The screen is your shop’s window to the world when it comes to online shopping. Visually merchandising your products properly for laptop, notebook, and smartphone viewing is just as important for an online store as it is for a brick-and-mortar location. Perhaps even more so, because the online customer experience is predicated entirely on one sense—sight—whereas in-store they can be wooed by smell, touch, taste (where applicable, of course), and sound.

Here are a few eye-opening stats that should influence the design choices you make on your e-commerce website:

85%

of adults think that a company’s website, when viewed on a mobile device, should be as good or better than its desktop website.

38%

of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

$2.6B

Slow-loading websites (longer than 2 seconds) cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year. Poor photo files are the main culprit.

75%

of consumers admit to making judgments on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design.

There are many ways to optimize an online store (including highly technical ones), but for the purpose of this blog, we’re going to stick to visual merchandising and look at it from three angles: images, words, and shopper types.

Images – That First Impression Happens Sooner Than You Think

When it comes to anything online, user experience is paramount and first impressions really, really matter. According to research, it takes users less than two-tenths of a second for a visitor to form an opinion about your brand and determine whether they want to stick around or not. The good news is that MIT neuroscientists found that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.

Words – The Science Behind the Scan

Of course, people want information to go with their images, and text can be considered a subset of online visual merchandising. Eye-tracking research shows that people scan text on a website in several common patterns, the most well-known of which is an F pattern. So not only are the words you choose important, but where you place them on your website is important too. Take a look at the F pattern in a heatmap from a study by Nielsen Norman Group, experts in research-based user experience.

heat map

Shoppers – Something for Everyone

You’ll also need to understand the five types of shoppers who will visit your site and accommodate them with your visual merchandising choices:

  • Product-focused – These are people who already know exactly what they want and need. This means they won’t be as influenced by photos of other products in beautiful settings. They want a crisp, clear set of images from a few different angles so they know they’re getting the product they want.
  • Browsers – These are people who are happy to spend time roaming around your site. Here, context matters. If you sell dishware, showcase it in a lovely setting, ready for a fantastic meal with friends. If you sell motorcycle gears, show someone enjoying the ride using your products.
  • Researchers – These are people who compare items in your store or want to learn more about something they intend to purchase. Much like the product-focused visitors, they’re looking for images that provide important details about the product. Depending on what that product is, however, you may need to go into more visual detail regarding different features of the product, how the product works, etc.
  • Bargain hunters – People are here for one thing only: a great deal. A clear image matters, but calling attention to sale items is more about featuring the price discount they’re getting.
  • One-time shoppers – People who’ve never been to your site before, may have visited your site and may never visit again, such as gift card redeemers. Treat this type of shopper as you would a Browser shopper. Just because they’re coming there for the first time doesn’t mean it has to be the last.

Let’s take a scroll through a few features of a website and see what all that means for visual merchandising. eCommerce companies such as PinnacleCart, have years of experience building online storefronts for customers that look good on any device, and they’ve used that experience to create a variety of templates that retailers can use to increase traffic, conversions, and online sales through an omnichannel shopping experience.

Banner

This is an online shopper’s first introduction to your brand. Make it count! Use high-quality, compelling graphics that grab attention, but make sure visitors can understand exactly what you sell in the blink of an eye (literally).

website banner

If you’re in the market for hot sauce, this web banner instantly lets you know you’re in the right place.

Using clear acrylic retail risers, like in the image below, allows you to create sophisticated, compelling images of smaller products without detracting from the products themselves.

acrylic retail risers

Text in the banner acts like an image, too, and you need your visitors to be able to see it at a glance. Treat it like this: if people only view your banner, what do you want them to know about you? Be descriptive but don’t use jargon, don’t be vague or cheesy, and by all means, keep it short and simple.

Homepage

As visitors scroll down your homepage, you have the opportunity to reinforce your brand while playing up featured products, all the while directing them toward a call to action. Although there are literally hundreds of different screen sizes, one thing they have in common is this: a “top screenful” area a visitor can see without scrolling down the page. And they spend more time there than anywhere else on your page. If you think about your homepage in fifths, more than 65% of the viewing time on a website was spent on the top 40% of the page. So consider the section one level below your banner in that context. From a text standpoint, keep the F scan pattern in mind—content placed here will form that top bar of the F.

Another thing to consider: studies show that from the time we were born, we were drawn to the human face. That remains true throughout life. From a webpage perspective, this means photos of real people in authentic situations can draw lots of attention (marketing studies prove that visitors just gloss over stock images of people).

Products pages

Once people have found something they’re interested in, they’ll want to learn more about it by clicking through the products page. At a bare minimum, you must include basic information such as price, product description, shipping time, etc.— keep in mind that a frictionless experience is key to increasing conversions and if you frustrate or confuse your users they may leave and never come back.

When it comes to images, you’ll want a large, high-resolution image that shows the entirety of your product from its best angle. Then, you’ll want a collection of images that showcase different views or aspects of the product that are important to the person’s purchasing decision. Different web templates will enable you to present these in different ways—read PinnacleCart’s blog on “7 Key Features Online Shoppers Demand From an Online Store.

There’s a lot of science behind good web design to optimize your online store. Use it to your advantage! Turn visitors into buyers, and buyers into lifelong customers and brand advocates, with a thoughtfully designed page that presents your brand in its best light and gives every visitor a fantastic user experience.

Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue.