CASE STUDY: Hoot Judkins Visual Merchandising Website

Image shows a man and woman in a furniture store

Visual Merchandising That Saves Time and Increases Sales on Your Website

HFA member Hoot Judkins is the Bay Area’s largest wood furniture store and serves the entire United States with less than 50 employees. The third-generation family-owned and operated business carries an extensive array of wood furniture made in the USA and rejects the concept of disposable furniture that only lasts a few years. As a result of their dedication to quality and offering only the best to their customers, over half of Hoot Judkins’ customers are returning clients.

After decades of providing supportive in-store service, Hoot Judkins started a website to let customers view their inventory online before seeing it in person. However, that was when Hoot Judkins began to experience the pain points of traditional product photography.

Initially, Hoot Judkins hired a traditional photographer because their factories could not provide photos up to their standards, and the images didn’t reflect the actual inventory that Hoot Judkins carried in store. Their photographer was a contractor who took anywhere from three to six months to get photos back to the team, partly because the necessary photo editing of cropping out backgrounds, adding shadows, creating silos, and more was time-consuming. Because of these long lead times, Hoot Judkins’ time to get products ready to sell was a months-long process that limited what they could post to their website and market. “If a product isn’t on your website, your customers don’t know that you carry it, and they won’t come into the store looking for it,” said Vicki Marchant, owner of Hoot Judkins. “Or if they’re looking at a sofa on your site and see a photo of a blue one but want a gray one, even if we have the gray one in stock, they won’t know that if we can’t get a photo of it on the site. They won’t come in if they don’t see what they’re looking for.” Hoot Judkins was unhappy with their product photography process but didn’t think they had the resources to improve it — until a call from Outward changed everything.

The Aperture Difference

After speaking with the Sales team at Outward and learning about the Aperture Platform, Vicki decided to change from traditional photography to the platform’s automated photography and AI-powered photo editing software.

Thorough setup and training with responsive support

Between Outward’s Installation and Customer Support teams, Vicki was up and running with Aperture within days. “We set up the rig in our warehouse, and the Installation team was receptive to our requests about how we wanted the cameras and lights adjusted. That’s the amazing thing about Outward: they acted right away when we needed adjustments on the rig or had questions. They’re outstanding about listening to concerns and making fixes,” she said.

Intuitive, simple-to-use platform

“Outward came in one day, set everything up for us, and we were already jumping in and using it that day,” Vicki said. The photo rig makes it easy to quickly take photos from every angle and enables users to replicate shots with templates that save exact camera height, camera angle, zoom, and distance settings. The rig is so intuitive that Vicki trained her nephew, a Hoot Judkins salesman, to use it to take precisely the shots she’s looking for. “He picked it up quickly, and having those templates is a huge game changer and time saver. He has the confidence to take photos with them, knowing exactly the angles I want.”

Neither Vicki nor her nephew has any previous photography experience. She learned how to easily use Aperture’s wide array of photo editing tools to customize shadows, lighting, and backgrounds. It’s now easy to create beautiful, on-brand images used on the company’s website and social media accounts.

Fits naturally into existing workflows

By setting up the rig in their warehouse, Hoot Judkins seamlessly incorporated taking photos with Aperture into their existing workflow of bringing new merchandise into the store. “The rig is centrally located. The product comes off the trucks; we line up the furniture down the warehouse aisle, take photos, and move the furniture straight onto the showroom floor. Our new policy is that any new product gets photographed before it goes onto the showroom floor,” Vicki said.

That even goes for clearance items, which, before using Aperture, Hoot Judkins didn’t have the time or resources to photograph and put on their website. Now they can photograph every item in their store, including one-off and clearance items, and get them on their website — and they usually sell very fast.

Increase in sales and time savings

Since using Aperture, Hoot Judkins has decreased its time to market from three to six months to same-day, in most cases. No more waiting for their photographer to make time-consuming edits, no more setting up shoots around that person’s schedule. With Aperture, Hoot Judkins can photograph their incoming product the same day it arrives at their warehouse, edit their photos, and get them up on their site within hours.

Additionally, because they’re able to photograph on their time, Hoot Judkins can now feature around nine to 10 images per item instead of about two or three per item before using Aperture — an increase of about 3x-5x. That’s critical as furniture buying continues to move online, and consumers expect numerous high-quality shots to aid their decision-making. In fact, since implementing Aperture, Hoot Judkins’ online sales have more than doubled. Their clients who shop in-store are more educated and prepared to purchase.

With the Aperture Platform, Hoot Judkins can own their photo-taking process from capture to post. They are empowered to edit photos quickly to match their brand identity, photograph their entire product lineup, and accurately reflect the products they carry online and in-store. By embracing the future of product photography, Hoot Judkins continues to provide their customers with the best service and experience no matter how they shop.

Outward, Inc. is a visual transformation and technology company. Since 2012, we’ve been reinventing the way product photography is created, presented, and consumed. Now we’re making it possible for manufacturers and retailers of all sizes to produce high-impact photography at the push of a button. Outward is an independent Williams-Sonoma, Inc. company.

We’ve distilled a mix of technologies into a single visual merchandising platform that replaces the need for photographers, high-priced studio time, specialized editing, or post-processing. Now, anyone on your team can create, customize, and publish professional product images in any format. It’s fast. It’s simple. It’s everything you never thought possible with product photography now in one easy-to-use platform.

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