In fashion, the image has always been everything: Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss raised eyebrows from Calvin Klein billboards long before Facebook was born. Abercrombie & Fitch’s early aughts’ catalogs were passed around by shoppers who gaped not so much at the clothing as at its conspicuous absence.
Now, digital platforms have transformed imagery into commodity and retailers are putting a premium on crafting visual content strategy that stands out. At Splashlight’s event last week, a panel of fashion technology executives moderated by Glossy editor-in-chief Jill Manoff discussed just how retailers can capture shoppers’ attention in this new digital age.
Here are the top 5 takeaways from Splashlight’s “The Power of Visual Content,” held at their New York offices.
If you don’t have enough imagery, Millennials will look elsewhere
A recent study conducted by Google and Splashlight demonstrates that both quality and quantity of ecommerce product photography are the most crucial influencers in driving purchase decision. In fact, 47 percent of U.S. online consumers rate high-quality product images as the most influential factor when considering a product purchase from a specific brand.
If retailers don’t provide enough visuals, shoppers will leave their site. Millennials are twice as likely to walk away than Boomers. How many options do retailers need? About half want to see at least 3 to 5 product shots, while 27 percent want to see six or more.
Social commerce won’t happen anytime soonWhile it has industry buzz, social commerce just isn’t panning out for retailers, said Gilles Rousseau, svp of sales and marketing for Splashlight. Rousseau also quoted an L2 report, which concluded that “about 64 percent of luxury brands using social commerce reported no significant rise in sales. Furthermore, the engagement rate for luxury brands is 0.17 percent on Facebook, on Instagram it is 0.83 percent, on Twitter it is 0.10 percent,” said Rousseau. “It’s little result for a lot of effort.”
That point is supported by independent Digiday Media Research: 90 percent of retail brands say social commerce accounts for 20 percent or less of their current revenue. “Authenticity is important—but an Instagram caption is not a KPI or an ROI,” one exec told Digiday.
GenZ is about to send mobile shopping into overdrive
“GenZ is the new shopper and they don’t know what a desktop is,” said Efrat Navid, chief marketing and strategy officer at Content Square. “They go to school with a mobile, they walk with a mobile.”
Indeed, the oldest members of Generation Z are out of high school and armed with credit cards, the youngest are tweens with significant influence on household buying decisions. These nascent consumers take in 62 percent more content on average than older shoppers, but “you have less than 5 seconds to catch their attention,” Navid said.
Amazon is crushing it, and possibly your luxury brand
Luxury brands have largely resisted the multi-platform pull, instead preferring build a strong brand experience their own sites. “Are [platforms] going to be able to convey the DNA of the brand, the attributes, the customer treatment?” asked Rousseau. The Amazon experience prizes convenience, not the emotional connection that buoys luxury brands.
But Joy Tang, CEO of Markable, simply sees the future. “Everybody is shopping on Alibaba,” Tang said. “Nobody is going to go to Nike.com to buy things.” In China, most shoppers try to replicate luxury looks on the cheap, so Alibaba is the go to, she said. Meanwhile, the super-rich still seek the cache of a high-priced item.
“Brands need to create differentiating and aspirational visual content to beat Amazon,” Rousseau said. “We must ask, ‘How am I going to deliver content in a way to Amazon cannot?”
The AI is ready, but retailers aren’t
“It’s not a platform, it’s a digital AI machine,” Navid said of Amazon. “This is why they are winning. It’s not a price war. This is an experience war. This is knowing your customer and knowing your experience.”
Platform giants aside, most brands are drowning in data, making personalization a challenge, Navid said. “A few years ago, there was no data. They sent an email and hoped it would work. Now there is so much data, If I gave a marketer another chart they would throw me out of the room.”
Artificial Intelligence gives retailers a way to digest that data, make predictions personalize content, Navid said. On the consumer side, AI-powered visual search can scan and locate thousands of images to find a shopper’s desired product. “I don’t have a brain that stores 20 million fashion products,” said Tang.