Over recent years, online businesses have invested in e-commerce practices that force on accessibility and functionality. While these are crucial elements to a website’s success, they often disregard the emotional and intuitive experience that brands factor into their physical locations. In store, all sense of the customers can be triggered through highly designed visual, audio and olfactory elements that touch on the customers at an emotional level – your online store must attempt to do the same, At the end of the day, your website is a supermarket or a warehouse, it’s reflection of the brand’s identify.

This is why digital visual merchandising is paramount to your brand’s success. If done well, the aesthetic of your website can foster crucial emotional connections between customer and brand, instead of simply facilitating transactions. Online shoppers may not be able to touch your products, but this does not mean that they cannot form an emotional attachment. There are strategies that your company can employ in order to encourage an individual’s interactivity, allowing them to get a feel for your brand, not just a feel for your website.

The well structured homepage
Waiting for a webpage to load may not feel the same as wandering through a luxury boutique, but if done the right way, it can be just as memorable. Your homepage is your first impression, your chance to grab the attention of your online customer, and leave them wanting more. Strong headings, clean backgrounds and quality photography are key in showing your customer what you do, and how you do it. An online shopper needs to know that you have got the goods—your homepage needs to let them know you do, as overtly as possible.

Sales campaigns
Many successful online stores, feature frequent sales campaigns in order to continually reward their online customer. No matter how small, online promotions have the potential to show your customer a little of who you are, and most importantly what it is you value. If you offer free shipping, you understand your customer values a fuss free shopping experience; if you regularly deliver free samples, you’re interested in knowing what your customer thinks about your product. Clever online promotion—such as two for one sales or VIP discounts—allow a brand to earn an online shopper’s loyalty, a feat which is harder to achieve in the absence of human interaction.

Keep your customer informed
A customer can see a picture online, but they can’t always read ingredients, or zoom in on care labels. Make sure that the information you provide about your products (generally alongside them en route to checkout) is detailed, in depth, and accurate. Customers require dimensions, textures, sizes and care instructions to help them make a decision on whether or not to buy. In store your customer can call on the shop assistant for further information— but this is a little trickier online. While online chat options with brand representatives are becoming more and more common, they may not be able to provide the level of detail a salesperson can provide you in store. At the end of the day, your online shopper will thank you for giving them the correct information in the correct context - product information as they’re browsing the online store, and shipping information as they decide to make a purchase. Answering questions before they are posed shows you care about their online experience, just as much as you do when they’re in store.

A picture tells your customer a thousand words they need to know
Your online imagery can make or break the success of your digital visual merchandising strategy. Not only do your photographs need to be of optimum quality, they also need to make your products more desirable. It might seem obvious, but you will need to employ the skills of a professional photographer. They can provide your company with unique, original and high resolution images of your products to be uploaded to your website for potential customers to view (and zoom in on) at their leisure. Remember, your online shopper can find your product, but they can’t feel it. Images need to highlight each and every one of the products features, from top to bottom, front to back.

Better yet, don’t just give them a visual, give them a visualisation. When posting images to your online store, consider featuring models either using or wearing your product. If you’re in the business of fashion, your collections should be featured being worn by male or female models, styled in appropriate outfits, in a setting that evokes a certain feel. If your product is one which can’t be worn, models are still of use. Have them holding your gadget, or using it on screen—this will show the relative product of your product, a very useful trick for all types of items from earrings to electric drills. Featuring your products in this fashion gives your potential buyer a stronger connection to the item, a connection which is harder to make when the product is sitting idle and flat on a screen. For this reason, the inclusion of video footage may also be something to consider, perhaps to show the swing of a skirt, or the drape of a jacket. Regardless of whether they are parading or posing; models are relatable, they promote a lifestyle, not just a product.

Give your online shopper the customer service they deserve
We are living in a material world, and in one way or another, we are all material girls. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make us more decisive, or more aware of what we want. As quickly as we love something, we may decide we hate it. As quickly as we unwrap something, we may also break it. What’s going to happen then? Your terms and conditions are just as important as any other brand copy on your website, such as slogans and product descriptions. Publishing this information in a clear and succinct manner is crucial. Without a shop assistant to quiz at point of sale, the online shopper needs access to a detailed returns policy as well as the particulars of shipping charges. As vocal inflection is absent online, polite and practical web communication relies heavily on carefully considered copy, ideally written by a professional copywriter.

Do judge a site by its cover
You might not be able to paint your website, adorn it with ornaments, or dress its front windows, but it should always look its best. Accessibility and functionality may save your customer from needless hassle as they browse, but digital visual merchandising is paramount to your brand’s online success. Without the ability to touch your product, the online shopper must be offered alternate ways to get a feel for what they’re buying, and in doing so, form a connection to it. Consumers are incredibly visual creatures; it’s important that your website stimulates these ocular senses. Begin with a well structured and welcoming home page, add some high resolution quality visualisations, and top it off with high quality customer service. Still not sure how? Lucky for you, Boutique business consulting have their finger on the pulse. From trends in e-commerce to current opinion on buyer behaviour, we’re up to speed on all the latest research, and we’re ready to help, so get your cover right. Boutique Business Consulting knows e-commerce. Contact us.