First up, full disclosure: I’m a HUGE fan of the Gear Patrol website, and have no association with them whatsoever other than total fandom. And how exactly did that come about, especially when they’re just a gear review site that curates product information (albeit expansively) and presents it to a particular demographic? The answer lies in their intuitive user interface, that’s layered over, with an unparalleled experience that ticks so many boxes for me as a consumer of their posts; the foremost among those being great product visualization. The rest, such as great content, authenticity of reviews, and the genuine relatability to the audience that’s evident from their writing are critical too, but those aspects complement what I need to see before I am convinced about anything they write.
With the advent of Pervasive Commerce, consumers have several ways to not only find and shop for products, but they’re also more aware of which products might add value to their everyday lives. This information is curated over time in many ways – imagine a consumer viewing a post about the utility value of a certain product on a social platform, and the idea of owning that product is sown into their minds. Given that this is from a friend, acquaintance, or a family member in their online social circle, the “anchoring” can be pretty deep. An in-store experience is almost irreplaceable. “Almost.” Appropriate product visualization can get the consumers closer to the last mile – which is important, as it is one of the more sought-after ways that shoppers look for and obtain pertinent product info.
Avenues like social media prime consumers for purchase. However, are retailers taking enough advantage of this just yet? The answer is elusive – mainly because we’ve seen that ecommerce players are trying to balance a lot of priorities, and product presentation and visualization is one of those – amongst product availability, pricing, delivery and platform upkeep. There are, of course, the Amazons of the world that specialize in this; but how can the rest of the crowd keep pace?
One of the ways, especially considering the user experience point of view, is to replicate the visual aspect of viewing a product and anchoring its credibility in a consumer’s mind. Essentially, how can consumers get the same depth of product information online as they would from a salesperson working their magic to make the sale in a physical store? The “tactile” experience of “holding” and “feeling” a product is absent in ecommerce, and while consumers would acknowledge that, they would also have high standards for checking out products via other means that are available, like for instance, virtual reality.
This is where online platforms have enabled sellers to make a giant leap with features such as product visualization. When viewed from the lens of overall consumer experience, product visualization is about ensuring consumers obtain a 360 degree view of the product (not just visually), but also in detailing out specs and features. For example, astute buyers always look to product description data and specification text to ensure their visualization of a product matches with the listing. It’s not just about the major online retailers optimizing opportunities, but also coupon and deal aggregators also need to replicate the same experience across their platforms.
In summary, product visualization is critical to ensuring consumers have a great experience browsing on the app or the mobile/desktop site, or sifting through catalogs. In doing so, retailers are not just adding to their own capabilities, but also creating a fairly consistent user base that will drive traffic to the app/site over time. While price (think discounts), availability (is my preferred item in/out of stock?) and choices (variants including size and color) are table stakes, great user experience and deep information about the product will ensure longevity of the user base and will likely convert more of the “explorer” crowd to raving fans: that’d be a job well begun!