As the amount of content available online continues to grow exponentially, we seem to have less time to actually read, so visual information becomes more important. When this is coupled with the fact that billions of images are uploaded everyday, many of them user-generated, the implications are clear. Cross-device visual commerce is the shopping channel of the future. Most e-commerce sites recognize this, of course, so the demand for good imagery is as strong as ever. But more important are images generated by consumers themselves, both pre-purchase and post-purchase. We live in a referral economy, where the voice of consumer carries legitimacy and influence beyond the words we may craft for our own products. Thus, images shared by consumers, with a few of their own words about the product or purchase, are the keys to successful visual commerce.
Visual commerce can take the form of either a trending wall of popular products, or of a product wall typically generated by some sort of hashtag to identify the campaign.
A trending wall application creates a page or “wall” of the most shared or recently viewed products, and locates that page anywhere on your site. Most trending wall applications use real time social data across a variety of social channels and use these cues to create and prioritize products on the page. This page can be placed anywhere within a site, and these applications typically work in emails and on your Facebook channel.
The other type of visual commerce is user-generated content, uploaded to either your site directly, or to social channels, and curated by a hashtag identifier. This is one of the most powerful forms of content available, since it plays to both the generator of the content (who wants to show off their new purchase or identifies as a trend-setter) and to those who consume such content. Look at the how product reviews have become our standard for judging performance of a given item, or the retailer themselves. Now think of that content expressed in visual form, uploaded by the user themselves, and aggregated on your site. No wonder many e-commerce stores experience up to a 21% increase in user engagement and conversion rates!
The opportunity for effective visual commerce is made even greater by the fact that over half of all internet usage is now on a mobile device. So customers in your store or restaurant, or going out for the evening, or enjoying a vacation can all easily capture the moment and upload an image that you may be able to use. The challenge for the retailer is in the collection and curation of these images via the hashtag campaign. Typically, some form of gamification is used to entice this activity, such as a sweepstakes or competition. If the campaign is visible enough, and easily shared with friends and family, sometimes just being seen on a very popular site can be enough for many people.
Visual commerce ties into the best features of the online landscape, from the ability to capture images on the go, to the powerful voice-of-consumer and the influence of user-generated content. It is important that retailers make this an integral part of their digital footprint.
About The Author:
Richard Sexton is an ecommerce visionary with almost 20 years experience in selling online. His story has been well documented by Google, Entrepreneur, Internet Retailer, and other media channels, and he is a frequent speaker at e-commerce conferences across the country.
Richard started a local art and furniture gallery in Charlotte, NC in 1996 and grew that enterprise into a much bigger business when it went online in 1998. That company, Carolina Rustica, was recognized as an early leader in Internet retail technology and cutting-edge ecommerce ecosystems. The company is now a nationally-recognized omnichannel retailer of high end furniture.
In 2012, Richard sold the company to Mattress USA, in Brighton, Mich. He continued in his role as president until early 2015, when he launched OmniMarketing2020, a consulting firm for large and small ecommerce businesses. He is also the Digital Strategist for AAA of the Carolinas.
Richard received an M.S. in Management Science from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and was one of a handful of students selected to be an Austin Scholar, Kellogg’s highest academic recognition