The Impact of Visual on Ecommerce

October 21, 2016

Literary historians and historians in general are still not quite sure who was the first person to state that a picture is worth a thousand words. Some attribute it to Napoleon, others to the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev while there are also those who say it was a Chinese unknown writer from five thousand years ago.

It does not even matter who said it first. What matters is that it is true.

One area where the power of the visual is almost aggressively obvious is in the world of ecommerce where a cute design tweak or an extra product image can make a difference between a store that simply survives and that which thrives.


It’s In Our Genes

The whole picture over words adage and the impact of visual on ecommerce both come down to the same thing – human biology. As a species, we have responded to the visual stimuli for hundreds of thousands of years. The images of a predator’s tail or even its shadow have been triggering immediate responses for millions of years, back when our brains were a long way from those we boast today.

The reptilian part of our brain, according to MacLean’s Triune Brain model, is quicker to respond than the more advanced, neomammalian part which handles our capacities for language, rational thinking and other aspects that favor the written or even spoken word.

In essence, the evolution of the human brain has simply rigged it in favor of images over text.


Ecommerce Visual Identity

Formulating an ecommerce website’s visual identity is intricate work and it needs to be approached with as much input as possible.

For example, you cannot rush into it and do anything you like. Online shoppers have grown accustomed to a certain kind of an ecommerce experience and if your website diverts visually too much from this established experience, it will push people away.

Also, an ecommerce website simply cannot be too busy at first glance. One of the main reasons people shop online is because it is a convenient and smooth experience. If their eyes and brain are assaulted by an epilepsy-inducing color palette or a smorgasbord of elements, this is not a convenient and smooth experience.

Imagine walking into a clothes store and having to deal with strobe lighting. You would run out of it immediately, right?

Of course, this does not mean your ecommerce website cannot play around with color combinations, as long as they make sense and still allow for a comfortable purchasing experience. Once you adopt a certain visual identity for your ecommerce website, you need to keep it in mind whenever you branch out elsewhere. For instance, if you have an app developed, you will need it to feature the same identity. If you send out emails (and you will), make sure to “paint” them in the same vein.


The Importance of Product Images

Overstating the importance of product images for ecommerce websites is simply not possible. Product images are everything. In 2015, UPS did an extensive white paper on the behavior of online shoppers and they discovered that multiple high-quality images of a product are an important factor when purchasing. When they talked to mobile shoppers, they found out that zoomable, high-quality images are the most important factor when making a purchasing decision. Furthermore, online shoppers also want to see buyer-submitted photos, which is another thing to consider.

It is not that difficult to understand why people want plenty of images of the products they are thinking of buying. They cannot hold the product in their hand and investigate it from all sides. For some products, this is more important than for others, like for clothes for instance. People want to be able to see the product from as many angles as humanly possible.

It should also be pointed out that the size of images on category pages can also play a huge role. For instance, a Czech company called Optimics did an A/B test where they pitted standard-sized images against somewhat larger ones. The larger ones showed an increase in sales of almost 10%.

To further support the claim about images being stronger than words, the aforementioned UPS study discovered that visuals also play a huge role on social media. If an ecommerce store wants their social media posts to be shared, they simply have to feature videos (12 times more likely to be shared) or at least images.


Never Compromise the Speed

While the visual identity and the abundance of product images are important, they should never be included at the expense of your ecommerce website’s speed. Speed is still the most important factor when we are talking customer retention and conversion rates.

The good news is that a gorgeous ecommerce website with plenty of high-quality images can still be fast; the key is in image optimization.

Closing Word

Without paying sufficient attention to the visual aspects of your ecommerce website, you will have a difficult time convincing people to do business with you.

Hit them with a gorgeous but elegant visual identity and shower them with high-quality product images and you will see your ecommerce store grow at lightning speed.

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Author: Dan Radak