launch and beyond – so that everything you need is all under one roof from one agency. This can be more effective (and cheaper!) than using multiple agencies for different areas of support.

8.) THEY CAN ACTUALLY REDUCE PROJECT COSTS

Hiring an agency can reduce timescales, open up connections to a wider network of suppliers and increase scope of design. All of this can actually help to reduce overall costs – result!

We’d love to hear your experiences of hiring agencies – do you have mostly positive or negative experiences?

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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