Why Visuals are so Important for Marketing Online

The phrase, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ (or one of many similar sayings) is thought to have its origins in the distant past, in Japan or China. No matter where or when it first appeared the message is still relevant today. In fact, thanks to the explosion in the number of companies trading online, it is a message that everyone with an interest in selling products or services via the Internet cannot afford to forget.

Why Visuals are so Important for Marketing Online

Today’s consumers have little time or patience to spend trawling through page after page of web content, instead they must be confronted by stunning images that make them pause and want to see more. When searching for products, such as items of clothing and furnishings, they expect to be presented with images that accurately display true colors and offer sufficient detail to enable them to have confidence that the item they receive is, as far as possible, identical to the one displayed online. Those in search of a great vacation destination will obviously be first attracted by images of palm fringed, white sandy beaches or pictures of iconic city landmarks from around the globe. But what they will also expect to find are shots of hotel exteriors/ interiors and the dishes served by typical local restaurants.

The same is true of almost anything marketed on the Web; whether it’s lawyers advertising their legal services, companies selling nuts and bolts or vehicle manufacturers advertising their latest model trucks or automobiles.

When designing a new ecommerce platform or updating an existing one, in order to maximize its impact, it is essential to ensure the visual content on the landing page stands out from its competitors by featuring an image or images with a wow factor; something that causes visitors to the site to delve deeper. The page should also say something about the company and the products or services on offer, which means the imagery should be of the highest possible quality. A poor image inevitably gives the impression that what is being marketed is also, in some way or other, sub-standard. Put simply, a website is a virtual shop front, so think about what makes passers-by in a shopping mall stop and look at one display window rather than another.

Consistency throughout the site is key if a coherent and recognizable brand image is to be achieved. Therefore, the style of pictures, infographics, font, logos and layout should be of prime concern. There is nothing more likely to cause a visitor to an ecommerce site to search elsewhere than mismatched imagery, jumbled page layouts and ineffective navigation buttons and menus.

Photos depicting products and services should be simple and minimalist, yet striking and attention grabbing. Remember, the purpose of the imagery is to sell the product not the photography. Again, wherever possible, be sure to maintain consistency of style and design across all the imagery of the products displayed. Try to avoid designing page after page of photos laid out in a boring grid style, instead, vary their dimensions and orientation and opt for an irregular layout with blank areas between some images, all of which will help keep the viewer interested.

When a visitor rolls the cursor over the item title, which should also be a link to the ordering page, have the text change color. This may seem like a small point, but it all adds to grabbing the visitor’s attention. Everything possible should be done to keep potential customers engaged, so navigation between pages, has to be optimized and designed to move them from the landing page, through the various target zones and ultimately to the order placement, shopping cart and checkout pages.

More and more ecommerce sites are featuring dynamic content, but as with any new ‘gizmo’ it can be overdone. One of the simplest yet most effective features of this tool enables the visitor to zoom in on a specific area of an image by rolling the cursor over it. The viewer is thus able to look at a highly enlarged section of the product, for example, to have a clearer view of the pattern on a rug or carpet; a small detail on a piece of art or the dials and controls on the dashboard of a motor vehicle. An important point to bear in mind is that IE6 is still widely used and there are a huge number of consumers whose devices do not support JavaScript, CSS3 or HTML5.

Depending on the product or service being marketed it might be worth considering incorporating infographics into the site’s content. Rather than presenting visitors with a page of statistics or instructions, which can be mind numbing at the best of times, why not introduce an attractive and colorful graphics presentation? It’s a great way of getting a message across in an informative and engaging manner. There are numerous products available to make designing, compiling and publishing professional looking infographics quickly and economically.

Before embarking on the development of a new or existing ecommerce platform it is well worth spending some time visiting the sites of competitors and making a note of any stand-out features. In addition, look at the clever marketing techniques used by small companies and multi-national corporations in other sectors; there may be layouts and styles of imagery that can be adapted to suit entirely different areas of commerce. Cutting edge, innovative design can be employed across the board, to promote virtually any business. Take as an example, Carol Wright Gifts, which specializes in selling a whole range of innovative and useful products. The site layout is simple, yet informative; all the information a consumer needs is clearly displayed along with prices and customer ratings. Clicking on the item title takes viewers to a page devoted to the selected item, a video clip and a link to the shopping cart page.

A recent ecommerce development is the promotion of interaction and feedback between business and customer. A great and cost effective way of encouraging this is to incorporate a section whereby customers are able to upload images or video clips of them using the company’s products to your website, Facebook page, Twitter account or other social networking site. There is no better marketing tool than personal recommendation; what’s more it costs virtually nothing.

One final point to think about. It is no longer enough to rely solely on a website to market a company’s products or services. Today, more people order and make purchases via their mobile devices – smartphones and tablets, than on laptops. An app is therefore essential. In addition, in order to maximize potential sales, it is vital to have a presence on social networking sites and to keep the content relevant. Images and text must be updated on a regular basis or returning consumers will become bored and make their purchase elsewhere.

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