Looks Matter: Enhancing the Customer Experience Through Visual Commerce
As eCommerce grows in popularity and sophistication, customers expect a fuller experience when they shop online. An ideal online shopping experience marries the convenience of browsing and buying from your couch with the immersion of an in-person shopping trip.
People rely on their senses to make many decisions, including buying a product. When shopping in a store, customers like to experience a product before adding it to their carts. Online stores don’t offer that sensory immersion, so good visuals should compensate for the inability to use the other senses.
In this post, we’ll go over the most important roles visual elements play in the online shopping experience and how your business can best fulfill them.
The Importance of Visuals in eCommerce
Of all the product detail page (PDP) features customers encounter, product images have the greatest impact on the decision to buy a product, ranking above product descriptions and customer reviews. Visuals are your product’s first impression on your customer, and people make judgments quickly based on that first look. Make sure to make a good first impression with top-notch visuals.
Good visuals accomplish a variety of tasks throughout the customer journey. Customers want convenience and speed in their online transactions, and visuals should support those needs. First, visuals attract attention and spark desire. Then, they present the most relevant offers, provide information about products, and guide customers to make a purchase as quickly as possible.
Visual commerce includes a variety of visual elements, all of which should have the ultimate goal of serving the customer journey. Your options include basic product images, of course, but they can also span infographics, videos, lifestyle images, user-generated content, and shoppable images. Some businesses even employ innovative technologies like AI, AR, or VR to help customers preview how products will look in their lives.
We’ll talk about all these options in more detail throughout the following sections. Let’s look at some of the ways you can leverage these different types of visuals.
Help Customers Understand Your Products
One of the essential functions of visuals in eCommerce is helping your customers understand your products better. As mentioned previously, product images are the single most important component of a PDP. Images help customers visualize the product and its functions, allowing them to decide whether a product is right for them.
Of course, you will always need a simple, high-quality product image, usually on a clean white background. These images are required if you’re selling through a marketplace, and Google won’t show product images that don’t meet that specification.
Beyond this basic product image, however, you can offer a variety of images and other visual content to help your customers feel more secure in their purchases. Many brands include component shots of their products, which show individual parts in more detail. Component shots can highlight quality, function, and design. They can also include text to show customers the purpose of the components they’re seeing, like in the component shots below.
Often, brands also highlight details through an exploded view or cutaway image, especially if the product has important elements that aren’t visible from the outside. These images can include text to explain the function of these elements, such as with the watch on the left, or they can simply show quality components whose function customers don’t need to understand, such as with the speaker on the right.
Videos can also be useful visuals to include in your PDP. Videos are a great opportunity to show your product in action the way a static image never could. In fact, a survey found that videos influenced buying decisions for 86% of respondents, more than any other type of visual content.
A popular video type is a 3D digital render, which allows you to show all angles of your product while avoiding blemishes, dust specks, or imperfections. A 3D digital render also gives you the option to capture unique angles and magnifications that would be impossible when filming your actual product. Below, two stills from a 30-second video show a 3D digital render that includes the interior of this bluetooth speaker.
Video tutorials are another popular option for brands to show off their product in use while also ensuring more customer satisfaction. Video tutorials are a great way to highlight your product’s special features and help your customers envision your product in their lives.
Stepping further than a digital rendering, the most cutting-edge visuals use AI, AR, or VR to help your customers visualize how your product will look in their house or as an accessory. This technology is especially helpful for large appliances, furniture, and other items that will impact the look of your customer’s home. These items are also expensive, which means customers may require additional assurances before making a purchase.
The same goes for expensive accessories like fine jewelry. Customers want to make sure these products will look good on them before investing a large sum of money on an item they’ve never seen in person.
A less high-tech version of virtual reality is shopping within an image, which works especially well for fashion or lifestyle products. Customers see a photo of a model sporting an ensemble of your brand’s clothes, accessories, or makeup. They can then click on tagged items within the image that take them to each product page. Social commerce platforms like Instagram allow brands to use this strategy with their posts.
Shopping within an image shows how your product fits into a certain lifestyle your customers may identify with or want to emulate. It can also increase order value by encouraging customers to make more than one purchase at checkout so they can complete a set, create a look, or accessorize their product.
Social Proof and Community: User-Generated Content
Now more than ever, eCommerce is a social activity for many shoppers. Customers want to visually verify that others enjoy your products, both for quality assurance and for a sense of community around your brand. In fact, a survey of US consumers found that 88% search for visuals submitted by other customers before buying a product.
User-generated content (UGC) includes pictures, videos, GIFs, and other visual content that incorporates a business’s brand and/or products. Encouraging customers to post UGC should be an essential goal of any eCommerce brand’s social media strategy. While posting your own high-quality visuals can help capture the interest of your audience, nothing beats sharing visuals of your followers’ enjoying, reviewing, and celebrating your products.
You can encourage your existing customers and social media followers to post UGC by combining a branded hashtag, a theme that will appeal to them, and an incentive. Your branded hashtag shouldn’t just be your brand name, but instead incorporate elements related to your identity. The incentive you provide could be a giveaway, a chance to be featured on your website, or support for a cause that matters to your audience.
For example, the hair and skincare brand Bevel uses the hashtags #BevelUp and #BevelFam to celebrate their community-centered values. To encourage its community to celebrate Black men, who are Bevel’s target demographic, Bevel created a campaign called “Created for Kings” that used the hashtag #WeSeeYou👑.
The challenge asked the community to “share a positive image of a Black man you know that deserves to be recognized.” Hundreds of social media users, including influencers with large followings of their own, joined the challenge, helping to further Bevel’s mission as well as provide visuals of customers who connect with and love the brand.
Brands often repost videos and pictures created by customers and influencers that showcase their products, such as reviews, lifestyle posts, recipes, and more. Of course, brands should always seek the original content creator’s consent to repost any visuals.
Another option to boost the social proof and community value of these posts is to reply to them. Replies show that your brand cares about its customers and increase the post’s visibility. Golde, a superfood beauty brand, often replies to posts that tag the brand with supportive comments that promote the brand’s image.
If you want to learn more about social media marketing, check out our post about how eCommerce brands are using social media to attract customers, especially those who are searching for businesses that match their values. We’ve also discussed the importance of social media to young consumers, who are increasingly using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to discover, research, and even purchase products.
UGC isn’t exclusive to social media, though. As we mentioned above, your brand’s website is a great place to spotlight images of your customers enjoying your products. Additionally, encouraging users to include images or videos when they leave a review on your website can make those reviews more impactful for other users.
Visual commerce doesn’t end with the visuals that you post on social media or include in your product page. Optimizing visual commerce should be a larger strategy that incorporates your website’s design and layout as well. After all, the look of your website is a big part of your brand and can serve to improve—or impede—the customer journey.
The first thing many customers will see of your website is your homepage. The goal of your homepage is to establish your brand image right away and to present a clear direction for browsing customers to follow.
To hone the effectiveness of your homepage, you can segment your audience and test which visual elements drive most engagement among which demographics. Many brands use dynamic banners, which automatically change according to the campaign, search terms, or source that led the customer to their website.
As we’ve discussed in depth before, layout personalization can go a long way toward improving each customer’s experience. Different customers have different interests and needs, and a personalized layout can help steer them more quickly and effortlessly toward making a purchase.
Visual commerce and layout personalization are also excellent strategies for optimizing product recommendations. We mentioned before that offering in-image shopping or displaying images of complementary products being used or worn together can help increase average order value. This strategy essentially creates a visual version of “frequently bought together” listings.
If you’d like help crafting dynamic visuals and an elegant website, our team of experts is happy to help. We deliver top-notch web design and development services to help build your brand and increase your sales. Learn more about our web design programs here.
Visual Commerce for Marketplace Sellers (Amazon and Walmart)
A visual commerce strategy might look different if you sell on Amazon and Walmart. These eCommerce marketplaces have strict rules on the type of images and videos you can include, so you should always check the requirements to avoid problems down the road—up to and including an account suspension.
There are two types of visuals you can upload to Amazon and Walmart: your main image or product image and your additional or alternate visuals.
Both marketplaces require a main image with a pure white background, professionally lit and focused, including no additional products or accessories. It should not include text or logos and should show the entirety of the product. Your product should be centered in the frame, and the image should show a frontal view. Each marketplace has additional technical specifications for their main images.
For alternate visuals, you have a bit more freedom. You can include backgrounds, models, and props if they’re relevant to the product’s use or show the product’s scale. These images can be component shots showing close-ups and detailed elements of your products. You’re also allowed to include text and graphics that demonstrate your product’s features and functions.
Infographics are a popular choice for many Amazon and Walmart sellers, since they allow more control over the layout and details than the description section. As we mentioned before, buyers pay more attention to product images than any other element on the PDP, so infographics are a great option for highlighting your product’s selling points.
Marketplace sellers use infographics to share reviews or important features in a way that complies with Amazon and Walmart’s guidelines for alternate images. Below, you can see two examples of infographics included among the alternate images for two different security cameras sold on Amazon.
Again, cutaway views and exploded views as well as 3D digital renders and video tutorials are all great options at your disposal as a marketplace seller. Most best-selling products on Amazon and Walmart, particularly electronics, kitchen or home gadgets, and other products that benefit from visual aids to help customers understand them, include these types of visuals on their PDPs.
Lifestyle products such as fashion, clothes, accessories, beauty products, and sports products often benefit from visuals that show context. While in-image shopping is not available on Amazon or Walmart, you may want to consider including images or videos that display people using your products to help your customer visualize the products in their lives.
Below on the left, you can see lifestyle images included on the PDP for a water bottle. On the right, you can see a home decor mockup that provides context for a wall lamp.
Make Your Products and Brand Shine
Customers not only appreciate visuals that help them discover and understand products—they expect them. Good visuals are essential in every area of eCommerce, whether that’s marketplace selling, social media marketing and commerce, or your brand’s website. Visuals are your most powerful selling tool, so don’t short-change your business by neglecting them.
Fortunately, you don’t have to become an expert in web design, photography, marketing, and branding to be successful in eCommerce. Whether you need a captivating website that looks stunning and boosts engagement, an expert marketing strategy that targets the right audience, or a completely automated eCommerce business that includes product research and development, we’re here to help. Contact our team today to find out about our done-for-you eCommerce packages and satisfaction guarantees.