Next time a customer lands on your website, they expect to be wowed by a larger-than-life visual experience that intrigues and inspires. You may wonder – what happened to the good old times when website efficiency came before vanity? When did ecommerce become so self-conscious about its looks? We break down the inner workings of visual commerce and how you can apply it on your site.
Why Is Visual Commerce Suddenly So Important?
Blame it on social media. Ever since we got into the habit of sharing every moment of our lives via photos and videos on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, our expectations about the world online have changed as well. We want stunning visual content, and we want it everywhere. Once upon a time, it was perfectly acceptable to have an ecommerce site with a very modest use of images. Today visual commerce is the name of the game. You need to adapt to visual-first approach to succeed in selling online. Here’s our roundup of the best practices in visual commerce that will help engage your customers and give a boost to your conversion rate.
Best Practices For Visual Commerce
Approach It Like Online Merchandising
Every physical store owner will tell you that #2 rule of successful retail business (after “location-location-location”) is merchandising. You can sell even the most mundane item if you can make the product display visually appealing. This applies not only to fashion and beauty items, but to food, furniture, appliances, toys, and other consumer products.
Just think of the genius behind Ikea’s room styling. Each obscure-looking vase and candle holder looks like an object of desire. You can do the same online.
Online merchandising and visual commerce go hand in hand. Think of your online pages as a window display on a high street. Only instead of mannequins, lighting, and shelves you play with images, videos, text fonts, links, buttons, boxes, and page scroll.
Create a product presentation that breaks the banality and shows the item in context. Give shoppers ideas of how they can use the product in different settings. Share styling tips, nifty product uses, and inspirational content.
2. Let The Images Do The Talking
Online shoppers are impatient creatures. They can form an opinion about your business in a blink of an eye. How can you make shoppers get a grasp of the intricacies of your brand in such an impossibly short time? It’s simple. Use images to set the tone.
For example, Nike is a brand with a long history and a rich legacy. It’s product catalog spans across tens of thousands of items. Yet when you land on its homepage it doesn’t overwhelm you with any of that. In fact, Nike’s entire home page is currently made entirely of images. Somehow, without even seeing the famous swoosh logo you know you’ve landed on the site where you can buy high-performance, stylish athletic wear designed for sports pros and those who aspire to a lifestyle fueled by physical challenges. The visuals do all the talking here.
Nike uses the same visual-first approach on the designated landing pages of specific sports divisions. For instance, Nike Lacrosse page is also image-heavy. It relies only on pictures to showcase both the spirit of the sport as well as all the equipment that goes into making a well-prepared athlete.
The images show the products in action, styling, and performance. No unnecessary text, no gimmicks. That’s one way to inspire visitors to engage and shop.
3. Add Videos
We can’t have a serious talk about visual commerce if we don’t talk about video. It’s the heart and soul of every savvy online merchandising strategy. Video helps break the fourth wall between your product and the visitor on your site. It creates a richer experience in the confined flat digital space. It’s a perfect means of showing the what, where, how, and why aspects of your product. Video perfectly summarized product features, design, and benefits. It also comes in a format that is easy to digest – perfect for those visitors with short attention span.
For example, how would you sell a makeup brush online? It’s a tricky product because it’s not the brush per se that’s particularly interesting. It’s what you can do with the brush that gets consumers excited about buying it. That’s why beauty store Cherrybox uses videos to show the looks that you can create using the brush.
The logic is simple. If shoppers can visualize what to do with a product, they’ll want to buy it. The more they watch videos about how the brush works in applying different makeup, the more convinced they are that it’s something they need. Videos help move consumers from curiosity to purchase. And that’s exactly what visual commerce is all about.
Use videos to help shoppers visualize a product in action. Add videos that show various product uses and applications to inspire shoppers and get them to think about buying.
4. Add Instagram Photos
Turning selfies into sales is a dream of every marketer today. Instagram has become a precious source of creative visual content. More often than not products and brands make cameo appearances in user’s Instagram photos. And that’s what you can use in visual commerce.
Instagram photos work great because, while beautiful, they also deliver a dose of realness that resonates with consumers online. For example, Vanity Planet uses a gallery on its site with Instagram photos made by customers. The brand could invest in editorial-like photos featuring models who pose alongside products, but that’s what everyone else is doing. Instead, it uses images from social media to let real customers be the face of the brand.
This strategy works because it’s a very cut-to-the-chase way to say: here’s who uses our products, they are people just like you, our products are made for you. In other words, it’s visual marketing persuading customers to buy.
5. Make Product Reviews Visual Too
Product reviews are indispensable for creating an online experience based on trust. But how often do you find yourself wondering who’s behind the text, is it a real person? That’s where visuals help.
For example, Adidas allows its customers to share photos when they submit their product reviews. The images make the claims that shoes are “comfy and supportive” more real because we get to see a person actually wearing them on their run. That amplifies the strength of the social proof.
Similarly, video reviews can make customer opinion about a product more convincing. Videos like “first impression” where a real customer talks about their views on the product are very persuasive.
Videos like these add more credibility to product reviews because we can actually see the person behind the review, observe their reactions, which helps us judge the product better.
Whenever possible, use visuals (videos or photos) to accompany product reviews on your site. They are a social proof that helps address doubts about the product and increases the likelihood of purchases.
6. Use Graphics And Animations
Sometimes words and beautiful images are just not enough. This is especially true for novelty products that have an innovative design or difficult-to-describe attributes.
For example, how do you describe freshness? Poo-Pourri incorporates graphics and animations into its page design in order to address such issues. It’s a tasteful way to demonstrate how its products work, without being awkward or leaving it to customer’s own imagination.
While this approach is more commonly used by B2B businesses to describe abstract concepts, it works well for consumer products as well. The trick is to use it when photos and videos are redundant. To avoid being tacky, always create your own graphics and animations that fit with your branding and integrate with the design of your website.
7. Make Smart Use of UGC
To make customers feel at home on your site, it’s a good idea to include the content they create about your products as part of your visual storytelling.
For example, beauty brands like Charlotte Tilbury curate user-generated images from Instagram to show how real customers use makeup products to create their own unique looks.
Another option is to embed consumer-made video reviews from YouTube to share what customers say about products on social media.
This allows brands and retailers to create a richer online experience that breaks the monotony, engages visitors on the site, and drives them from curiosity to conversion.
8. Explore Shoppable Content
There’s nothing more frustrating than when you spot a nice-looking item in an editorial photo or video on a site and then spend ages browsing the labyrinth of product categories and sections trying to locate that item. How many times has it happened to you? How many times did you give up?
This is where shoppable content helps. If you’re already investing time in stunning visuals, might as well allow visitors on your site to click and shop directly. For example, Adidas allows visitors on its site to browse clothing and shoes by looks. The visitors can then click on a piece shown in the look to learn about the price and buy it.
This kind of approach to merchandising gives true meaning to the concept of visual commerce. It turns visuals from a passive piece of content to a shopping medium that drives conversions.
Explore the possibility of adding shoppable functionalities to your image and video creatives. This will keep the visitors focused and engaged and will boost the likelihood of purchases.
9. Make Sure It Displays Well On Mobile
If by any chance you haven’t heard that mobile is taking over the world, here’s a quick reminder. 65% of total ecommerce traffic in the UK in 2016 came from shoppers browsing on mobile devices. That’s 54% in the US respectively. This means that any visual marketing efforts need to be designed with mobile consumers in mind.
In practice, this means making sure visual elements such as images and videos display well across different screens, in high quality and without compromising the page load time.
Going back to Cherrybox example, it shows how video content is optimized for shoppers on the go. There’s no awkward video placement, the play button is discernable and the video plays on the page, without leading visitors away. This is important for keeping shoppers happy with the site’s experience and also focused on the shopping intent.
When applying visual commerce elements on your site, make sure they work well for mobile visitors as well.
10. Measure How People Respond To Visuals
Just like any marketing endeavor, the efforts to make your website more visually intuitive need to be measurable and profitable. 77% of marketers say they are facing the pressure to demonstrate viable ROI on visual content.
To make sure you can determine the rate of success of your visual commerce tactics, determine early on what kind of results you expect to see. This will also help you identify the metrics you should be keeping an eye on. These could be metrics describing overall visitor engagement as well as metrics tracking the impact on revenue such as conversion rate, completed purchases, and change in the average order value as a result of introducing visual elements on your site.
11. Use Visual Commerce Platform To Ease The Effort
Adding video to your site or customer images is not a rocket science. But if you’re looking to use visuals more strategically, you’ll need a reliable solution that will keep everything in place and run smoothly. This means looking into visual commerce tools that can automate some parts of content management, publishing, optimization, as well as track the performance over time against your KPIs.
There are several visual commerce solutions available on the market, each tuned to serve the needs of a particular marketing strategy in mind. Some solutions are best known for their strengths to collect, curate, publish and manage visual UGC such as videos and images. Others are more oriented towards helping marketers use photos and videos to promote a brand on social media etc. At the very minimum, they all deliver benefits such as time and resource savings and effectiveness in reporting results.
When selecting the visual commerce platform to support your site, be clear about your marketing goals and plans. This will help you assess platform’s strengths against your own vision of visual commerce and guide you closer to choosing the solution that is better aligned with your needs.
There are many ways in which you can optimize the experience on your site to engage shoppers and deliver more conversions. Adding visual content such as videos and photos that improve merchandising is just the beginning. You might also want to explore more complex functionalities such as visual search, for example. The important thing to remember is to test each novelty on your site and to record data that captures customers’ reactions so that you can learn what works for your audience and what doesn’t.