When it comes to buying things, we like to know what we’re getting. After all, you can’t touch, smell or try out the product, so strong, compelling images are essential.
Yet while more and more brands recognise the power a great image has on sales, it is still an often neglected aspect of a website. In this article, we will look into how this process works, and some best practices for how to leverage it for your own e-commerce business.
Content featuring compelling images averages 94% more total views than content without images. We also assess and make our judgements on products and whether we want to buy them, extremely quickly – within 90 seconds in fact.
Just as many of us are visual learners, we also remember written content far better when it is paired with images. A study showed people were able to recall 10% of information without images three days later, and when images were presented, that figure went up to 65%. What we remember also becomes more familiar, with familiarity being a key component in why consumers choose one brand over another.
Consumer trust is a huge factor in our purchase decisions. We trust the opinion of a friend, or someone we relate to within a like-minded community more, and it’s reassuring. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers worldwide say they trust word-of-mouth more than any kind of advertising. Flying the flag for user-generated content (UGC), millennial consumers say that this is a good indicator of product quality.
Fans take brand personality seriously, and just like we might trust a friend more than perhaps a salesman, we like to see real people interacting with products. For example, Olapic showed 32% of shoppers would be more likely to buy clothing online if stores showed real customers wearing it.
What’s more, it’s proven that UGC is most effective in visual form, with both conversion rates and purchase intent shown to increase when it’s presented to a shopper along the purchase journey.
So what will a lack of product images mean for your business? The customer who's landed on your product page has a heightened perception of risk in having to buy without seeing what’s on offer, and has to do more of the legwork in having to imagine themselves using your product. As a result their trust in your company diminishes. Well, that could equal a lost customer.
Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared across social media than any other time of content. The biggest websites, which interestingly create no content of their own are, unsurprisingly, social – with visual content-heavy Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram leading the way. Facebook has reached 1.65 billion, and Instagram 500 million, in monthly active users. What’s more, 20% of all internet users use Instagram.
What began as a kind of mood board of aspirational content, has now become a visual shopping list, with Pinterest pin creation up 75% and e-commerce getting involved, with the average order value of Pinterest being higher than Facebook.
Monetising social media and attempting to create a community online are not new concepts. But, as a form of word-of-mouth marketing, social influencers sell. Some of the biggest Instagram influencers of 2016 shows how a powerful image can resonate with a fan community. When you note that 68% of Instagrammers between the ages of 13 and 24 interact with brands regularly on the platform, it’s a marketing tool not to be ignored.
However as social networks have continued to grow, and social advertising is reflecting trends in how we like to consume content, as native advertising shows, it’s safe to say the consumer holds the power. The content must provide value to the user.
And you can leave the tripod at home. As technology advances to make creating e-commerce photography more accessible to everyone, as well as look better than ever, companies can now more easily produce stunning visuals. Mobile technology has done a lot to change the face of e-commerce, as we now access the internet more than ever before from a mobile device, often browsing for products we may purchase on another device later.
Experiences are also getting more immersive as new e-commerce trends indicate. Think virtual reality, 360° product visuals and interactivity, as technology adapts to provide, realer, more emotive experiences. Fashion and entertainment are leading the way, take 3D-A-Porter for example. Brands are also using the latest technology to link online with the in-store experience in a bid to stay relevant in a digital world.
Changes in search technologies to support e-commerce is no different, with Google’s 2015 mobile update emphasising the need for a better experience from portable devices. As a result, websites have become more order-friendly on mobile, enhancing user experience.
As Google understands well, even shopping search results have evolved to deliver more relevant content faster, appealing images that help us get inspiration and lead us to buy. And when we think back to how quick we can make decisions and pass judgement, and how impulsive we are, it can only mean less barriers to buying and more sales.
In a world that’s increasing in authenticity and transparency, product photography has to aspire to meet expectations and the overall online shopping experience has to reflect this.
As the path to purchase has become increasingly complex, with search getting into the mix, it becomes even more important to capture attention at all touchpoints. So, quality together with consistency in messaging is key.
With so many images being produced and uploaded every day onto the web, you have to start by thinking of your users first.
Your audience will help determine which social platforms are the best to make use of, and how your website might need to look. To create a community of loyal fans, you have to understand who you’re communicating to and show the photography they can relate to most.
When it comes to the photography itself, quality is essential. Show products from all angles, provide the right context to match your product and keep things simple overall so consumers aren’t faced with overwhelming choices and clutter. Close-ups can also increase desire by honing in on the detail and create the want to discover more. Take brand leaders like Apple for example.
Appeal to emotion as well. We consumers might be impulsive decision makers and use a variety of different sources of information when deciding to buy a product, but we’re also human. Real interactions, real people and products, and appealing to all five senses in a photo helps images to have impact with shoppers.
Consider the design of your website and how changes could impact users and how they behave on your website. It’s always best to take a step back, and test out different looks to see what works. Equally, don’t neglect mobile, and stay up to date with trends in technology. This help you stay ahead of the curve, and show off your photography in the best way on different devices which will increase sales.
Do it well, and your e-commerce photography will help you see sales rise for your business, and even the potential for a loyal community to grow – which will only make your job easier in the long run.
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