Why Images are the Most Powerful Tools in Online Retail

Images are goldmines of information – hence the key phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words. But are we using images to their full potential?

How The Brain Processes Images

Images are easier for humans to understand than text.

Time and again, research has shown that the human brain is more adept at processing images than text. It’s a much more intuitive process. In fact, we process images 60,000x faster than we do words, and a team of neuroscientists at MIT have recently found that the brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds. Most of the information that the brain consumes is visual – a whopping 90%, proving that our society relies on images to communicate. Visual information evokes more than words and takes a lot less effort to understand in a short amount of time. We at Fashwell believe in the power of images, so we’ve put together a little overview of why images are so powerful and how brands and retailers can use that to their advantage

Our Primary Way to Communicate is Through Images

Now more than ever, we live and breathe images: The average American adult spends upwards of 3 hours each day on a mobile device, primarily on social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, where images and videos are the primary media. Here and in text messages and emails, we often use emojis, memes and gifs to replace or supplement our words. Messages that include pictures receive 650% higher engagement than text-only ones, and an estimated 84% of communication is expected to be visual by this year.

Images, images everywhere! via Messenger.

We already see it in messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat. 1.6 billion images and 250 million videos are shared via WhatsApp every day. Messenger sees 17 million photos shared per month – and 254 GIFs are sent per second!

Images are able to transmit a ton of information faster and more easily than text. So why use anything else to communicate?

How We Discover Products in 2018

Most product discovery nowadays occurs through social media images. Via foggoffashion

Now let’s add something else to the equation: fashion. More specifically, shopping for fashion online. Every single day, shoppers are exposed to heaps of visual content, and this is how they discover products. Most product discovery is intentional: 31% of shoppers visit social media when browsing for products, and 75% of social media users visit a shopping site after seeing a product on the platform. For Pinterest the numbers are extraordinarily high, with 87% Pinners having bought an item after discovering it on the site.

Of course age also plays a role: Millennials are 3 times more likely to discover products on Instagram than the rest of the population. And 50% of consumers say that user generated content – images of regular users and bloggers using certain products – are a huge factor when considering a purchase from a particular brand.

Although images obviously inspire customers to shop, there’s still a gap between seeing a product and actually finding a shoppable version online. Currently we rely on word-based search to help us find the products that we see. But for a visual medium like fashion, this leads to some difficulties. What if a customer is looking for a very specific item, but doesn’t know how to describe it? Or what if they know the exact item, but would rather have something that’s similar to it?

Based on the information above, it would make a lot more sense to use pictures to communicate when shopping online. Failed searches are one of the main causes of conversion loss and shopper drop-offs – 50% of shoppers leave a site if they can’t find what they’re looking for. But when they easily find what they want, they’re way more likely to make a purchase. Fashion brands and retailers must make product discovery and product purchases as simple and innate as possible.

Image Recognition Tools for Fashion eCommerce

This is the inspiration behind Fashwell. Not only do we understand how difficult it is to describe fashion with words, we also believe in the power of images to communicate what cannot be said. We leverage the information contained within pictures to help fashion brands and retailers power innovative search and product discovery tools. Our technology can extract data from any kind of fashion image – whether catalog, lookbook, street style, blogger or social media images. We take that information to power the following eCommerce solutions:

  1. Visual Search: Easy mobile search tool where users can upload an image and shop similar products to the ones in the image.
  2. Similar Product Recommendations: Identifying similar products in a product catalog and embedding those on a product detail page.
  3. Outfit Recommendations: Identifying other products on a model image and embedding those on a product detail page.