By Devika Girish published May 16, 2014

4 Ways Visual Content Can Enhance Your Ecommerce User Experience

runner-shoes-nike sales imageIn today’s ever-connected, increasingly social world, images and videos are fast becoming crucial elements of digital marketing. According to a recent Forbes report, brand engagement on Instagram, a social network that relies purely on visual content, has grown by an astounding 350 percent, year over year.

With the rise of social sharing, more and more brands are looking for ways to leverage visual imagery to enhance the value of the content they create and grab a greater share of audience attention. An ROI research report found that 44 percent of people are more likely to engage with brands that post pictures than any other media. Additionally, a Pew Internet study in the U.S. even suggested that the online content consumption has consequently reduced the attention spans of consumers. 

Here are a few smart ways to start capitalizing on the rising popularity and power of visual content:

1. Adopt a mobile-first approach

According to a recent Forrester Research report, 21 percent of retailers’ online revenue last year came from consumers who used a smartphone or tablet to make a purchase. And, by nature, many mobile consumers are likely accessing content while they are on the go.

Catering to their particular needs means highlighting the key features they are most likely to access from a mobile device and optimizing your content and layout to provide a seamless user experience — regardless of their choice of device. You want your consumers to be able to scan through the visual content and get the key message quickly, before you lose their attention.

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The view of MichaelKors.com on mobile

In the image above, you’ll see that Michael Kors, a fashion retailer, does not have a website that has been optimized for mobile. For example, the print stays small, and users have to do a lot of clicking and scrolling to view the different merchandise available and the detailed descriptions. Though the visual content itself is quite appealing, the page forces consumers to zoom in and out to maneuver around the site and get a clear view on something they might want to purchase.

Because of the small screen real estate afforded to most mobile devices, viewing mobile content just as it would display on a desktop not only makes interaction difficult for your consumers, but also reduces conversions. In fact, 40 percent of consumers are reported to have turned to a competitor’s website after a bad mobile web experience.

You can avoid this by either opting for a responsive design — where a single code base is used to serve both mobile and desktop users — or adaptive delivery, where the server hosting the website detects the device making requests and uses this information to deliver different batches of HTML and CSS code. However, most responsive websites take a lot of time to load on mobile devices, as smartphones would typically need to download and sift through all the same information it would for the desktop version (but with less processing power). Adaptive delivery on the other hand, enables the server to choose to optimally render pages by enhancing or removing certain functionalities on the fly, based on the capabilities of the device detected.

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Jimmy Choo mobile website

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Jimmy Choo desktop website

Jimmy Choo, the luxury bags and shoes brand, uses an adaptive design scheme to deliver a highly differentiated experience for its mobile customers. The mobile website, for example, employs a simple layout that displays one central image followed by a list of categories below it, making it easier for consumers to scan through the offerings on the home page. In contrast, the home page of its desktop website features a number of images, depicting different categories within.

2. Make images and videos “shoppable”

Though visually compelling images can have a huge impact on the user experience of your ecommerce site visitors, the images alone can do little to help you convert those visitors into customers. For example, there are times when consumers may come across a fashion trend or exciting look shared by a friend through Facebook or Pinterest, but those shared images do not allow a consumer to purchase that product directly just by clicking on it. These are lost opportunities for a retail marketer.

By making your images or videos shoppable, you can now make it easier for someone who likes your products to become a customer without having to take extra steps — steps that can lead to frustration or abandoning their interest altogether.

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For example, Kiosked is a platform that creates embeddable “smart” content that turns visual content into a consumer shopping service. In 2013, Nike used Kiosked for its signature Nike x Undercover Gyakusou collection, a line that caters to the high demands of running enthusiasts. By making the images shoppable, the brand was able to connect better with its consumers in places where they were more likely to interact, and increase its point of sale.

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Image via Antti Pasila

Online shoppers could just hover over the image, and glance through the Nike merchandise showcased in it. They could even purchase it from an ecommerce website by clicking on the “Buy Now” option.

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A recent Gartner study states that 74 percent of consumers rely on social media to guide their purchases. Recognizing the huge potential of discovery-led shopping, Kiosked offers a “share and earn” functionality that enables distributed ecommerce through social media. Employing a similar feature for your shoppable visual content could help boost sales through your loyal fan base.

3. Incorporate user-generated content

One of the most rewarding ways to enhance the consumer experience with visual content is to allow those consumers themselves to play a role in creating the content you publish on social media. With 4 in 10 social media users reported to have purchased an item in-store or online after sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, there is no denying that social media has a huge impact on consumer purchase decisions, and who isn’t more likely to be loyal to a brand that recognizes them for their interest and support.

A lot of brands these days gather content by collecting images shared by their customers on their websites or social media networks. While these images may not be as good as the ones taken by a professional, their authenticity will strike a positive note with your customers. Making user-generated visual content a part of your website by linking it to respective products makes the consumer shopping experience even more relatable.

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Nasty Gal is just one of the brands using consumer-sourced images to drive engagement among its shoppers. The retail brand encouraged its customers to upload pictures of themselves wearing merchandise bought from Nasty Gal and tag them using #nastygal. These images were then showcased on its “The Click” gallery and linked back to the product catalog.

4. Create a content hub that resonates with your shoppers’ interests

One of the best ways of cultivating valuable relationships with your consumers is by offering them something unique and appealing that also showcases your products.

REI, a national outdoor retailer does this by creating content that inspires, educates, and equips their shoppers with outdoor-enthusiast lifestyle information that the brand stands for. Rather than merely creating a single blog, REI maintains various content hubs of information, such as videos and details on upcoming events and in-store educational classes.

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The company also provides its shoppers with quick access to expert tips and tricks on how to find the right adventure gear. Offering such product demonstrations and promotions rather than plain text helps engage users. With a recent eMarketer report stating that 51.9 percent of marketing professionals consider video to be the content format with the best ROI, this is undoubtedly a safe bet.

Going by the latest trends, content on ecommerce sites is trending toward fewer words and more visuals. As shown in the above examples, visual content will help you to engage in meaningful interactions with your consumers. Thus, when it comes to optimizing your ROI, the best way forward is to strategically incorporate visuals into your ecommerce experience.

Looking for more inspiration on delivering compelling visual content on mobile? Read CMI’s Content Marketing Playbook: 24 Epic Ideas for Connecting with Your Customers.

Author: Devika Girish

Devika Girish is in charge of marketing content creation at MobStac, a mobile cloud platform for consumer brands looking to create mobile websites and apps across smartphones and tablets. Devika writes about everything related to mobile for businesses that enable marketers achieve their goals. Follow Devika on Twitter @mobstac.

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