April 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

Consumers will buy more when they can see more, one e-retailer finds

Sewell Direct is offering 360-degree views of many products and has experienced big increases in conversions on items with many features. There’s no impact on simpler merchandise, such as cables, says the e-retailer of networking and audio-visual gear.

SewellDirect.com began in January offering 360-degree views of several products and has seen big increases in the conversion rate on items with many features. For instance, conversion is up 35% on a PC-to-TV converter box that has several ports and buttons, says Cameron Postelwait, marketing manager.

The mainly online retailer of networking and audio-visual gear has introduced the see-all-sides feature for about three dozen of its more than 5,000 SKUs, starting with the most popular items and products that seemed likely to get a lift from the feature, Postelwait says. The conversion rate increase for all products is 13%, he says.

“The main thing is that we wanted to create an experience that is more like browsing at a bricks-and-mortar store where the customer can pick up an item, turn it around and get a better idea of whether it’s the right product,” he says.

The feature doesn’t seem to improve conversion on certain items, such as cables, that have few differentiating features, he says.

The online retailer, operated by Sewell Development Corp., at first used a home-made system to take the product shots required to create the effect of a 360-degree view. But it later deployed a lightbox system from Ortery Technologies. The investment in the project has been about $3,000, Postelwait says.

At first, Sewell employees thought it would only take about eight shots of a product to simulate turning a product in one’s hand; in fact, it takes about 35 images, Postelwait says. Creating the required images for each product takes no more than 10 minutes, he says.

The retailer plans to add the feature to more of its product pages. “It increases customers’ confidence that they’re getting the right thing,” Postelwait says. “In our industry, the biggest reason by far people return stuff is that they got the wrong thing for their application.”

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