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How Visual is Your Online Customer Experience?

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on May 2, 2016 8:30:00 AM

This is a 6 minute read.

How Visual is Your Online Customer Experience?Have you noticed how intensely visual the online customer experience has become?

From idea books on Houzz,to Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook's timeline format, and YouTube's art channel guidelines and Google+, the presentation is increasingly visual, creating a need for your own content to be visual.

(This article was originally published on July 11, 2013. Guess what? Image and video-based content aren't going away!)

Visual Online Experiences Surround Us!

Retailers Must 'Think Visual' from Chain Store Age (hat tip to Don Aronin from Tile Outlets of America for the article) makes the point that:

"Consumers are becoming increasingly visually oriented in their daily online lives, and expect online retailers to play an active role in providing a visual Internet experience.

According to a new study from The e-Tailing Group and Invodo, two in three consumers watch product videos some or all of the time when they encounter them, with close to half (45%) having watched five or more of these videos in the past three months.

Product videos are especially popular in categories with complex items that require education and demonstration, such as consumer electronics, computer hardware/software and automotive."

Video makes for a powerful visual online customer experience. Check out what Zappos has to say about creating 50,000 product videos! 

Don't forget live video! (See Live Video and 5 More Key Learnings from Social Media Marketing World 2016.)

And, yes, there's a mobile component to all of this which creates the opportunity to integrate what's online with what happens in real life and create value for customers, not to mention an advertising component as social platforms become mass media so businesses can pay to connect with specific audiences:

Visual Content Benefits Business 

What I find fascinating about this increase in visual content is that it represents great benefits for your business:

1. Commerce, shopping and buying have always been about engaging the senses, with visual being the strongest and most translateable online. Mobile takes visual to a new realm, allowing businesses to connect with customers in real-time when the connection is most relevant and appreciated.

2. Visual transforms the relationship between companies and their customers. Building relationships is about engaging the senses and emotions to establish trust; visual tools offer a powerful means for doing just that. Imagine how much more credible a piece of content coming from a real person with a photo is vs. a cold, generic brochure - especially if that article focuses intensely on a customer's needs and questions! (See How Do I Write Good Blog Articles? Focus on Your Customers!).

3. In a world where content has exploded (think paradox of choice), we're looking for ways to absorb information faster so we can quickly do triage and determine what's worth evaluating. Our brains process images faster than text, so we can sift through information efficiently without having to engage intensely until we find what we need. Zappos Labs: The Frontier of Online Retail is Curation refers to the importance of 'curated collections' to allow for "easy discovery of relevant fashion" with visual playing an important role in communicating relevance. Curation BTW allows us to demonstrate expertise as well as how customer-focused we are, too, as it requires understanding who the customer is.

Businesses Need a Visual Strategy for their Digital Customer Experience

Gone are the days of casually and hapharzardly making use of token images. Instead, businesses need a visual strategy which deliberately goes hand-in-hand with online content so each reinforces the other and what the business offers!

For example, 

  • Embed meaning into every visual your business uses. Rather than use stock photography, why not show your business associates and customers in action? BTW, the videos that Zappos creates feature Zappos employees demonstrating products.

  • Always include a visual to anchor your blog articles. Not only is it eye candy, but the visual helps focus both reader and writer on the core topic of the article.

  • Embrace videos to explain your product, services and company. And, then, be sure to share that video on your website, in blog articles as well as on a social network such as YouTube. These don't all need to be heavily produced videos. Experiment with letting your people answer customer questions.

  • Share your visuals on visual platforms! Pin them onto Pinterest Boards, share them in a blog article. When you do, be sure to include written content describing the point of the infographic.

Note: one of the challenges of visual content is that it isn't easily discoverable by search engines unless you identify them and tag them. For that reason, it's important to use descriptive <alt> tags for photos and to name photo files with something more descriptive than "dsc007-123abc.jpg". When you upload videos, make use of all of the space available to describe what your video is about; identify your video with a descriptive title, too. 

Here are a few resources to explore:

A Visual Digital Experience Offers Benefits In-Store and Off-line via Mobile

What about physical stores? What about bringing these visual tools into the store environment? Arnold Waldstein details how mobile popup stores are redefining shopping into a mobile commerce mashup in Shopping redefined... mobile popup stores. Talk about visual customer experience creating an engaging, curated and effective retail experience through mobile devices.   

What have you noticed? How visual is your online experience and how do you integrate that in-store?

I'd love to hear. 

Download the Content Marketing Guide!  

Image credit: Tablica do badania wzroku z reklamy Vision Express on Flickr.

Topics: customer experience, Digital Marketing

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