They say a ‘picture says a thousand words’ and in many ways, this is true. One image can depict exactly what we need to know without anything having to be explained. People connect with images instantly and emotionally – chosen correctly, they put faces to causes in ways that words cannot. It is, therefore, no surprise that analysts are predicting Instagram will account for a third of all social media users by 2021. As a society, we have become increasingly captivated by the allure of moments captured on camera, so brands are now following this model when it comes to marketing messaging. A visual narrative is becoming just as important as a written one.
According to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the human brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds. It has also been suggested that visuals increase user engagement – in some reports, by as much as 94%. Our own research into the power of images in marketing collateral revealed that 61% of British consumers expect marketing messages to include photos or images. It went on to find that a staggering 62% would not buy from a brand if they could not see a product in its entirety. From these collective studies, it would appear the use of images in marketing collateral is almost imperative to any campaign. Not only to increase the likelihood of customers making a purchase, but also to encourage their initial engagement.
Ensuring that initial engagement is also becoming harder and harder, with brands all vying for consumer attention. In an information age, people’s attention spans have become more limited as the data available is almost endless. As a result, consumers have started to pick and choose what they want, skim reading to get exactly what they are after. When there’s a long-winded post with nothing but text, it can turn many visitors off because they simply do not have time to read the entire article. In this case, images can break up written content. Well-placed, they can take persuasive words that one step further and allow readers to stop and think about points and concepts that are being brought up. For brands that are trying to introduce new products and explain finer details, this is perfect as it offers a more engaging and broken up way to digest information.
Incorporating images has, therefore, become a natural way to grab attention. It’s the perfect motivating force to encourage visitors to stick around and explore content in greater detail. Not only did our research suggest that well-chosen images improved a brand's popularity, but it also indicated that strong imagery fuelled brand advocacy. Almost a quarter (23%) of UK consumers want to share images of items from retailers they like online with friends. User-generated content (UGC) can be extremely powerful as it allows for unmatched authenticity. According to research from Olapic, 66% of UK consumers seek out UGC when deciding which products to buy. Consumers become businesses best advocates, sharing images of themselves enjoying products and inadvertently persuading others to go out and purchase choice items. Effectively doing the marketing team's job for them.
A great image alone will not suffice in resonating with a potential or existing customer; the retail sector has many nuances that affect customer decision making – such as a personalized, good service. Customers can be fickle people. Our research found that 69% of British shoppers said it looks bad if an irrelevant image is used by a brand and nearly two in five (18%) say there are certain colors they like to see brands use in images over others. A standard, ill-thought-out image is therefore not good enough. Nevertheless, choosing the right image, for the right product, that reflects the brand's ethos and the story will go a long way in promoting your brand's relevance to your target audience.
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