What is visual commerce?

Background

Visual Commerce Too many brand sites are still ‘static brochures’ that make engaging content inconvenient for customers to find, inhibit product discovery and fail to connect content (articles, videos and social media posts) to relevant products.

Often a brand will have thought of the perfect Instagram post or YouTube video to inspire or reassure a given customer persona, but when a website visitor is considering a purchase, that content isn’t available to persuade and motivate the visitor to make a buying decision.

What is visual commerce?

Visual commerce is the reaction to a world of underperforming, static brand websites.

It is based on a simple insight: brands that use their content more intelligently don’t just provide better customer experience, they drive up conversions and increase sales.

Visual commerce can refer to a number of capabilities: shoppable content, social proof and UGC, enriching product pages with relevant images and video, or fast-tracking buying journeys.

However, the best results come from being able to achieve these capabilities in an automated, dynamic and personalized way.

In some respects visual commerce is a leap forward, but in others it’s a return to the past: after all, traditional brick and mortar shopping is very visual and enables easy product discovery!

What are the benefits of visual commerce?

First and foremost, sales significantly and invariably increase when brands make useful and relevant visual content available at the right moments of buying journeys.

Secondly, visual commerce leads to superior customer experience, intelligently offering customers shortcuts from relevant content to the products they want.

Brands tell their story best when they tell it consistently across channels. With visual commerce, brands bring the best of their Instagram and YouTube content onto their website, delivering a consistent experience to their customers.

What are the current trends?

Shoppable content

Brands now understand the importance of quality content, yet too many great pieces of content are only available on isolated areas of the site, or worse, on other channels such as social media, and offer no cohesive route back into the buying journey.

Shoppable content means content takes visitors closer to a buying decision, rather than further away.

Got a great Instagram photo of a model wearing a new outfit? Visitors may love it, but it only becomes a sales magnet when you can automatically integrate purchase links for the individual items that make up the outfit.

Social proof and User Generated Content

Another element of visual commerce is to bring in social proof, either in the form of reviews, influencer content, or user-generated social media posts. This can be really effective at showing your products ‘in the wild’ and enjoyed by real customers but it can be difficult to automate, with rights, consent and brand safety often necessitating extensive manual intervention.

Product detail pages 

Don’t assume that visitors who arrive on a product detail page just need a solid description to come to a buying decision. 

Visitors can be flighty and need further reassurance before committing to a purchase. Often, that means leaving the site to do further research. Just think how much money and effort it can take to get a visitor to a product detail page, only to let them leave so easily!

With visual commerce, product pages are enriched with supportive multi-media content. The examples for each use case differ, but may include: how to videos, product benefits, photos that convey different angles or contexts. What they have in common is that they help visitors reach buying decisions through the use of additional information.

Can’t we just add more information by adding more text? Not effectively. Consider: two thirds of people say they are visual learners; the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text; eCommerce pages with video convert 80% better than those without

Fast-tracking buying journeys (and product discovery)

As we’ve just seen, leveraging visual marketing content on your product pages is very effective. But equally as important is using content to drive visitors to products they may otherwise not have discovered.

For example, baby and childcare brands often find that visitors are seeking information and education in the form of videos and articles to give them tips, rather than heading straight for product pages. 

By adding a featured product that helps a new parent execute a helpful tip from a baby care video, the product offer is contextualized to the visitor’s needs, and their buying journey can be intelligently shortened.

What is data-driven visual commerce?

Everything discussed so far can be achieved manually with enough resources, yet brands who take this approach often realize the effort required substantially mitigates the benefits.

Automated platforms make visual commerce scalable. The right video, Instagram post, or article can be associated with the right product dynamically and at scale, meaning the investment needed to deliver the 100th video is the same as the 10th.

Moreover, platforms like Knexus offer the ability to personalize the content and products that each viewer sees based on the data available about that visitor.

This can have a huge impact on product discovery as visitors start off exploring the content that is of most interest to them and discover relevant products as they progress through their site journey.

And data-driven means optimization-driven: machine learning is used to uncover the optimal content for each customer at each step of the buying journey, with results that far outshine any form of A/B testing.

Conclusion

In the simplest terms, visual commerce is about giving visitors what they need to make a buying decision.

Most brands will find they’ve already made the content investment needed to make visual commerce a reality – they just need to deploy their existing content assets intelligently and scalably. 

To achieve this, brands are looking to visual commerce platforms to dynamically deliver relevant content at optimal moments in each customer’s buying journey.