Given our dependence and ability to quickly absorb and process imagery, it is not surprising that visual content has penetrated almost every aspect of a consumer’s decision making. From the time you first learn about a product through an advertisement to when you decide to purchase it, visuals play a key role. 91% of consumers now prefer interactive and visual content over traditional, static media.
The advent of high quality mobile photography coupled with remarkable progress of artificial intelligence (AI) in enhancing and manipulation of imagery, has enabled large scale creation and rapid customization of visual content that can enable brand owners to better connect with customers and showcase their products in a more personalized and targeted manner.
Why should companies leverage AI to easily produce high-quality images, and how to do it in the most effective ways?
The transition from physical to the digital
In the world of physical retail, the importance of visual merchandising is well understood. The world’s top retail brands spend enormous resources to ensure their storefronts attract customers and the layout and display of products encourage them to linger and open their wallets to make a purchase. That’s why merchandisers aim to tailor unique experiences that not only convert the customer once but also leave an impression that makes them want to come back for more. Every form of our senses is touched to ensure the brand experience remains memorable.
However, in e-commerce, it’s a different story. The user interactions are far more restricted, highlighting the importance of high-quality visual content even further. Imagery is the main transfer mechanism that brands have to communicate their values to potential buyers. There is very little in the form of store design and interiors and there are no store personnel to offer assistance or communicate brand values through their interactions. Typically, there are only images and text. In fact, research by the Nielson Norman group shows that less than 16% of online users read web pages, stressing just how important the visual elements actually are.
AI as the force behind personalization
The physical limitations of online communication make it imperative for brands to ensure personalization to drive sales. Creating custom content for specific target audiences and markets is one way of creating a memorable customer experience. In the traditional image production process, this would have been a prohibitively expensive process justified only for uber-luxury items. Each image variant would have to be custom styled, produced, and edited.
Fortunately, mobile-led and AI-enabled image processing can facilitate the process. The production of customized visual content can be achieved at much lower costs than traditional methods. AI can be used to customize settings, backdrops, and even models to ensure the imagery better relates to the target customer. In a world fast moving online, this represents an opportunity for small and large brands to better engage with their audiences.
This technology led image creation process also levels the playing field between small and large brands. The freedom from expensive equipment and hardware ensures that there is no longer a capital investment hurdle in creating high-quality imagery. It also allows brands to reduce the run size for each of their products. The cataloging is even cost-effective for single-piece items.
Imagine generating large numbers of variants of lifestyle imagery of a model holding a handbag in not just multiple settings and backgrounds, but by also using multiple models through AI-powered post-production solutions. This kind of geographical customization can be done with no upfront investments. Such a level of variety and customization of product imagery also lends extremely well to social commerce where customers are always looking for unique personal content.
Post-COVID, image creation is an essential service
COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the process of retail shifting from brick and mortar to the online world. Brands and retailers have no choice but to adapt to this new reality or risk becoming irrelevant. As mentioned before, high-quality imagery is a basic requirement for online selling. To have a standout online presence, there are a few factors to keep in mind:
- A process that is low in upfront investment: Large scale investment is often not advisable due to the current economic scenario, and not required given the strides technology has made in alternate methods of taking images and new ways of post-producing them for outstanding quality. Settle on a solution that gives you flexibility with high-quality results without the need for expensive lighting setups and cameras.
- High quality and low-cost solution: Quality and quantity are important for online selling. Choose a solution that allows you to create large image sets for each stock-keeping unit (SKU) with options to create variations over time. High image counts establish trust and fresh looks keep the user engaged on multiple platforms – brands need to be present on their websites, marketplaces, and social media channels. Each touchpoint with the customer has its own requirements and images have to be adapted to serve those needs.
- Time is of the essence: Most importantly, pick a solution that minimizes the time it takes to create and customize imagery. Any delay in the production process means your product is not visible to the customer. It’s the equivalent of a product not visible on shelves in physical retail. As they say, if it’s not off the shelf, it will not sell.
A number of solutions now exist that allow brands to create high-quality images with mobile phones using available lighting in warehouses and workshops. AI-led intelligence in post-production allows for the creation of top-notch content and on the fly adaptations to suit multiple platforms. These require no prior expertise on the user’s side to create the images.
Fortunately, technology has enabled sellers to take control of this process, reducing dependence on external factors like photo studios and photographers which would have been necessary in the past. In today’s world, all it takes is a mobile phone and a few minutes of your time to generate images that showcase products in the best light.
Stand out, beat the competition
Brands that are quick to take advantage of the flexibility and cost advantages of these new image production processes are much more likely to emerge stronger in the online dominated post-covid time. Customer’s short attention spans coupled with the restricted channels to communicate with them, demand that brands step up and create truly outstanding quality and personalized visual content. These are the paramount tools that help in creating great customer experiences and ensuring success in this changing world.
The way forward for visual content creation will have to be a faster, cheaper route yet innovative and engaging. Brands that are able to use available tools to enhance the customer’s visual experience without having to dig deep into their pockets will stand out. And if they are able to sustain this at scale with constant technological innovation, then they are guaranteed to succeed.
Siddharth Sinha is the founder and CEO of Dresma.
Visual website stock photo by Alex from the Rock/Shutterstock