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Over the past few years, visual storytelling and customer experience have surged to the forefront in all realms of marketing strategy. Organizations that have fully embraced and combined these two tactics are blazing new trails and leading the way across every industry.
For today’s savvy consumer, the experience on the path to purchase has become almost as critical as the quality of the product itself. In fact, 73% of buyers point to customer experience as “an important factor” in their purchase decision. Considering “CX” wasn’t an acronym most people were familiar with a decade ago, that’s an impressive figure.
These days, CX occupies a marketing stratosphere all its own and its sub-segments are starting to command their own categories. And since we’re living in an age often referred to as the visual economy, one of these notable segments is visual customer experience (soon to be known simply as VCX?).
Our natural proclivity for color and form, combined with technologies that seem to surround us with visual stimulation make visual customer experience more relevant and effective than ever. So, what exactly, is it? And more pertinently, what does it mean for brands?
1. What is Visual CX?
Visual customer experience is, simply, the collection of visual cues and interactions—images, video, and assets—that a brand deploys to engage customers around a product and lead them down the path the purchase.
Through the lens of CX, beautiful product images, compelling video content and coherent graphic presentation are not merely ‘nice to haves”—they are the primary drivers of a person’s choice to discover more. Sound like we’re giving visual elements too much credit for a product’s ability to gain traction? Science suggests not we may not be giving them enough.
To start, we are visual by nature. Consider:
- 90% of what we process is visual
- We respond 60,000 times faster to imagery than text
- 65% of the world is comprised of visual learners, and it’s been proven that using visual aids in classroom environments can improve learning exponentially
And, if we were natural-born image cravers before the arrival of the Internet and smartphones that keep it at our fingertips, you can understand how it’s made many of us full-fledged addicts. Social media, in particular, is an inherently visual genre. On sites like Instagram and Facebook, images are both a form of communication and currency.
- Images carry 93% of the most engaging posts on Facebook.
- Good visual content is 40% more likely to get shared from your social accounts
- Tweets with image posts get 150% more retweets than those without images
The need for good visuals extends to eCommerce. To get a clue of just how important great product imagery and experience is, look no further than how shoppers behave when they’re on a product site:
- Users only read 28% of words while going through a website
- 56% of the test subjects’ first actions upon arriving at a new product page was to begin exploring the product images, before reading titles, descriptions, or scrolling down the page to get a more comprehensive overview
2. What constitutes great Visual CX?
So, there is a wealth of data that suggests visual CX is important, but how do brands capitalize on it? In other words…what is “great CX”?
We like to think of it as a simple equation: Volume + Variety of Visuals= Great VCX
Let’s tackle volume first.
Today, consumers anticipate upwards of eight product images per page. This doesn’t sound too astounding until you consider that back in 2016, they expected only three. Considering the explosive increase, one can’t help but wonder how many it will be three years from now.
How are brands doing against this benchmark? Okay, quick disclaimer: We did not manage a comprehensive audit of every product page on the web to determine the “average number of product images per page.” And the fact is, outcomes vary from brand to brand, industry to industry.
But one data point intrigued us—Amazon only allows vendors to feature 6 images per product. If the world’s number one retail destination is falling short of expectations, it’s time for every retailer to sit up and take notice—hitting the “8 product visuals per page” benchmark should be considered table stakes.
The question of product visual variety is a bit trickier, but its importance is clear, particularly when you look at the shopping habits of younger consumers.
A 2018 study by Marketing Dive showed that 75% of Gen Z shoppers (those between the ages of 18 and 25) turn to eCommerce to make most purchases. However, the same study provides interesting paradox—of those same Gen Z shoppers, 65% prefer to "touch and feel products before making a purchase.”
What to make of this seeming conflict in preferences? That it’s likely on those doing the selling to create “near lifelike” eCommerce experiences. This is where the “variety” factor comes in. 2D images are great, but they don’t give the sense of deep interaction today’s customers are seeking.
This is where interactive 3D and augmented reality comes into play. For products with customizable features or where size and scale are of particular relevance (furniture is a prime example) 3D and AR are invaluable visual tools. They offer a level of engagement that increases shopper confidence, even as those shoppers are unable to interact with the product in person.
It also pays to think “outside the box” in terms of what qualifies as a visual experience. For example, chatbots can fall into the visual CX category. They are a simple visual cue that reads “we’re here to help” while a shopper is on a site. Even if the shopper doesn’t use the chatbot, its very presence goes a long way in establishing trust.
When you consider how to deploy time-tested marketing tactics (product images and video), along with the not-so-obvious elements (chatbots and AR), you start to get to the heart of what makes great visual CX.
3. Why it pays to invest in Visual CX?
With limited marketing budgets, retailers and B2B businesses alike are often in the position where they need to “make bets” on what they think will move the needle.
There are no shortage of different ways to spend their budget, but now more than ever, it’s crucial that the spend generates a return. This is, perhaps, the most compelling promise of visual CX—the brands that invest get results.
This also appears to come down to volume and variety. A 2018 eBay study showed a clear correlation between an increase in the number of product images and an increase in profit across categories.=
MORE IMAGES=MORE PROFIT
If simply meeting customer expectations doesn’t compel brands to change, missed sales certainly should.
And on the topic of sales, 3D and augmented reality experiences tend to drive those as well. Some brands have seen a 30% increase in conversion and a 50% reduction in returns by implementing interactive 3D visuals.
Additionally, the fact that customers will pay 20% more for a product they can personalize means that brands can command higher prices. So, while it may require some additional work and investment on the front-end to bring these experiences to shoppers, the pay-off is more than worth it.
Doing business with an eye on visual customer experience presents an unprecedented opportunity for brands, even those in their nascent stages, to compete on the basis of how they treat their users rather than on a big marketing budget. Almost every brand selling a physical product could benefit from tools like interactive 3D or augmented reality.
But going to great lengths is only worth it if it makes a material difference in conversion. Research suggests that when it comes to visuals, this is the case.
And this investment can start a kind of virtuous cycle—brands can invest in better and better experiences that keep customers coming back again and again. That is the ultimate promise of VCX…creating a commerce climate where everyone wins.
Author: Hilary Murdock
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