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360-degree product viewers provide a digital view of a product from all sides and angles, top to bottom, and they are a valuable asset for online retail and e-commerce.
360-degree product viewers provide a digital view of a product from all sides and angles, top to bottom, and they are a valuable asset for online retail and e-commerce. There are both hosted and self-hosted product viewers. Hosted viewers involve hiring a third-party platform who allows for uploading, housing and delivering product images onto a webpage through the viewer. A self-hosted viewer, requires direct integration with a webpage through the purchase of a viewer code. In this post, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages to 360 product viewers for e-commerce businesses.
With 360-degree product images, businesses need a product viewer that is compatible with their website while having the capacity to smoothly deploy and host visual assets online. 360° product viewers are tools for this purpose, allowing you to load a set of still images (usually 24 to 72) to create a spin experience you can utilize for e-commerce.
Commerce nowadays is leaning heavily towards digital shopping, and this was true even before the onset of Covid-19. Consumers want the convenience of shopping from home, on-the-go or on mobile. This makes the product image the dominant digital asset for online businesses, webshops and e-commerce vendors.
Businesses with more immersive and visually-rich product content than the competitors rise to the top, while those who can’t keep the pace risk serious blows to their bottom line. Fortunately, there are a range of choices for uploading, managing and hosting product spins, and PhotoRobot is your expert in the industry for 360 product photography and for choosing the best product viewer for your webshop or e-commerce website.
In short, a 360-degree product viewer consists of any digital view of a product that presents it from all sides and angles, from top to bottom. These visuals often come in formats such as interactive images, 3D models, or also product videos. To deploy these visual assets, a software application runs through a device’s browser to create the interactive experience.
There are hosted third-party product viewers, and there are product viewers for integration directly onto your website. Both can make great choices for businesses, but which is better will depend on your business model and what makes the most sense for you. Let’s look now at a comparison between hosted and self-hosted 360 product viewers.
When you use a third-party platform to deploy a product viewer on a webpage, this is a hosted viewer. These hosted viewers allow you to use the provider’s software to publish, house, and distribute imagery onto your website. This involves a process very similar to embedding a YouTube video on a webpage, in which an embeddable code enables access to the external video player directly from the main website.
Simply plug the code into your page, and YouTube handles the rest. It’s the same as with hosted viewers. These platforms, rather than displaying video, create a spin experience from a product photoset to display on the web in 360-degree format.
Among the advantages to employing a hosted product viewer are file delivery, load time, and their capacity for high-quality imagery. When working with high-resolution product images for e-commerce, this can be particularly valuable. Hosted viewers enable you to upload this imagery while the platform ensures responsive web design by automatically resizing images according to the viewer’s device and page dimensions. This optimizes page load time, and it also leads to consistent and uncompromising image quality.
Another advantage to hosted viewers is their convenience for image distribution. All it requires to distribute product visuals across additional websites is an individual link. This link, provided by the platform, creates the product spin on any page, without anybody needing to edit a single line of code. Beyond spins, some of these platforms even allow businesses to create downloadable product spins as videos or in GIF file format.
Take for example PhotoRobot’s CDN-based viewer, which is included in PhotoRobot_Control software. The advantage provided by this product viewer is that everything you upload from files to links for publishing and more are automatically generated without any manual input required. Set it once, forget, and the viewer does the rest of the work.
When looking at the disadvantages of hosted product viewers for e-commerce, the first of concern is the price point. Traditionally, hosted viewers are a fair amount more expensive than self-hosted viewers. They also have recurring costs. If the business already pays for a Content Delivery Network (CDN) or image hosting of some kind, this means employing a hosted viewer would double the cost for this one service. Another point of contention is that you have less control and customization with hosted compared to self-hosted solutions.
A self-hosted viewer is a product viewer which you integrate directly onto your website. In this case, the business often has to purchase a viewer code. The code enables the business to utilize the viewer on their own webpage.
The viewer then accesses images which you host on your own web server or CDN. It’s no different than hosting your current repository of static images, only now it’s with an additional tool to manage and operate.
With many self-hosted viewers, take Garden Gnome or Magic Toolbox for example, there is a licensing fee per domain. PhotoRobot, however, recently introduced its own self-hosted viewer which is available at no additional cost. With unlimited view counts and data transfers, the only costs you will incur are for the data storage used.
Among the advantages to self-hosted viewers are their one-time cost, their integration and customization options, and the fact that they are development friendly. This means they might be more suitable for some business than for others. However, if you have a team of developers or a third-party website operator, a self-hosted viewer becomes much more easy to leverage. Moreover, most of the leading self-hosted viewers have direct plug-ins for many popular e-commerce platforms, so images are immediately available for use across multiple channels.
One drawback to self-hosted product viewers affects businesses who need product images on numerous websites. Oftentimes, self-hosted viewers require one license per domain, so with more websites comes more costs. This also brings complications in image distribution, as you might require the same product image on numerous platforms or need to update images on all of these channels. Another concern is that self-hosted viewers do not provide control over image load time, so on-page speed is wholly dependent on the speed of your image server.
Whether using a hosted or a self-hosted viewer, there are a few general rules to follow that will ensure the best performance on your webpage.
TIFF and PNG file formats are simply too large, and they negatively impact page performance with spin images. The most reliable format now is WebP, which employs both lossy and lossless compression. It also supports transparent backgrounds, and the final image size is comparable with that of JPG. This ensures the same quality of resolution and clearness without compromising page speed.
The auto-spin design feature makes the image begin spinning only after the page completely loads. In this way, you not only demonstrate the experience to the consumer but also make them aware of when they can interact with the product.
While one or two spins is easily manageable on-page, page load-times can be drastically affected if you overload a single page with spins. This is why as a general rule it’s best to aim for only one or at maximum two spins for every one product page.
When choosing a product viewer for your business, both hosted and self-hosted solutions are viable. The answer of what’s best, however, will depend on factors such as the scale of the business, the business model and available resources.
At PhotoRobot, we specialize in product photography solutions and understand very well what it takes for businesses of any size to succeed in e-commerce. We have even designed our own free online image viewer as part of our hosting services.
If you’d like to learn more about PhotoRobot solutions or get advice on the best product viewer for your business, don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation with one of our technical strategists.