A Picture Is Worth…

SEMA News—August 2013

BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY
By Jon Wyly

A Picture Is Worth…

Jon WylyYou’re probably thinking, yeah, I know…a thousand words, right? Well, that certainly still holds true, but a picture is also worth hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of sales in today’s marketplace.

In case you haven’t noticed, today’s consumers are now demanding what could almost be called a sensory overload of visual information as they make decisions about where to spend their money. It’s all about quick, informative features and benefits, easy-to-consume product details, and pictures, pictures, pictures. And don’t forget videos! Videos showing installation, product features and function, performance and more are rapidly becoming the norm and are very influential in consumer decision-making. Add to this list things such as PDFs of installation instructions, schematics, warranty information and more to round out this new standard of excellence in presenting your products. No longer do you need to have just an image library; it’s all about managing all this stuff we now call “digital assets.”

Now, as a guy who is trying to help the SEMA marketplace meet these expectations, I’ve found that it can be a real challenge to communicate just how important it is to get a handle on the “visual” part of your product data. We’re making good progress in bringing SEMA companies into the world of PIES and ACES, the foundations of product data, but the digital assets are often lagging well behind. And it’s really about common sense, isn’t it? Would you buy something today without seeing what it looks like first? Wouldn’t it even be better to see a video demonstration of the product?

It’s easy to see how quickly suppliers can fall behind in this effort, but as I have discussed before, if you don’t take control of this valuable asset, your customers will. And when that happens, you lose control over how your products are presented, and you lose control of the ability to protect your brand through management of your intellectual property.

     
 

We’re making good progress in bringing SEMA companies into the world of PIES and ACES, the foundations of product data, but the digital assets are often lagging well behind.

 
     

So, where to start? For most retailers, two or three good representative images of your product, including a lifestyle shot where possible, will get you started. The important piece here is to make sure the images are accessible! They are pieces of your product data, just like part numbers, descriptions and dimensions, so treat them like a data element and store them for easy access.

Too often, we start discussing image availability with new members of the SEMA Data Co-op (SDC), and we are told, “Well, our website designer has the images, and I don’t know how to get them.” Sorry, wrong answer. Images should always be stored securely and be available to your customers for download or FTP delivery. If you don’t have a secure place to store them, then utilize the SDC as your image repository! It doesn’t cost anything extra to put all of your images on our servers, and we’ll handle the distribution right along with your product data.

The next easy step is to gather as much of your product documentation as possible (instruction sheets, application guides, etc.) and include those in your digital asset library. In most cases, your documents are created in Microsoft Word or Excel, so all you have to do is “save as” a PDF and you’re all set. Store those PDF documents in the same manner as your product images and then move on to videos.

Interestingly, consumers today seem to favor a more homegrown approach to product videos. Don’t worry about hiring a high-priced consultant and film crew to shoot “professional” videos; hand a digital video camera to one of your knowledgeable product folks who has a bit of personality and let him or her do what comes naturally.

Consumers love a genuine, helpful presentation that gives them a great overview of important features in a video that is less than three minutes long. For a good example of this approach, check out www.harborfreight.com and pick almost any product with moving parts. The site’s videos are great examples of upbeat, friendly presentations that tell a lot in two or three minutes.

While it might seem overwhelming at first, developing your digital assets library is easier than you might think. You probably have much of what you need scattered around various departments or with folks who provide services (such as web design) to you. Put someone in charge of gathering it, make sure you have the best stuff you can for the top 20% of your products, then chip away at the rest. It’s the classic “eating an elephant one bite at a time.”

To learn more about how you and your company can take control of product data and manage it at the lowest possible cost, contact Director of Membership Jim Graven at the SEMA Data Co-op via phone at 888-958-6698 x4 or by e-mail.

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