Content Marketing Blog

Ultimate conversion guide 3 of 10: Aesthetics: How imagery drives conversion

Australian online retail spending is now valued at $15.6 billion for the year ending July 2014. Growth in online retail sales outpaced growth in traditional retail sales (0.9% versus 0.1%). The proportion of Australians online now stands at 81%, putting us behind only a few countries – the UK, Canada, Germany, France, the UAE and South Korea.

But the actual amount of time spent online is among the lowest internationally, with Australian internet users spending an average of 4.5 hours per day on their laptop or desktop compared to 5.2 hours in the US and 6.1 hours in Brazil. Although many factors are at play here (historically – broadband speed and connectivity, comparative economic isolation, and distance from more mature American and European digital markets) Australia has unquestionably lagged in digital adoption overall, both retailer-side and consumer side.

Many traditional brick and mortar retailers have been slow to invest in their digital assets (Harvey Norman, Woolworths, David Jones, Myer) which only perpetuates the desire for consumers to either continue beating the streets, or shop with the early digital adopters (ASOS, The Iconic, and Net-A-Porter, to name a few).

One of the biggest barriers to consumer adoption in the growing digital segment is a lousy online experience for the user. Poorly designed websites, blatantly lacking navigation options, crappy little images, dead ends, broken links and ambiguous information all add up to woeful user experience (UX) and a highly frustrated audience who will likely never return. The customer journey and experience online should be as seamless, inspiring and enjoyable as the retailer would aim an in-store visit to be, with as much thought and investment going into the visual merchandising of products.

In a less mature digital market such as Australia, there is less inherent trust from new online shoppers, so retailers need to work even harder to win trust, and feed new habits of browsing or shopping online. The imagery of online product should be of such high quality, be so crisp, clear and interactive – that customers feel they can practically touch the product, closing the all-important gap from the tactile experience of brick and mortar.


Image Quality

Zappos does this remarkably well. When you’re shopping on this site, you literally feel as if you have the shoe or the bag right in your hand, and that you can practically feel the fabric. Take these leather and suede converse sneakers. Not only can you look at them up close from every conceivable angle, but the zoom function is quite amazing:


Zappos splash banner


I now know pretty much exactly what they look and feel like. No need to go in store.

With handbags, there’s no need to guess how big they are or try to estimate dimensions. Zappos gives you the picture of the model wearing the bag so you can always see exact proportions:


Rebecca Minkoff bag


One observation which always strikes me, is how pivotal imagery is for the success of group-buying sites. A heavily discounted selling price attracts the audience, but a big part of the appeal of these sites is their expansive, colourful and professionally-shot images, giving a gloss and luxury factor to otherwise struggling restaurants, hairdressers and the like – who lack the means to invest in powerhouse digital identities.

As well as offering short-cycle deals from some of the worlds biggest fashion brands, Ozsale gives otherwise unknown brands a fresh profile through modern, high quality imagery:


Ozsale splash


Here is a hairdressing deal from Groupon:


Groupon offer

And the actual website of the hairdresser in question, with a flat, essentially not optimised site with old imagery

Dabarko Splash

Another example of rich imagery on Groupon:

Groupon Eye Splash


And the closest thing to the actual site (the site itself was down completely at the time of writing):


Blunt Salons


As well as quality of images, there should be several images of the product (at every angle if applicable) and the ability to zoom right in so you can see the intricate detail of the product.



The only thing better than beautiful clear images is video – which closes the gap even further in terms of a tactile, multi-sensory interaction with a physical product.

ASOS was one of the pioneers of this tactic, creating short catwalk-style videos of models wearing its garments – facilitating a much richer experience for the user.


Asos Model


The digital heroes at Zappos master this medium also, with many products displaying a short video walking you through all the features of the product.

As well as being a tremendously effective conversion tool for e-commerce businesses, B2B brands can also leverage video to create a much deeper connection with their audience. In particular, businesses with a long sales cycle will see prospects investing a fair amount of due diligence in brand research – video can be a multi-layered communication tool that creates a real emotional impact with viewers.

ExactTarget has a whole series of videos about its business and the services it offers, which give a fast, easily digestible and relatable introduction to the brand.


Interactive Media

Taking another stride into multi-sensory experience, interactive media makes getting to know the products a genuinely collaborative process.

Dune gives a great example of 360 degree images you can control yourself.


Dune Shoe


In the ongoing fight to rejuvenate its brand image, Reebok released its Fall/Winter 2014 collection with some amazing interactive film shorts and visuals shot by the acclaimed sports and fashion photographer Carlos Serrao. Try these out on an iPad and control their movement with the a tap of your finger. Pretty cool.


Reebok Running Collection


Sass and Bide launched their AW14 collection with their NOVATEUR 360 campaign letting users explore the range through mouse pad control.


Responsive Design

Australian mobile internet users are now spending an average of 1.4 hours browsing online per day, with 78% of smartphone users researching products on their phone. In terms of hard shopping, 41% of total smartphone users in Australia have now made a purchase via their phone. That audience can only tolerate so many painfully unoptimised sites for mobile and tablet before abandoning the woeful brand.

Responsive design is about optimising the viewer experience across all devices (mobile, tablet and desktop) to facilitate easy reading and navigation with minimal re-sizing and scrolling. This was largely adopted in two stages. “Mobile first” champions initially optimised their entry, product and category pages for smaller screens, but not their checkout process due to clunky, bolt-on e-commerce systems which didn’t integrate seamlessly, leaving users abandoning their carts out of pure frustration. The most successful pioneers took all elements of mobile optimised commerce into consideration, and ensured every touch point for the user was adjusted for the optimal experience.

Coming up next… navigation, and how to facilitate a successful customer journey.

As always, feel free to give us your ideas, comments and suggestions below – we’d love to hear about your hurdles and successes.

By Esther Tankhilevich