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Ecommerce Product Images: What do I, as a customer, seek while browsing a brand portfolio

It has been said before, and we’ll say it again, Covid-19 upended the way the world had known shopping pre-pandemic. It didn’t change things much, but accelerated the changes that were already underway. Online shopping became a default reality for a majority of shoppers while brick-and-mortar stores continued their descent into becoming irrelevant. 

According to Statista, worldwide e-commerce sales grew to an estimated 4.9 trillion dollars in 2021, up from 3.3 trillion dollars in 2019, and estimated global e-commerce sales will top 7 trillion dollars by 2025.

Companies that may have never thought of themselves as global businesses are now competing in overseas markets. Bigger brands have also geared up and are aiming to provide personalized care for their consumers, and technology has enabled this further. While the Covid-induced restrictions on brick-and-mortar retail have relaxed over time- and people are returning to physical stores- online sales continue to soar. 

This is the best time for brands and retailers to get to know their customers and to cater to them optimally. But examining the requirements and expectations of the customers, and then serving them as accurately as possible is easier said than done.

The omnichannel shopper 

Consumers and brands have been through the wringer and they have emerged resilient. It is noteworthy to see how they have utilized technology and tools, finding creative ways to adapt to extreme circumstances and navigate their way through uncertain times. 

With online shopping behaviors firmly entrenched in consumers, today the expectation is that of a seamless and convenient experience. No longer do they see online and offline as two entirely distinct shopping experiences. 

The problem?

Brands now need to offer a unified experience across all shopping platforms, in-store or online. Gone were the days where shoppers check out in a store may not be available online, or vice versa. They may also choose to purchase the product online and pick them up at the store. 

BUT Less is More.

The misconceptions about being on all channels for omnichannel retail have been shattered now, and brands have moved to limited but positive experiences on channels that matter most to their consumers. Brands are meeting the customers where they are, to explore and transact on the channel of their choice. Customers have high expectations from brands and young consumers crave an authentic relationship, where personalization becomes primary. 


The cornerstone of retail  

The retail industry has been learning incessantly about their customers to be able to aid them at every touch point with optimized use of MarTech. Martech has brought retailers much closer to their consumers, where they may never need to step foot in a store. Bottom line is – shoppers need to be catered to increase conversion rates during check out, and in turn act as ambassadors for the brand. 

But how to do that?

Infrastructure is key. Retailers need an in-house tracking capability to cater to them and take actions based on all the data at hand. Additionally, tech partners can double down on successes and decrease the impact of failed experiments with automation tools to optimize revenue. With the right partner, retailers can hope to deliver real-time customer engagements that drive them toward the desired business outcomes. 

This all rolls into a robust engagement strategy to help brands understand who their customers are and provide the best possible omnichannel experience to them. 

It then comes as no surprise that

Bottomline is: to drive recurring revenue rather than one-off sales, brands need to keep the customer at the heart of every engagement. They must deliver targeted and personalized, yet outcome-focused interactions across any of the channels the customers ultimately choose.  



Source – futureofcommerce 

The notion of a ‘perfect’ customer experience isn’t something a brand can orchestrate with only technology. There are too many variables involved though- How is a customer feeling on a particular day? Where the customer is during the engagement? And so on…

At its most basic level, even though the customer is in charge of a large majority of their shopping experience, brands are in charge of the experience that they present to the customer. And the goal of this experience is to create positive emotional reactions, no matter where, when, or how the customer engagement occurs. Businesses that are able to use the power of personalization to enable these experiences strengthen customer loyalty like nothing else.

Striking Gold with Social Commerce

Social commerce has been around for more than half a decade but has captured intensified limelight during pandemic. With a 40 percent surge in sales, and revenue of approximately $474.8 billion in 2021, social commerce is leading growth for brands. It is further forecasted to assist the growth of an $89.4 billion industry to a whopping $604.5 billion by 2027. Social and influencer mechanisms create better buying experiences and in turn help brands build their place on the world wide web with their customers. 

Now, with Gen Z already taking about two-thirds of global social commerce spending, the older generations are jumping the bandwagon. This has tempted more and more social media platforms to optimize native social commerce.

  • Facebook and Instagram allow users to purchase products directly from their respective social platforms. 
  • Pinterest uses “Product Pins”, allowing users to head to an e-commerce website with the simple click of a pin.
  • Major brands like Macy’s, Kay, and Bed Bath & Beyond have already started using social commerce to their advantage.

Plunging into the buying process

While shopping online, consumers consider a whole bunch of factors to be able to make the right decision. Everyone is still not comfortable buying clothes or apparel online, given the lack of tactile experience of engaging with the product physically. For consumers to be able to trust a brand that is functioning online, brands need to lay it out for them word by word, picture by picture, and in some cases with videos too. Online shopping is easier for customers since everything is available at the click of a button and secure payment gateways have made this even more convenient. This is forcing retailers to play catch with technology to replicate physical experiences. They are focusing on a few basic techniques to improve sales.


Source – Gaiam

Focus on large, high-quality images that are free of visual distractions.

The physical detail of a product is outweighed by a higher resolution visual of a product that they can zoom into, to make sure the product and the quality are as per the description and their expectation.  


Source – Herschel

360-degree view of the product.

E-commerce platforms are using 360-degree cameras to enable a more informed decision about a product’s quality, packaging, special features etc.

Source – Amazon

Product in lifestyle settings

A real-world context of other supporting items allows the details, dimensions, and proportions of a product to be communicated better. This also allows relatability to play a vital role.

Video of the product when applicable

Videos are the new images. An all-around view in a moving image over a simple mono-perspective one gets you closer to the physical experience than anything else. Especially when it comes to apparel, images of outfits on mannequins are not as appealing as videos of the same outfit on a model where one can gauge the way the clothes fit and look when worn. 

Product content in e-commerce 

We live in the age of visual culture. This has resulted from the boom of cameras that double up as cell phones (instead of the other way round today!). In the past two decades, we have entered a new era centered around content creation. 

Digital photographs have been a universal language for a greater part of the last decade and social media platforms are no longer just about profiles and experiences. This has resulted in Pinterest becoming one of the largest platforms allowing one to interact with static images.
       
Source-infographic by MDG advertising

Humans are highly visual creatures. According to MDG Advertising

1. 60 percent of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image appears in local search results.
2. On e-commerce platforms, 67 percent of consumers have said that the quality of the product image is very important when it comes to selecting and considering the purchase of a product. 

But the quality of the image is pertinent. Online consumers say that the quality of the product takes precedence over product-specific information, long descriptions, and ratings or reviews. Moreover, the product portfolio should be to sell a story to the customers. 

Quick tip? Details matter, so it’s best to listen to what consumers have to say since they’re the ones on the site or app trying to navigate their way through. The number of hits of downloads will only account for a small customer base but it’s what keeps them coming back to the brand’s website.

Product Imagery

Product imagery works best for brands attempting to mimic an in-store shopping experience. Even though the customers are unable to touch or feel the product, high-resolution, clear images that make the outfit stand out goes a long way in gaining the customer’s trust. Much beyond the typical images of the front and back, close-up of the finishing and the fabric is crucial. Front-facing models where one can see the fit of the apparel rather than quirky poses work better. Lauren Yerkes, VP of Buying and Merchandising at Revolve, an LA-based clothing brand, stated how the brand makes sure that each outfit and its fit is captured seamlessly on camera. The brand makes sure that it uses a slightly lower angle such that it ends up capturing the most flattering of shots of the outfit and how it sits on the body. 


Source- Teeko.net

Videos Over Images

Videos of products alongside the usual model images captures how the apparel fits the model and how it looks in motion too. Videos under 30 seconds work best since 73 percent of US consumers have said they are more likely to buy a product after watching its video. Owing to this benefit, more and more brands are preferring videos as a medium of showcasing their products, according to the video creation company, Animoto. 

The Right Models

Models and the selection of models to represent one’s brand is also a taxing process for many companies. Not only do they need to keep their target audience in mind, with the recent surge in body positivity across the globe, brands are being pushed to newer directions while dealing with their e-commerce shoots. It is not just about the outfits after all. Every online platform is selling a unique ideology to its consumers, and what better way to push out this messaging than by styling on models rather than flat lay images. The idea behind telling this story is not just to show how it looks or fits, but also how to wear it. The Revolve team looks for models who resonate with the beachy California lifestyle that the brand is perceived as. 

The “Shop The Look” tab has started making an appearance on a lot of websites. Consumers indeed shop for things they think they need, and what better way to reassure ourselves than by imagining ourselves in that outfit and aspire to feel the way the model feels in those outfit images.

Rethinking their stance – social responsibility & core values


Source – stylist.co.uk


Consumers have become more aware about the social responsibility of companies. This has permeated into the fashion industry as well. In a report by PwC, 64% of customers stated that they decide to either buy or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. In the apparel industry, social responsibilities often include sustainability, ethics, and social inclusivity. The fashion industry, especially fast fashion, has faced a lot of criticism stemming from pollution issues and with this the materials required to mass-produce clothes have been widely criticized. This includes waste from garments and toxic chemicals to make fabric (e.g. sodium hydroxide). Moreover, there are also issues with cheap labor in third world countries, i.e. sweatshops. 

It is clear that if you want to be bold in the fashion industry, your brand needs to meet the strictest standards of social responsibility. Not only the quality and manufacturing of clothing but also their social values. A notable example is the Heist Studios and its sustainability strategy – where they have committed that all the garments that they bring out going forward are sustainable and they are slowly rolling into having only sustainable clothing. 

Another quick tip- being socially responsible counts. But highlighting it on the brand platforms is must for customers to believe that the brand is socially responsible.


Source – bigcommerce.com

86% of consumers say that authenticity is one of the most important factors that decide their favorite brands. Core values should be the center of every company and their brand positioning, rather than just being something that is put on the ‘About us’ section on their websites. A brand’s core value or values, should be what is truly important to the brand, instead of what people want to hear. A fashion brand can win customer loyalty if it knows how to put their core values into practice. For example, when brands claim their materials to be eco-friendly or ethically sourced, they must research and make sure the information provided to their consumers is true and not just based on assumptions without being fact checked. 

Takeaway

A lot has been said and talked about on ‘how to build a brand’. However, the issues addressed here are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more to be explored in the world of technology that brands can leverage.

The key takeaway is that many brands have their own set of rules or guidelines in place while marketing to different consumer brackets. Brand messaging through images, videos and well placed marketing strategies is crucial for brands. Not just this, but keeping the consumer engaged and well informed should be top priority to build trust. There are a lot of permutations and combinations that brands are exploring, or are yet to explore through technological capabilities – AI, Metaverse, surveys, data analytics and numbers. Building an outstanding fashion brand requires a lot of effort and it definitely requires an insightful mind.

Above all, as a brand, one must ensure authenticity in what they do and say as part of their brand messaging, as well as incorporating technology/online platforms into the process to help boost their reach and sales. In such a fast-changing industry, we must step forth with the belief innovation is the key to success and taking the first step will set you apart from the others. 

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Arunava Acharjee

(Product Marketing Manager)