The images and videos that populate the pages of an e-commerce site do more than make it look good. These visuals play a defining role in building trust with shoppers, driving product purchases, and reducing the rate of product returns.
Findings from a global e-commerce consumer survey commissioned by Cloudinary back this up. The survey of 2,693 consumers in Australia, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. found that only half of shoppers have bought products online from brands they didn’t know – but 47% of those who did credit their decision to user reviews that had images included. Similarly, 37% of consumers consider viewing user-generated videos showing the product in use as a top priority before making a purchase, while more than a quarter stated that branded videos were a must-have for them.
This doesn’t just matter for influencing purchase decisions. A third (30%) of respondents reported that they returned products they bought because they didn’t look as expected on the website, and 46% of respondents reported abandoning carts of clothing/shoes because they were unsure if the items would fit.
Below, we’ll dig into these findings and other key insights from the study. We’ll review what the data reveals about today’s shopper preferences and share recommendations for how brands can respond by effectively and efficiently leveraging images, videos, and next-gen image and video formats to create dynamic, informative experiences consumers demand.
Perhaps the most impactful finding relates to the impact of branded and user-generated images and videos on the rate of online returns. Consider that a Pitney Bowes Boxpoll found that the average return in the U.S. costs a retailer 21% of the order value and it’s easy to see why reducing returns promises an instant boost to profitability.
- 30% of survey respondents said they returned products because the products didn’t match what they saw on the seller’s website.
Better quality and more accurate product images reduce the likelihood of returned merchandise. At minimum, retailers must provide product galleries with a variety of high-quality images. Even then, to get a proper sense of the product, consumers want more. Brands must strongly consider the advantages of adding branded product videos to the gallery, and integrating technologies like 3D, 360 spin sets, and immersive experiences.
Plus, as we’ll see in the next section, support for user-generated images and videos plays a major role in providing the authentic touch that limits both returns and abandoned carts – a truly powerful one-two punch of profitability.
The data also reveals that high-quality images and videos present an opportunity to limit the number of sales left unconverted in shopper carts.
Yes, high-quality images and videos are proven to fill online shopping carts. Unfortunately, a full cart doesn’t always equate sales, and even when following best practices, there’s only so much space available for images in a product gallery. This paves a way for the importance of user-generated content (UGC). People trust other people, and the survey finds a big opportunity in UGC to improve cart abandonment.
- Respondents said they depend on reviews and are more likely to buy if they have access to helpful media such as 360-degree spinsets (57%), 3D models (53%), and user-generated videos (50%).
Brands can greatly improve performance through an effective UGC strategy that enables users to see products in action in the real world, while maintaining brand integrity. Cloudinary can help brands incorporate UGC video and branded video content without sacrificing performance.
The global survey also addressed the differences between age groups and how they shop online.
- Nearly 75% of Generation Z and Millennials shop online using smartphones. Older generations shop with smartphones less often, but it’s still a majority, as nearly 67% of Baby Boomers do so.
- 26% of Gen Z shoppers will purchase from a brand’s app, the most of any age group.
A key takeaway here for retailers targeting any age demographic is that they must approach digital commerce as a mobile-first initiative. Given the complexities of optimizing each branded and user generated image or video for mobile, it can be extremely valuable to leverage automations such as content-aware cropping or selecting the right file format and quality for a given user’s viewing context.
As we’ve seen, there’s a tremendous opportunity for e-commerce brands to leverage images and videos to build trust, drive sales, and reduce returns. In other words, to make more money and boost margins.
The data offers several actionable insights for brands looking to improve digital customer engagement and experiences:
- Adopt a mobile-first approach that automatically offers shoppers the same engaging experience they see online.
- Employ UGC to allow shoppers to see products in the real world while maintaining brand integrity.
- Incorporate branded video and support UGC video without sacrificing performance.
- Adopt next-gen technologies such as 3D, 360 spin sets, and augmented reality to bring products to life.
- Leverage automation and AI to adapt to market shifts, shorten time to market, and eliminate costly, manual, and repetitive tasks for intelligently optimized and high-fidelity imagery and video.
For more on how Cloudinary can enhance your online shopping experience, contact us for a free demo.