Visual Commerce: How to Enhance Shoppers’ Online Experience with Captivating Imagery

Online Shopping and the Importance of Visual Media

When considering the number of products are available online for purchase and the number of retailers competing for sales and customer loyalty, it’s obvious that a great first impression is essential. While accurate and engaging copy is important, product photos are necessary to truly capture customer attention at first glance. Research shows that visuals are the most influential factor affecting a consumer’s purchase decision.

Great images bring written product descriptions to life. Once a potential customer has arrived at your website, it means they’re interested. You now need to provide valuable, accurate information that will result in a sale. High-quality photos, 360-degree rotating images, and product videos are powerful ways to showcase your products and enhance a consumer’s online shopping experience.

Visual Commerce and Online Retail

Visual commerce is all about driving online sales by enriching the customer experience with powerful, inspirational and appealing image content. This approach continues to gain momentum among online merchants because It encourages their shoppers to engage with a brand or online retailer, forming a connection that results in sales.

To execute visual commerce effectively, it’s not sufficient enough to simply post a few photos of your product. You need to take it a step further with visual content like 360-degree views, videos, customer photos, and even a virtual try-on feature. Aspirational lifestyle and larger images create a connection with customers, helping them to visualize your product as a part of their life. Adding shoppability layers to visual content on your website allows users to click on photos that bring them directly to the product pages, creating convenient shortcuts.

Display Real Customer Photos on Your Website

A key element of visual commerce is the use of user-generated photos that show your product in use. Studies show that user-generated photos are more engaging than stock or custom photography—just look at the visual nature of social media. It’s also very easy and commonplace to take and post photos from a smartphone, which most people have handy at all times.

Photos from customers create trust and increase conversion rates. When shoppers see others using a product, they connect on a personal level and see themselves using the product. Requesting customer in-use photos and allowing photos to be added to reviews are great ways to encourage customer engagement.

Make Sure Your Visuals Work Across All Platforms

Shoppers are spending more time on smartphones than ever before, averaging five hours per day in the U.S. Usage covers a wide array of activities from texting and video calling to social media and shopping. Shoppers will often research products on their smartphone even if they end up purchasing from a laptop, desktop or in-store. The number of consumers making mobile purchases will only increase as mobile payment systems grow in popularity.

This means that the brand and product information you provide needs to be rich and accessible on all platforms. Smartphones feature smaller screens and powerful cameras that favor less written content and more visual media and visual communication.

The potential of versatile and engaging visual media for online shopping is huge. It’s important to stay on trend to compete for customers in a growing ecommerce world. Through high quality and engaging visual media, you can create a story that brings your products to life and asserts the lifestyle you want your brand to represent.

Shoppable Video: Coming to a Screen Near You

Competition is fierce when it comes to ecommerce, and retailers need to stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive with today’s consumers. The relevance of video is growing as the number of platforms, services and devices available to consumers increases. This growth has lead to more interactive ways to communicate with consumers, such as an unobtrusive yet engaging option known as shoppable video.

The Rise of Video Content

The use of video content itself is nothing new; many retailers have implemented some form of it already. Studies show that viewers are anywhere from 64–85 percent more likely to buy after watching a product video.  As such, the potential to use video in new and engaging ways is huge.

Shoppable video offers a quick, direct route to purchases by providing clickable links to shop products featured throughout a video. When a consumer clicks an item of interest in the video, they’re directed to a site to learn more and potentially buy the item. The real benefit of this interactive method of shopping is that it captures consumers in the moment, which encourages impulse purchases and turns passive viewers into active consumers. This goes to the heart of what video does best—telling a story and appealing to the emotional connection a product or brand has with its customer base.

A Seamless Shopping Experience

Initially known as ‘click-to-buy’, this technology is always improving and allowing for more seamless ways to shop through video. Some brands even allow users to save the selected items in a cart to view and shop at the end of the video for an uninterrupted viewing experience. Shoppable and Shopstyle are currently working on creating universal shopping carts where users can store products from multiple retailers in one cart. The potential end goal of shoppable video is to develop a way to buy products from videos without using a cart at all.

Shoppable video provides the added bonus of allowing brands to gather specific, real-world data at a personal level. In the future, we will likely see technology that allows retailers to programmatically place products in videos based on known customer preferences and make it shoppable. When this happens, the sky’s the limit for converting customers.

Mobile Browsing

As with everything these days, when retailers look to create shoppable videos, they need to consider the importance of mobile devices. While desktop still dominates with conversion, mobile is the preferred choice for browsing and the use of mobile devices to make purchases is only growing. Thus, a seamless omnichannel experience is necessary for shoppable video to be impactful. Users expect a consistent interface and process across all platforms, and this includes video content. With over 50 percent of online time now spent on mobile, retailers need to actively engage customers on all platforms, regardless of where the final purchase is made.

An exciting media, shoppable video offers a truly engaging and interactive way for retailers to promote their brand, develop a loyal customer base, and increase conversions and sales.

Seeing is believing: New product imagery trends for ecommerce

Successful online retailers know how important product photography is. Online shoppers don’t have the benefit of touching, smelling, or trying on products, so they rely on images to help make a decision. Professional photography is crucial for presenting products because it helps reduce the number of returns and exchanges, not to mention disappointed customers.

Consider these four product photography trends when planning your next photo shoot session:

What’s behind the product?

According to BigCommerce, 76% of the seven million images they analyzed had the original product background replaced by pure white and an additional 16% opted for transparency. The rest kept the original background, which was usually white.

But a new trend is taking hold for category pages: Solid colours, themed backgrounds, or even on location images are popping up on eCommerce sites. Clothing store, Zara, for example, uses dramatic solid colours on their category pages mixed in with traditional neutral and white backgrounds.

Not surprisingly, the actual product pages still favour neutral-coloured or transparent backgrounds. This provides an opportunity to focus on images highlighting the product, as opposed to eye-catching backgrounds enticing the customer in.

Hover and highlight

More of a display option than actual photography, the hover-over is nonetheless gaining in popularity. Sports and fitness tracker FitBit features the hover-over effect on their home page. The different FitBit trackers are pulled forward or rotated as the mouse hovers over the image.

E-commerce stores are able to use the hover-over effect to flip, angle, zoom, and fade images for dramatic effect and to allow the customer to see multiple sides and angles.

360° Imaging

Bang and Olufsen, long recognized for their superior images, use 360-degree imaging to display loudspeakers from every angle. The view-from-every-angle image mimics the instore experience where a shopper can physically pick up a product and turn it around to see features on the front, back, and sides.

Wiggle is a U.K. bicycle shop that uses 360-degree imaging to show all angles of a bike wheel. Steve Mills, head of eCommerce at Wiggle, told digital marketing firm, Smart Insights, “Through multi-variate testing we have seen adding 360 images lead to double-digit conversion increases across certain categories.”

In fact, according to eCommerce site Internet Retailer, when images are rotated automatically, the conversion rate on products sold on those pages is approximately 27% higher than for standard two-dimensional images. Although the 360-degree view has been around for several years, product image photographers have finessed and refined polished images specifically for eCommerce sites.

Mobile zoom options

One of the most popular trends in eCommerce product photography is the sleek zoom or mobile zoom image. This is used on many sites, including clothing and accessory pages. Hover the mouse over an image and it is automatically enlarged.

The benefit of this type of zoom is to give the consumer a detailed, close-up view. For example, New York’s Kate Spade uses zoom imagery successfully to show close-up details of products.

Professional product photography is key to converting sales. Whether you choose still shots on exotic backgrounds, all-around video clips, hover and zoom functions or all four, realistic and detailed images are certain to increase sales and reduce returns and exchanges.

Will the Apple Watch change the eCommerce landscape? It already is!

Apple wasn’t the first to launch a pairable wearable – Pebble and Samsung beat them to the punch with smartwatches and Google introduced Google Glass in 2012 – but Apple’s ability to popularize existing technology is legendary. Its introduction of the Apple Watch in early 2015 has developers and eCommerce giants scrambling to create apps focused on the very next thing that wearers are likely to desire. Smartwatches, where touching and tapping take over from scrolling and clicking, will change the very nature of the online shopping experience. With customers able to receive a Daily Deal text notification, touch the screen to go directly to the store, and tap a button to pay, e-retailers will find ways to target the impulse buyer over the casual browser. Smartwatch app optimization is likely to be the next big opportunity for retailers. As an example, just in time for the launch of the Apple Watch, eBay introduced a new smartwatch app that allows important notifications, such as outbid alerts and warnings, to bypass your phone and go straight to your wrist. Having access to timely messages could mean the difference between winning and losing in the online auction game.

Retailers large and small, credit card companies and social media sites are evaluating smartwatches platforms having the ability to simplify the buying process. A Samsung-PayPal partnership introduced fingerprint technology for authorizing payments on a smartwatch screen with its limited space for a PIN or password. With around 50% of consumers reportedly happy using fingerprints instead of passwords, this initiative opens the doors for shoppers to buy at any online or physical store that accepts PayPal.

Mobile payments are here to stay, especially with a younger generation already joined at the hip – soon to be the wrist – with their mobile devices. Apple, Google, and Samsung are among the forerunners recognizing that mobile payments will make their smartwatches indispensable to the wearer while supplying new insights into their consumers’ buying behaviour. In late 2014, Apple announced that Apple Wallet was partnering with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to store credit card information on the iPhone, allowing purchases using Apple Buy simply by tapping the phone or smartwatch. Loyalty cards from retailers such as Wal-Mart and Dunkin’ Donuts and store credit cards from the likes of Kohl’s and JC Penny have also been linked into Apple Pay, which will automatically present the right card to the right merchant. Already available in the U.S., Apple Pay is gearing up for a U.K. launch.

So what, I don’t have great product photos? No BIG deal right? Wrong!

So, your site is designed, product descriptions are written, the shopping cart is all ready to go, so what if you don’t have great photos? No big deal right?  Wrong! It is a very big deal. Not having clear, original, and professional-looking photography could make the difference between a purchase and a pass in your online store.

The Touchy/Feely Syndrome

When you go to a physical store to buy something, typically you want to see it. There are very few occasions if any at all when you’d be willing to buy something sight unseen. You want to hold it, look at it, feel the fabric, compare the colours. The only opportunity your online buyer has to this “feeling” experience is through visual images.

Buying on the Go

More and more consumers are taking to mobile devices to buy online. Smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, all allow for shopping on the go. Now more than ever you need to be able to capture the fleeting attention span of the consumer who’s browsing while walking down the street, on the train, or sitting in the restaurant. Fabulous photography can catch their eye and hook them in.

Being Social

Social media marketing efforts through sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Social media audiences crave visual content. The old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true here, especially with character-restrictive sites such as Twitter. You can’t wax poetic about that new product, but you can post a stunning image to entice a purchase.

Standing Out from the Competition

With an ever-increasing number of consumers making online purchases, stores such as yours are investing more and more money into digital marketing strategies. Whether you sell pots and pans or luxury lingerie, there are probably dozens of other eCommerce sites selling the same product, possibly at a lower price. First-rate photography will help your products stand out from all the rest. Consumers look for value for money. Professional-looking, well-placed images can help create that value.

Now, before you rush around the warehouse clicking photos with your smartphone, give some thought to hiring an experienced, professional eCommerce photographer. Why? The intent of eCommerce photography, as opposed to recreational or creative photography, is to show the product exactly as it is. Fashion photography is gorgeous and creative, but will it let your customers imagine how that dress would look on them? eCommerce photography concentrates on presenting the product in accurate detail, without distracting or superfluous poses. That takes know-how and experience.

Good product photography is meant to promote sales and minimize returns. Never underestimate the power of the lens.