What the heck is visual commerce?

Robin Emiliani  /  Sep 08, 2020

Every year, marketing gets more complex.

The core practices—understanding your audience, your business goals, and how to create content that resonates with people—are never going away. But the tools, strategies, and channels are an ever-changing mass.

In fact, in 2020, there were a whopping 8,000 MarTech tools on the market. And each seems to come with a new set of terminology. (So, we can all go ahead and forgive ourselves if it seems like every day a new term forces us into a frantic Google search.)

The latest one to dance across many a Google search history?

Visual commerce.

So, what the heck is it? Do we need it? And how can we use it?

Here are the basics.

What is visual commerce?

The short answer is that visual commerce is digital marketing that allows users to visualize products.

This includes product visualization (such as virtual apartment tours), visual customization (such as the ability to change exterior and interior colors when visualizing a car online), and/or augmented reality—such as the ability to visualize a shirt on your own body.

The more shopping moves online, the more important visual commerce becomes. If you can’t compare car models on a lot, the next best thing is playing with features and colors online. If you can’t try on that dress in person (either because the store isn’t available in your town or because, you know, pandemic), seeing it on your body type and twirling the mouse for a 360-view is a legit lifesaver.

Is it important?

So, visualizing that cute sweater on my body before I buy it sounds pretty nifty, but how important is visual commerce for marketers, really?

Well, the data on visual commerce isn’t totally in yet. But we do know that people remember visuals. In one study, participants were shown over 2,500 images for 10 seconds each. Three days later, they remembered 90% of them!

That’s right: 90%.

That is some pretty intense retention.

Even more remarkable, when the study was replicated to show images for just one second, the results held pretty steady.

We also know that 75% of US users regularly (or always search) for visual content before buying, and only 3% never look for visuals.

Finally, we also know that video—one of the most visual tactics in wide use—has the best ROI of any marketing tactic.

In summary, all signs point to visual commerce being a big win for brands, especially in a world where more people are shopping online than ever before.

Where do we start?

As with anything, we recommend starting with strategy.

Who are your users? What do they need? What are your business goals? How might more and deeper visual experiences help you reach them (or indeed, exceed them)? What does your sales funnel look like? Where would more visuals enhance the experience?

From there, the next step is making a plan, defining your budget, choosing a visual commerce platform (where applicable), and/or involving your agency to help you hit the ground running.

And if you need some help? Well, that’s where we come in.


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