Image is Everything: How Visuals Are Making (and Breaking) Online Retailers
The next revolution in online commerce is e-merchandising. What is it? It's the art and science of displaying products online to influence shoppers and increase sales. Obviously, a hugely important aspect of e-merchandising is the visual component. Indeed, when consumers shop online, most of the information they can gather about a particular product is its appearance.
In other words, the best way to drive sales is great visuals. A survey by Field Agent found that an eye-popping 83 percent of shoppers consider the product image to be the most crucial trigger in their buying decision — more important than product descriptions, user reviews or star ratings.
Visuals are so influential that U.S. shoppers now expect to see eight different visuals before deciding to make a purchase.
Why Visuals Are Vital
What does this all mean for retailers? It means that to compete online, they need to match the voracious appetite of shoppers for product content, especially visual content. Savvy retailers understand that the more they can grab shoppers' attention with the right content, the more likely they will convert into customers.
Top-flight product visuals create a greater desire in consumers by presenting products in a more dramatic and eye-pleasing way. On the practical side, they provide greater product clarity for consumers, which means buyers are less likely to return items they've purchased.
Product visuals can be highly customized, making it easier for shoppers to see products from different angles and often in real-life contexts. For example, many online furniture retailers now enable shoppers to see how a new sofa will look in their living room. If you're a retailer, the easier it is for consumers to contextualize the visual image and imagine their lives with your products in them, the more likely they are to buy your products.
You would think by now that all online retailers would appreciate the importance of great visuals. But many don't. I recently spoke with people at a large cosmetics brand who told me that they often use the same visual asset for the lifetime of a particular product. This approach is so 10 years ago. Today, when a cosmetics retailer — or any retailer — posts a product visual on, say, Instagram, it's devoured by consumers within 24 hours and shouldn't be used again. We're living in an age of hyperconsumption, and it has completely changed the visual game for online retailers.
A Photo Studio in the Cloud
This new paradigm dramatically alters the way retailers create the photographic images they use in their e-merchandising efforts. Savvy retailers are rethinking how they shoot product images, display them, and customize them. They're rethinking how they use photos to engage with shoppers.
A primary imperative nowadays is speed. Retailers must shorten the time that any visual asset lives on their website. But this can be pretty challenging for retailers because it can take up to 10 weeks to organize a quality photoshoot — and that 10-week lead time can be eons in the lifespan of a product. Fashions can trend and end in the space of 10 weeks.
This means retailers need to be more agile to create visuals that move the sales needle. The good news is that there are now cutting-edge tools — e.g., SaaS visual content platforms — that make product merchandising easier than ever. Retailers can create and customize high-quality, infinitely adaptable visual content for all their products with just one click.
The Post-Shoot Era
We're entering the post-shoot era in which the creation of stunning product visuals no longer relies on costly, logistics-heavy, and carbon-intensive photoshoots. Instead, visual production is shifting to computer-generated 3D imagery, facilitating better performance and greater resource efficiencies.
This product image revolution, which starts on the merchant web page, is a transition that will impact all the touchpoints along the shopper's journey, including social media content, advertising campaigns, email marketing, even in-store promotions. Every retailer must reimagine their product visualization efforts to bring their inventory to life and delight every customer.
Alexandre de Vigan is the CEO of nfinite, a leading visual merchandising solution for businesses.
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Alexandre holds a Master's degree in business law and taxation from the University of Assas, then Colombia University (USA). He completes his scholarship with a Master's degree in management at HEC (2011). Alexandre started his career as a business lawyer, specialized in mergers and acquisitions. Then he began his entrepreneurial vocation in 2014 and founded his first start-up Matchimmo, an online real estate acquisition platform. In 2016, after facing the difficulty of decorating his 1st apartment, he created nfinite (ex hubstairs).