November marks the start of busy holiday season for most retailers. In China, the renowned Singles Day (November 11th), spearheaded by Alibaba’s Tmall brings domestic shoppers out in force. This year is no exception. According to CNBC, Chinese shoppers who would have bought foreign brands while outside the country are turning to online purchases since many will not be travelling overseas this year due to the pandemic.
In the US, online sales were rising even before the pandemic. In 2019, shoppers spent more than $600 billion online, up nearly 15% from the previous year, according to the Commerce Department. This year with in-shopping experiences curtailed, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are merging into a mega weekend of online spending with predictions of Black Friday overtaking Cyber Monday. In the US, on average, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NFR) and Prosper Insights & Analytics.
NRF’s Annual 2020 Holiday Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics
When the NFR polled shoppers in the US to find their holiday preferences for early shopping they found that among the top reasons people shopped early were to avoid crowds and find promotions, nothing to do with COVID-19 at all! ECommerce sites are set up to alleviate these stress points and provide pleasant experiences for their customers online. The question is: how do you improve on this to provide a fuller experience for your customers?
One way might be to write a long post on your products but it turns out we just really like to look at pictures. According to DemandGenReport, up to 40% of website users are more likely to respond to visual info than text.
How can this be implemented though?
Shopify, the Canadian eCommerce platform offer four suggestions on how to make your offering better. One in particular is a “Good Visual Appeal”. A strong visual element is important because “Your customer can’t try, taste, feel, or wear your product before they buy, so they’ll rely heavily on your visuals to decide if that product is right for them”.
Year ends contain many iconic moments: the steaming mug of hot chocolate, the warm candles, the perfect shimmering party dress. How will you connect your customers in a meaningful way without the smell of the hot chocolate, the warm candles and the swish of the dress if we lack the “actual and physical presence”? Are you still able to provide your customers with a unique and stimulating experience?
The answer is yes, because your customers are left with their most powerful sense: sight. You can capture some of the in-store experiences your customers love because all of the images described above exist in the minds of customers and the images exert a powerful pull on positive emotions. By bringing these images to the front of your website, these positive emotions can be evoked and we all need some positive feelings in 2020!
In the paper, Using Visual Histories to Reconstruct the Mental Context of Suspended Activities by Rule, Tabard and Holland, they demonstrated that users provided a visual history consisting of small thumbnail images engage in situated sensemaking. In other words, by showing visual images, you can recreate some sense of what previously occurred with a customer. If you show recommendations to a customer, you can recreate the sense of being in a store and seeing several options of a product. Similar choices recreate the sense of discovery and excitement.
Customers in stores will often enter because they have been shown a product by a friend or seen some nice product in their everyday life. Leading websites offer their customers the ability to shop as they do in real life. Using new and powerful Visual Search tools, customers can find inspiration from just a photo of a cozy home during the holidays. Current technology understands the objects in customers’ photos and match them quickly and accurately to your product offerings. You can find the same blue sofa from the photo in seconds! Instant inspiration for customers.
Three simple steps: Point, Shoot, and Shop. You can recreate the feeling of entering a shop and seeing what you like.
Kang, Amoako, Sengupta and Dow from UCSD’s Design Lab, describe how images are categorized by humans. One of their graphics have been reproduced below. They show how images can be contextually similar and visually different as say, snow and hot chocolate or visually and contextually similar, such as swimsuits on a beach.
What you can see in the upper right-hand quadrant are the images that are contextually and visually different. These images need the work of a human to place them in the right context. For the other three quadrants, especially the upper left-hand side, machines can categorize, rank and show them faster than humans. By leaving the easy work to humans, you free your creative juices to concentrate on the important parts of your site. Visual Search algorithms can be trained to provide the right product from among the thousands that you offer and relieve you of manual tagging and recommendations. The more advanced models are now able to identify and extract multiple objects from the same photo. AI may not be able to define or create style, but by giving your internal stylists freedom by using AI, your Singles Day, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, or Christmas offering can become unique and strengthen the bond with your customers.
Get in touch with our team of experts to find out how you can implement Visual AI for any holidays that are coming up.