Human senses are powerful, and they have quite an influence when it comes to shopping. The smell of a store might entice you to follow it to find out more or make you feel relaxed as you browse. The feel of an item may confirm its luxuriousness. These are all things that you can experience in a brick-and-mortar store to push you on your way to purchasing.
E-commerce, however, leaves shoppers with just one sense to inform their purchasing decision, sight. This makes having a visual merchandising strategy a vital tool in convincing consumers to shop at your store.
What is Online Visual Merchandising?
Visual merchandising in eCommerce refers to the use of the visual elements on a website to engage with customers and create an immersive shopping experience. All of the visual elements on an e-store should work together to encourage shoppers to explore your site and make purchases.
The strategy should be applied to every inch of your site, from the homepage and collections layout, to search results, product recommendations, and the shopping cart page. Additionally, it takes into account the overarching aesthetics, such as the color scheme, of the store itself.
Together, the visual merchandising strategy should reveal the most relevant products to customers at every touchpoint using high-quality brand visuals and user-generated content.
Why is Visual Merchandising Important for eCommerce?
There are a number of reasons why having a visual merchandising strategy for your online store is of utmost importance. Let’s get into them!
Helps to communicate your brand identity and strengthen it
You’ve heard of the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, this didn’t come out of nowhere, people are visual learners by default. In fact, the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. 65% of people retain information better when there is a visual stimulus.
The message you communicate about your brand will have far more staying power if you convey it through images, videos, and colors. It’s much easier and quicker for consumers to relate your brand with sustainability, for example, if you use earthy colors and images of your efforts to lower your carbon footprint.
The way your online store looks also forms a vital impression for first-time visitors. Studies have shown that 75% of consumers judge a website’s credibility based on its visual design. With such a high amount, you’ll be sure to lower your bounce rate simply by having an appealing design.
Influences purchasing decisions
Over 92% of consumers say the visual dimension is the top sensory factor affecting their purchasing decision. Furthermore, user-generated content - the most influential source of information for shoppers - is more impactful for 85% of consumers when incorporating visuals. By simply prioritizing your visual content to present the most relevant products in an aesthetically pleasing way, you can watch your conversion rates soar.
Improves user experience
With visual merchandising, you can provide customers with a personalized shopping experience. This is crucial as 71% of consumers feel frustrated when their shopping experience is impersonal.
By using customer data in visual merchandising, you can present the products each individual shopper wants to see. This creates an enjoyable and immersive experience that entices them to stay on your site for longer.
Visual Merchandising Strategy Tips and Best Examples for eCommerce
Now that the value and importance of visual merchandising for your eCommerce store is clear, let’s take a look at some tips to best put it into practice.
Use your homepage to tell a story and connect with shoppers
The homepage of your store is the equivalent of a window display. It should give a stellar impression of your brand and products in order to draw customers in. To achieve this, use the visuals on your homepage to tell a story.
To help guide the visuals and layout of your homepage, you should think about the themes that match your brand’s mission. These themes should be apparent the instant a consumer lands on your page.
Topo Designs focus on the outdoors with relatable imagery on their homepage.
Topo Designs aims to create durable and versatile products for exploring the outdoors. This relates to having a sense of adventure and appreciation of nature. These themes are clearly presented visually on their homepage with scenic shots and images of people taking in the nature around them.
Use a large, dynamic hero banner to feature imagery that truly represents your brand, and simultaneously highlights your latest and most popular products. It’s another good idea to use a video that fulfills those same purposes. This is something that Death Wish Coffee does brilliantly with a high-quality hero video depicting the in-house coffee-making process.
(Source: Death Wish Coffee)
You also want your homepage to be as relevant as possible to visitors. For returning customers, personalize the homepage with recommendations based on what they have purchased before or previously viewed. For new visitors, highlight your new products and top categories with visuals that speak to your target audience.
Steve Madden features bold imagery that resonates with their young target audience.
Feature visual UGC and reviews
Visual forms of user-generated content are a must if you want to increase engagement levels, build trust, and give your products relatable context. With visual UGC and reviews, you can provide authentic and trustworthy information whilst helping shoppers see how your products look in real life.
UGC and reviews are most impactful on your homepage and product pages. Your homepage is where you make your first impression, so you’ll want to demonstrate just how much customers enjoy your products and your brand. On product pages, you want to seal the deal to give shoppers that final push towards making a purchase. This is what visual UGC and reviews are great for.
(Source: Steve Madden)
Steve Madden provides a masterclass on using UGC and reviews on product pages. One of the first things you’ll see here is a carousel from their Instagram feed featuring customers wearing the product being viewed. Scroll down just a little further and visitors are presented with verified buyer reviews with images and videos. Together, they do an excellent job at giving shoppers the visual stimuli to buy the item.
| Related reads:
- Visual UGC: The Power of Photos and Videos for eCommerce
- How to Utilize the Benefits of User Generated Content
Use visuals to optimize the search process
If the homepage acts as the window to your store, then the search bar is the door. 43% of shoppers go straight to the search bar on retail websites, so this will be a key element of a visual merchandising strategy.
To help shoppers better conduct their searches, dropdown suggestions should include images. The visual context it provides will help searchers find the items they are looking for with much more ease, thus, speeding up the search process. The inclusion of images in searches can also confirm that their search query is relevant to what they desire to find.
Red Dress displays large image tiles of relevant products as the user types in the search box.
The instant suggestions should prioritize the products in the most appropriate order for your customers. We recommend ranking strategies based on popularity, rating, newest, or even seasonality. E-merchants can also take this a step further by personalizing image-based search suggestions, using recently viewed, recently searched, or demographic data.
Image search comes in handy when a customer isn’t familiar with the necessary keywords . In this instance, visual search is of great help to find matching or similar items.
This visual search feature is great for visitors who have seen an item but don’t have the vocabulary to make the item surface in a keyword search. (Source: H.Samuel)
| You may also be interested in: Top site search trends that define E-commerce in 2022 and the years to come
Upgrade your visuals to give more context
To give visitors to your site a true-to-life idea of how your products look and function, you’ll need to go beyond allowing product images to be zoomed into. Think about including high-quality 3D imagery and usage videos to give shoppers a full perspective of your products.
Nike is a great example of how enhanced visuals can boost sales. Their use of AR and 3D imagery increases conversions by up to 11%. (Sources: Nike and Wall Street Journal)
Furthermore, you can provide a more personalized visual context of your products by using augmented reality. Include a try-on feature so they can get a real-life picture of how it will look.
Collection-based merchandising and recommendations
Your visual merchandising strategy should also play a big role in how you recommend products to customers. When done right, you’ll be able to increase your average order value whilst simultaneously providing a pleasing experience for shoppers. This is so crucial that product recommendations will be factored into the next feature release by Boost - keep your eyes peeled for that!
ASOS invites shoppers to purchase the entire look shown on the model on their product pages.
Recommendations based on completing a look can give a better feel of which products work together and how they all fit together, thus encouraging shoppers to buy more. Checkout pages are perfect places for these types of recommendations. At this stage, the customer has demonstrated a real interest in the item, so the matching products carry way more relevance to them.
Pinup Girl Clothing uses visually stunning images to categorize their products into themes relevant to their customers.
Thematic collections based on occasions or styles are also great as they help customers navigate through a site better and dive deeper into the store. Present them on your homepage or on broad collection pages like Womens or Mens with attention-grabbing contextual images.
A well-thought-out visual merchandising strategy for your eCommerce store has the power to facilitate a rich shopping experience. E-merchants can provide a unique branded experience for visitors at every step of their journey through the store that comes close to the sensory experience they have in a brick-and-mortar store.
Competition is sure to become more fierce for online brands. So stay a step ahead of your competitors by creating an encapsulating visual experience that will keep customers coming back for more.