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Although the countless technologies and mobile devices available today are smart enough that we can simply tap their surface and pay for goods, 83% of respondents in a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study said they go online to research products, but then buy them in-store.

They're doing so for a reason. People want to see and touch what they're buying. They want to experience the product firsthand, whether that means testing an electronic device or trying on a retail garment.

Whether the consumer is a practical shopper who weighs the pros and cons before spending money, or a person who is simply enticed by a product she can actually touch... it's all about show versus tell.

That said, images, photography, and multimedia have an immense impact on consumers' purchasing behavior because they provide a way for consumers to make a visual connection with a product before they buy. And the best part about today's technology is that it enables you to reach a consumer with rich visual content anytime, anywhere.

So, how can you use images, photography, and other multimedia content to positively influence consumers and build stronger connections with your customer base?

Different Approaches for Different Industries

Each industry has its own way in which photography and online video can make an impact. How photography and online video can make an impact varies by industry or vertical. Why? Because an image is not just an image. Rather, your online images and videos are a means to an end: What are you trying to accomplish with your photography or online video? What type of product are you showcasing?

For example, if you're working with consumer electronics, consider photography that shows a 360-degree view of the product. Because electronics are not a low-impulse purchase and are often expensive, consumers will want to do their homework before they buy and check the product's ports for connectivity and compatibility with other devices.

With that type of photography, you are enabling consumers to see the entire product—even the back panel where the cords go—if they're serious about making a purchase. By using 360-degree photography, you give potential customers the product experience that might make them comfortable enough to buy.

On the other hand, sometimes online video is the perfect solution. In the retail clothing industry, for instance, the consumer wants to see how a garment moves and fits on the shape of a person. Online video has the capability to showcase that better than a flat, two-dimensional image on a screen. Instead of wondering whether a dress is pinned on a model, the shopper will start to fall in love with the way the dress flows as a model spins around in it.

Though still images might not always be the best solution for the fashion industry, they might well do the trick for the food and beverage industry, in which you'd want products to appear as hunger-inducing as possible. In this case, the photography is all about the special effects: How do you make that cheese pizza look like it was just pulled out of a brick oven?

The bottom line is that images tailored to a specific customer experience are the ones that win.

Making the Emotional Connection

One of the main reasons an image or video can influence consumers' purchasing behavior is the storytelling effect. Virtual catalogs, for instance, are filled, page after page, with beautiful products. After looking through it for a while, a consumer can't help but feel an emotional connection to what she's seen.

Would you have achieved the same effect via text descriptions of the product? Of course not.

By combining online video and 360-degree photography with advanced zooming or scrolling capabilities, you're able to create a desire and build trust via transparency (seeing is believing, right?). The consumer begins to experience the product firsthand, and you prove to her that it'll look good, fit with her lifestyle, and solve whatever problem she needs your product to solve.

The best photography and online video truly stir emotion in consumers. When your merchandise, your brand's personality, and your multimedia content intersect, you've reached a point of authenticity and trust. That is the key to developing customer loyalty and increasing return on investment (ROI).

The Content Is the Commerce

Essentially, the content on your site is what leads to the sale. So why wouldn't you make it visually dynamic? Why wouldn't you allow consumers to interact with your content?

In fact, some retailers are experiencing up to a 35% conversion lift when using online video to present their products, according to etailinsights. Many retailers haven't factored online video into the marketing budget yet, but it doesn't have to be costly.

HTML5, for instance, is much more affordable and easy to implement than multimedia that requires plug-ins such as Adobe Flash. HTML5 is also compatible with all types of mobile devices, making it a smarter choice for reaching everyone in your target audience.

The other key advantage of choosing mobile-compliant technology is that you can reach consumers at every possible touch point, in the context they prefer. If your online video or 360-degree photography can easily load on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet, you can influence the consumer at any point and move that conversion needle in the right direction.

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So, don't write off photography, online video, and other multimedia content for your online marketing strategy, particularly as a retail brand. They might be the factor that helps you overcome your competitors.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Tuckman is president of KSC Kreate, a full-service digital commerce agency.