We speak to wedding and portrait specialist Suzanne Black about how to conduct viewings remotely without losing that crucial personal touch.
When it comes to viewing sessions, we’re all familiar with the ideal scenario.
You invite clients to your studio at a mutually convenient time, put the kettle on, pop some biscuits on a stylish plate and spend a few hours together selecting and curating the perfect set of images.
Impressed by the personal service, professional advice and comfortable rapport, they place a decent-sized order and say they’ll be in touch about booking a future shoot.
But what happens if you can’t physically get together? Whether that’s because of the challenges posed by a global pandemic or, in simpler times, just due to geography, there is a solution.
Here established photographer Suzanne shares her insight into conducting virtual viewings, a way of coming together that still keeps it personal.
The Different Viewing Session Options
When your studio is on a farm in the middle of the beautiful Scottish countryside, it’s likely your clients will live many miles away.
This is exactly Suzanne’s challenge. Unless clients are reasonably local or returning to the area on holiday, arranging in-person viewings can prove difficult.
But she’ll always make them happen whenever possible saying: “I’m a massive fan of in-person sales. As an all-round experience, sitting down together and going through the images in person is just the best customer service you can provide. You can easily show them the different options of how those images will work together and chat through ideas.
“Unfortunately, my customer base and location mean that’s not always possible. A lot of my wedding clients will come back to Scotland on holiday and book in a shoot with me, but they don’t then have the time to do an in-person viewing a week later, or they’ve already gone back home by the time the images are ready.”
One option is to send your clients a web gallery. They can browse through the images independently and place their order with minimal collaboration.
But this has various drawbacks. As Suzanne says: “I think you’re doing your customer a disservice by sending them a web gallery. It’s confusing, impersonal, difficult to compare images and less convenient to ask me for advice.
“I’ve experimented a bit with trying to pre-sell images and products through web galleries but I just found that it wasn’t working. The personal connection just isn’t there.”
So now, for any customers who can’t make their way to Suzanne’s stunning but remote studio, she hosts a virtual sales session.
How to Run a Virtual Viewing Session
When it comes to successful virtual viewing sessions for photographers, Suzanne believes that recreating the in-person version as closely as possible is the key.
“I pretty much run it exactly as I would do if a customer came to my studio,” she explains. “Except of course, they’re sat at home and not next to me.”
The first step is to plan a time when there’ll be minimal distractions: children in bed, work put aside and nothing cooking on the hob.
“The aim is to create a completely relaxed environment,” says Suzanne. “That way, everyone can focus on the important job ahead.”
Suzanne preps the session in the same way she would an in-person viewing. So customers will have had the price list in advance, outlining all their options for prints, frames and albums.
She then sends them a Zoom link to an online meeting which starts with a chat about how the session went and what they’re looking for in terms of images.
“This is the ideal time to reconnect, a bit of a ‘getting to know you again’ exercise to re-establish rapport. After that, I screen share through ProSelect and run the viewing session as I would if they were sitting next to me in the studio.
“We can chat through the images together and discuss options for frames and albums. They’ve proved to be very successful.”
One major benefit to clients being at their home is the chance to see the spaces where they’re planning to place images.
Suzanne expands on this: “Quite often I’ll ask customers to send me a few pictures of wall spaces they have in mind for images. The challenge you have with that is they send you an average picture or they’re not very sure where would be best or they don’t remember to do it.
“During a virtual viewing, I’ll say so we’re thinking about this image as part of a multi-frame and ask where in the house they have in mind. As they’re on their laptop or iPad, they can then ‘take me’ to the wall.
“I can see the overall style of the room as well as the available space. And I might say, ‘Yes, I really like that but have you thought about an acrylic there as it’s a quite a modern room that you’re in.’ Or if their décor is more traditional, I can suggest that a really nice distressed wooden frame would fit better.
“It’s fun to really get involved in the design process and bounce ideas around. And it results in great customer service that’s uniquely personal.”
How Virtual Viewings Impact on Sales
You may be concerned that a virtual viewing will lead to lower sales than an in-person appointment. But Suzanne has found that’s not the case.
She says: “On average, I sell two to three times more at an in-person viewing session than a web gallery approach. When I started doing virtual sales, I naturally wondered where they would fit in. Will customers spend less or more?
“Generally, I’m pleased to say I’ve found they’re spending the same as if they were sitting beside me. Another plus point of using tech to help bolster sales.”
On the subject of sales, Suzanne advises always being open and transparent about prices. Her customers always get a full price list at the time they first enquire.
“I don’t believe in hiding prices from people,” she says. “My clients always know what their options are and how much they cost. A viewing session could easily be wasted if you’re not upfront about your prices.
“This is especially useful at virtual viewings as they can easily and discreetly check the price of an album, for example, without having to ask me, which some people may be nervous about doing.
“So they may go into the session thinking they only want a couple of prints but as we go through the process and see how images can work together, they’re comfortable changing their mind as they know how much it will cost.”
Suzanne’s approach proves that when an in-person viewing session simply isn’t possible, the virtual version can still deliver exceptional customer service and sales.
Discover how Light Blue can help manage your viewing session schedules.