Point, Click, and Switch Your Colors

You can’t expect a customer to buy an article of clothing without being able to see the colors in which it’s available. To that end, some online marketers have gone beyond the print catalog practice of showing small shots of fabric swatches beside a larger photo of the apparel on a model. Patagonia and Eddie Bauer, for instance, enable users to click on a photo of the product itself — not just a swatch — to change it to another hue or pattern.

One way that catalogers create these multiple images is to retouch the original photo in a program such as PhotoShop or to take shots of every single product to be displayed on the site. Once the images are created, they simply need to be posted on the Web. By all accounts, it is not revolutionary, but it does take planning. When Eddie Bauer decided to provide online photos for all the colorways of roughly 95% of its products, the Redmond, WA-based apparel cataloger/retailer hired additional employees “to sustain the extra workload,” recalls Brian Walker, group manager of development services for the Website.

But Eddie Bauer uses flat product shots; women’s apparel cataloger/retailer Victoria’s Secret displays its apparel on models. And for a negligee that’s available in 12 colors, the Columbus, OH-based marketer didn’t want to photograph the model 12 times. So since March, it has contracted with software provider Scene7 to process digital replications of 5%-10% of its images.

Victoria’s Secret sends San Francisco-based Scene7 the original digital image of the model wearing the garment and fabric swatches of the additional colors and patterns in which the item is available. Scene7 then computer-generates “compiled” images and sends them back in TIF or JPEG formats which Victoria’s Secret’s online division posts on the site.

Ken Weil, vice president of new media for Victoria’s Secret, won’t disclose how much the cataloger is spending on the digital imaging or the specific results. But he says that customers who use the technology to change the models’ clothing stay on the site 10% longer on average.

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