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The Do's and Don'ts of Visual Commerce - It's all about balance.

Jeri Kelley
Product Strategy - Oracle Commerce

After my last post on what visual commerce actually means, I decided to start a list of some do’s and don’ts when working with visual content on commerce sites. With global B2C ecommerce sales expected to reach $1.7 trillion in 2015 the stakes are high for companies to out-pace their competition. Visual commerce is one area that companies are betting on to help get them to the front of the pack. I plan to keep updating this list but here is a start – feel free to add to the discussion in the comments!

Do:

Mix social + product content

Mixing in imagery and reviews from social media sites can help consumers see your product(s) in a different light, but don’t rely solely on social content. Consumers still want to see your product up close through product imagery and need to know the specifics that only you can provide – what colors/sizes are available? What are the dimensions? Etc. Mixing these types of content on your site will allow consumers to discover everything they need to know all in one spot.

Use video and interactive content when possible

Beyond imagery, consumers want to see products in action. In fact, according to TV Page, brands are seeing a 79% increase in conversion rates after [consumers] watch a video. And, while videos are able to help your customers visualize how your product works or how it will look – remember to make conversions easy by embedding links directly to your product so consumers can purchase. At the very least, lead them to your home page or a category page if you are worried about managing inventory or having to frequently update your videos.

Make your products “touchable” and real 

Show what your products look like un-staged. What do I mean by this? I mean, what are your customers actually going to get in the mail? The bedroom set looks gorgeous, but if someone ordered the bed, they aren’t going to get it with the mattress, bedding, or side tables so make sure to show them an image of what’s actually going to be shipped. Clothing brands are embracing this trend by using actual consumer measurements vs. relying solely on models to display their clothing. Technology companies like Fits.me or Qvit.com offer virtual dressing room technology so consumers can enter their measurements and see what the product “could” look like on their body type. Other companies are also starting to incorporate user-generated pictures directly into product reviews so customers can not only see reviews but also a “real-life” picture tied directly to a review. JCPenney is a company that has started to use this feature on their customer reviews – check it out on this product page.  

Provide more than just content about your product

Consumers want to know what they can do with your products beyond just the basics. Vitamix does a great job of incorporating various types of content. Everyone thinks of using a blender to make smoothies but Vitamix wants consumers to think outside the box and provides ideas and recipes through videos and other content to help consumers fully utilize their products. Who knew you could also make salad dressings, ice cream, and muffin batter with a blender!

Don’t: 

Overdo It

You know the saying “too much of a good thing.” It is tempting to leverage all of the exciting visual technology to showcase your brand and products and yes, consumers want to see how your product works, but don’t overwhelm them. You need to find the right balance for your brand and this will depend on many factors such as who your customer is, the industry you are in, the product you are selling, etc. Our awesome visual designer, Dan King, wrote a post a few weeks ago on design trends and points out that you need to be deliberate in your design. “Intentionally plan the focal point on every page. Use the hero principle and make one thing the star of the page.” This rings very true when incorporating visual content.   Make your products “touchable” without taking away from conversions and revenue.

Overpromise

This ties back to “do” make your product touchable but be realistic about what your product can actually do or how it will look. We are all marketers and get that selling is an art, especially online, but nothing is more disappointing that getting your new [you name it] and it doesn’t look or function like you thought it would. You can hook your customers with the slick visuals, but make sure to show them what is going to actually arrive at their door. Remember, there is a difference between selling and altering the truth. You may increase conversions by overpromising but what is the impact on your return rate or negative feedback from customers?

Assume that visual commerce only applies to B2C brands / retailers

Finally, a lot of B2B brands that I talk to say that visual content beyond standard product shots is just not a priority for them. Well, it should be. Another Oracle Commerce product strategist, Brenna Johnson, wrote last week about brand manufacturers selling direct to consumer and the importance of unifying storytelling and selling. All B2B brands, not just brand manufactures, need to take her advice to heart and realize that every one of their B2B buyers is also a B2C consumer. They expect to have the same experience and see the same types of content as they would when shopping at “xyz.com”. Start incorporating video content, social media, and other interactive content into the experience. Investing in visual content and technology can help differentiate a B2B site experience as competition in this space continues to heat up.

A key takeaway from all of these dos and don’ts of visual commerce is to focus on balance. Find the right balance between what types of content you will use and what will deliver the greatest impact for your brand, product, and customers.

More to come on this topic and look forward to any additional dos and don’ts in the comments! 

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