How retailers can use visuals for consumer communication, engagement

How retailers can use visuals for consumer communication, engagement

By Eden Estopace | 2015-05-07

Retailers have long used visuals to engage customers and create paths to purchase, but what does it really mean now to market and communicate to a mobile generation in a highly visual world? 

“Science shows the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. Furthermore, visuals increase user engagement by up to 94 percent, and have the power to connect with people emotionally - a trait words can sometimes lack. So it’s apparent that visuals are now more important than ever and mobile devices are the main portal through which we view and experience them,” said  Kumiko Shimamoto, Getty Images, Vice President of Sales, Asia.

Among the world’s leading creators and distributors of award-winning still imagery, video, music and multimedia products, and other forms of premium digital content, Getty Images  serves business customers in more than 100 countries.

Its best-in-class photographers and imagery help customers produce inspiring work which appears every day in the world’s most influential newspapers, magazines, advertising campaigns, films, television programs, books and online media.


In an email interview with RetailTech Innovation, Shimamoto shared insights  on the power of visuals for brand building and the inevitable changes created when marketing moves to the small screen.

RetailTech Innovation (RTI): What are the current trends in visual communication for consumers? What are the challenges of catering to a visual audience?

Kumiko Shimamoto (KS): According to a recent study by Visual Teaching Alliance, 90 percent of the information transmitted to the brain is visual and we can absorb information much more quickly from imagery.  In an increasingly visual world, the challenge becomes more difficult than ever to cut through the clutter to make brands stand out from the crowd. 

Our research found the following visual design trends will rise to the fore in 2015:

• Letterbox format in digital design: The 2.35:1 format that is favoured by some filmmakers will become one of the key design elements on business websites. A thinner, longer landscape format means the visual message is contained in a less familiar and concentrated form. Marketers can use this technique to create a more engaging story and a dynamic brand presence.

• Interesting, quirky, dynamic women:  The demand for visuals of women with diverse careers, lifestyles, loves and looks is finally growing and becoming a reality. We have identified that intriguing will become heroic in the visualisation of women in the year ahead.

• Sensory immersion: As technology increasingly influences more aspects of our lives, the desire to be immersed in experiences that stimulate the senses increases. From high resolution images that capture different textures such as water – through to the use of slow motion video to capture movement (similar to Marks & Spencer’s sensual food ads) – marketers should use images to stimulate all the senses.

• Super still life: Small screens love big images, especially when it comes to still life imagery. Graphic and dramatic work well on a phone screen – particularly as screen resolutions continue to get higher and internet speeds faster. Expect to see more creativity and expertise in the representation of inanimate objects, through exquisite photography and skillful arts and crafts work.

• Monochromatic colour: A key look this year is reminiscent of Kodak Portra colour negative film stock with bright whites and strong blacks. The effect is perfect for marketers looking to present their company as sophisticated, stylish and contemporary and offers an antidote to the technicolour of the digital world.

• People’s point of difference: 2015 will be a year of celebrating the diversity that is humankind, a countertrend to the volume of images that represent samey-looking people. Consumers respond to people and images that are intriguing and different.

RTI: Most retailers today have an omni-channel presence, which means their products and services are available in physical stores, online and via mobile  devices, how can they leverage Getty Images 170 million assets for visual communication, marketing or other purposes.

KS: Mobile is big in 2015 in Asia. There are already 895 million mobile users in the region with huge projected smartphone penetrations, increased mobile traffic and the opportunity to connect with rural consumers will drive campaign share. 

It is clear that brands need to sit up and take notice about mobile but where do visuals come into all of this? Science shows the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. Furthermore, visuals increase user engagement by up to 94 percent, and have the power to connect with people emotionally - a trait words can sometimes lack. So it’s apparent that visuals are now more important than ever and mobile devices are the main portal through which we view and experience them.  

So, how do brands pick the right image? 

• First person point of view (POV) - Last year, Getty Images’ best-selling video was one shot from a dog’s perspective! Sales of first person POV visuals are increasing amongst mobile consumers. Their popularity could be down to the fact that they provide a more raw and authentic feel, allowing the viewer to put themselves in the shoes of the photographer, and turn create greater levels of engagement. Technology like GoPro make extreme action video (or images) shot from human height possible, both of which create a sense of realism as well as adventure.  

• Super sensory - Many of us may not have seen the Great Pyramid at Giza or India’s Taj Mahal in the flesh, but you can bet that most of us have seen them on a screen. As we increasingly experience things through our mobile screens, we want to be presented with a more immersive experience that tantalises our senses. We want images that are more elicit, with HD driving this trend forward. Colourful visuals and those that showcase macro detailing which make the everyday seem enhanced were massively popular with Getty Images’ customers last year. 

• Wonderlust - Visuals that fall into this category are often awe-inspiring and aim to show the expansive scale of our world – mountain ranges, space, forests are all examples. Getty Images’ data shows sales of ‘Wonderlust’ content has increased globally by 42 per cent in Asia the last year. Influencing this trend are images on social media that increasingly dictate where people choose to visit. Technology is also leading to more solo travellers, as smartphones give people a sense of security when alone in a foreign land. 

RTI: Please share some case studies on how Getty helped businesses, especially in the retail sector, stand out in their industry through utilizing powerful visual communications.

KS: Snapfish by HP is the number one online photo service, with more than 90 million members in over 12 countries and two billion unique photos stored online. Their mission is to help customer preserve, enjoy, and make the most of our memories, while providing the best value at the same time. 

Nicole Leong, Creative Design Manager at Snapfish said, “As an online photo service, we offer customers the chance to create keepsakes using their own photos – items like calendars, photobooks, mugs, blankets, cards. We inspire our customers to make their own versions of the products we offer by using the most beautiful, aspirational imagery we can find in our samples. That’s where Getty Images comes in.” 

RTI: What is the Getty Images Lean In collection? What do Getty and Facebook bring to this partnership?

KS: Getty Images’ Lean In collection is a library of images devoted to the powerful depiction of women, girls and the people who support them. Jointly curated by Getty Images and LeanIn.Org – the women’s empowerment non-profit founded by Sheryl Sandberg. 

With a shared commitment to shifting the visual representation of women in media, Getty Images’ visual trend experts have collaborated with LeanIn.Org to curate more than 2,500 images of women in contemporary work and life. The collection serves as a resource for marketers, advertisers and media for use in their campaigns and communications. 

The Lean In collection features authentic portraiture of women and girls, fathers, men, families and communities across lifestyle and business. The images are hand curated by our global trend team and LeanIn.Org, led by Pam Grossman and LeanIn.Org contributing editor Jessica Bennett.

Getty Images donates a portion of the proceeds from the collection to create two new Getty Images photography grants for images showcasing female empowerment. Additional funding goes towards  LeanIn.Org to further their mission of supporting women to achieve their ambitions.

RTI: Please share some insights on cultural and aesthetic shifts in marketing to women, and how visual communications play a role in the path to purchase.

KS: A key focus for Lean In is being aware of the messages we send and our culture is sending many messages – maybe most of them – in imagery. Pictures inform what kids know about the world, and how they see themselves in relation to that world. And if we’re bombarding them with images of unattainable future, they’re not inspired, they’re discouraged. They see a big disconnect between the world they’re capturing and celebrating with their own social media and the one they see on billboards around their city. 

By promoting images of powerful, authentic girls and women – as well as nurturing men – we help close that gap and connect the world they know with the world depicted around them. With Lean In we made a statement that we’re going to lead our clients and inspire them to reflect a different reality. 

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