On Line Image in 2013

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Whilst taking a well earned break from the photography today I read an article on the Interactive Media in Retail Group’s website, and if you’re like the vast majority of our clients and run your own e-commerce site or work for a business that sells on line, then hopefully 2013 is set to be a big year for you!

Their forecasts predict that in Britain we’ll spend £87 billion on line shopping this year, a 12% growth on last year, and within that there will be a 300% growth in purchases via mobile devices. Good to know, I think, that amid the daily barrage of depressing news on the economy there IS signs of growth out there, especially for those businesses that are forward thinking and have a strong on line image and presence. Amongst said ‘depressing news’ recently has been that high street record store HMV has gone in to administration, followed soon after by DVD rental chain Blockbuster. As someone who whiled away many hours of my youth in both stores, I do feel sad, not least for the staff who’ve lost their jobs, but from a business point of view I find it hard to feel much sympathy for either company. The age of e-commerce is old news already, and both HMV and Blockbuster have effectively been ‘put to bed’ by newer, more dynamic on line businesses that moved quicker than them, and more importantly, whose presence in the growing world of cyber shopping was stronger and became the first port of call. The facts are that HMV had decades in the industry, a household name, and a national distribution network in place years before Amazon and the like appeared on the scene, and Blockbuster has been a worldwide brand whose name was instantly associated with movies for decades before anyone had heard of Love File or Netflix. Both were in pole position to take the on line shopping revolution by storm and, in my opinion, can only blame their demise on themselves.

The first lesson in improving your businesses on line image it seems is letting people know you’re there. Once you’ve done that, make them want to choose you. HMV and Blockbuster DID both operate on line, although evidently not everyone was aware of it. They were operating on line in competitive markets where their potential customers make split second decisions, and where on line sellers are increasingly agreeing that instincts, and even subtle emotions, are a deciding factor in getting that all important click on to your site. Most customers who bought a DVD on line last year probably typed ‘amazon.com’ straight into their browser without giving it much thought, and customers renting movies on line bypassed Blockbuster’s website altogether and went straight to the brands with the superior online image, such as Love Film.

So, you need to create an intuitive relationship with potential customers. But whilst you need to adapt to changing customer habits and create awareness of your on line brand, what happens in that short amount of time when you finally have the attention of the customer on your site? Your on line image really comes in to play. If a customer browses on to your site they need to trust instantly and instinctively in the quality of your brand once they’ve found you, ideally you want to become their ‘go to site’. It’s about the whole look, feel and vitality of your site. Naturally as we’re a product photography studio you won’t be surprised if we suggest high quality commercial product photography (and increasingly 360 product photography) as a big part of creating instinctive trust in the quality of your product, but we would be right to do so, photography has incredibly emotive powers, even in a commercial sense, and viewers connect much more strongly to images than words (see previous blog ‘the importance of quality product photography). Further from the product photography, smart web design, expressive copy, active social media, and other subtle triggers are effective ways ‘onsite’ to create an emotional link to your customers once you’ve got their attention. Don’t under estimate the importance of your businesses on line image.