What makes you want to buy a certain brand of shirt? Do you read an article about the material? Do you ask friends which brand they think would flatter your features effectively? Do you hear about brands on a podcast?

More likely than not, you see the shirt, and then you want it.

Most consumers work this way when shopping for anything from clothing to cookware - humans are, after all, visual creatures - and people have known since prehistoric times that in order to make someone want something, the best thing to do is to show it to them. It’s the reason that stores always have large glass windows and why the more successful the ecommerce brand, the less text is on their site, and the more images.

However, consumers may not go directly to your site, no matter how beautiful it is. Maybe they aren’t directly hunting for your products because they don’t need one right now - this begs the question of how can you make them want what you sell? While it may seem overly simplistic, the answer is right in front of you: put your best visual content where they’re already looking. The success of Instagram and Pinterest prove the viability of this symbiotic relationship, as both have created ecosystems that rely on content providers (that’s you) uploading interesting and appealing content for consumers to interact with.

Getting Started with Visual Commerce

The best way to get started with visual commerce is to create beautiful image of your products. Ensure that these do not come across as a common advertisement - in most cases you can skip all text. Some guidelines to start out with:

  • The image should look like a snapshot that any user could have taken
  • Showcase beautiful experiences that are relevant to your brand - a great example of this is a picture of your product in action. If you produce a physical product, show it being used and loved. If you offer a service, show the end result - for example, a cleaning company may show a sparkling and stylish house, while a mechanic may opt for a sleek vehicle racing down the highway.
  • Show your company culture - snap some candid shots of your employees when they’re having a great time! Everyone likes to know that the brands they support treat their staff well. As an added bonus, this will greatly help with recruitment.

Overall, your main goal when shooting your images is to give the impression, as consumer scroll through their feeds, that you’re another friend posting something interesting. Avoid markers that indicate an advertisement, or risk being passed over.

To further explain the importance of these guidelines, let’s take a look at this Instagram post by Warby Parker, one of the trendiest eyewear companies:

A photo posted by Warby Parker (@warbyparker) on

The above image is one of their most “loved” Instagrams with over 3,000 likes, and it’s no wonder why. The photo is simple, clean, well lit, and showcases an upcoming product, which builds anticipation with their user base and gives subscribers a reason to note the page. The below only beat it by being of a well loved but out of stock product, and by showing the item in a situation users would see regularly - while putting their brand new glasses on:

A photo posted by Warby Parker (@warbyparker) on

The Science: Why Visual Commerce Works

The University of Arizona found that visual advertising was a whopping 43% more effective than text based advertising when viewed on a computer. That’s likely because 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual - meaning that humans can interpret an image in as little as 13 milliseconds.

As visual commerce continues to grow, it’s increasingly important that, as retailers, we stick with the trend and embrace it - the same tactic we take when designing our new products. Let us know if you’ve had success with visual marketing; what did you do that worked best? What didn’t work out as well as you thought it would?