We can all list a multitude of sites we love that use high-impact, full screen imagery - but what if you simply don't have any such images? Does that mean you've got no way to interest, engage, intrigue or retain your visitors?
Of course not!
Here, we take a look through a few techniques that we don't mind admitting have persuaded us to spend a few minutes more than strictly necessary exploring a customer's store when providing support.
Please note this article contains links to external sites that may change over time, however the relevance of the text will remain valid even after the stores have moved on.
Lead me to wonder
Journey is a powerful thing: Turning a visit into a stay can be tremendously effective. Even completely unordered but enticing access points from your homepage to deeper parts of your site can keep visitors interested in and moving through your store, thinking about your brand and, ultimately, turning into a valued customer.
My interest is easily piqued by more unusual stores, offering products or services that I'd never have interest in specifically searching for online. Yet, both professionally and in my personal time, I see content delivered from thousands of stores who's products might not appeal to me directly - but I might shop there for gifts or even idly discuss them with a friend or colleague if they made a lasting impression.
Here, Mapleland Farms create immediate interest with nothing more complex than a photograph of the farm, followed by a blog image of a man tapping a tree - the product of syrup isn't something I've ever given much though to, I'm not a consumer of it myself, however the completeness of the site, from the candid behind-the-scenes photography to the 'fun facts', to the prominent inclusion of 'directions' in the primary navigation, the site throughout feels wholly connected to the farm's physical self, and the life of those on it.
- Don't presume its just your end products that sell: Your story too can sell your brand
- If something in your upstream production is interesting to you, it will be interesting to other people too, particularly if it's seasonal and needs to be caught at the right time
More than your average about us page
McRoskey demonstrate the fine art of connecting their product to their audience through an illustrated guide to the act of creation. This is a fascinating - and literal! - "peek inside" something most of us use daily, but the inner workings of which few of us have ever seen.
Not only are they offering an insight into their product, it's clearly and openly laying out their manufacturing space, and the women and men actually involved in every step of the manufacturing process.
This is a candid glimpse into their business.
As if that weren't enough, it is also a prime opportunity for a store to pack in the keywords, and sure enough a quick Google for "locally manufactured mattresses bay area" shows them right up in the top four - the last two words almost certainly unnecessary if I were actually searching from within their catchment area. Not bad for a store with almost no content on their homepage!
- Don't shy away from talking about yourself - it's as much you as your product visitors will be interested in, especially if your production techniques are unique
- Don't try to write content to 'trick' search engines, it works less and less each year - instead, write open, informative content and let the keywords feature naturally
Minimalism isn't an empty space
Here's a store that's not trying to hurry you. Here is space between the lines. Here is a chance to breathe and be interested at your own pace.
This store may be using immaculate, purpose-crafted product imagery, but even if you've got nothing better to work with than the most generic pack-shots from your suppliers, here's a way to do it differently. If you have a reasonable image editor to hand, even the blandest, white background shots can be easily mixed on to a coloured background in such a way that many artefacts within the image itself (discolouration, lens gradients, jpeg artefacts) will all but disappear, and you'll be left with neat and consistent - connected - images amongst previously disparate products.
- Work with what you have and make it conform to your identity - don't let it define you!
- Let you store reflect your brand - are you a low-end, high-volume supplier, or are you trying to purvey luxury? If you're aiming for the latter, space in your page is your friend, not your enemy
We bet you've never seen anything like this before! Gifs (however you choose to pronounce them!) are always a risk, as they can easily grate and hark back to the quickly-forgotten internet of the mid 2000s, when every site was made in MS Frontpage.
But to be used in a considered way, on a non-frantically paced cycle, clearly and purposefully with the intent of demonstrating the product's unique selling point, it's hard to argue against such a singular and memorable collection page.
- Shopify is packed with features, right out the box - the best usage may not be obvious, and may not even have been considered before, especially when it's been branded a 'no go' in internet circles. Sometimes just a small, creative twist can (literally!) make your products come to life
Rethinking social engagement
Instagram engagement used to be easy, a simple matter of asking your customers to use a hashtag. With this facility retracted from all but purpose-built feeds, often times broadcasting nothing but your product ranges to followers can quickly become a turn-off.
Vesper247 adopt a different strategy, with a carefully crafted feed for their subscribers. Using an Instagram evenly paced with sassy wit and pithy self-deprecation, it's fun, relatable and a great way to keep your customers coming back - building relationships and building a brand. They certainly won't then object to the pictures of your fantastic products, as they'll be much more likely to engage with every new post.
- Social media engagement can be all about uniqueness and identity. Coarse words appearing in a luxury brand's feed might be extremely off putting, whereas it might be just what young adults are looking for to engage with - find your own voice!
- Just because a pre-existing feature has been withdrawn doesn't mean there aren't alternative - maybe even better - ways of achieving the same result
Okay, so of course there's a lot of professionally shot photography in this store, but what makes it stand out so well is the rigid conformity of the product shots - they don't necessarily have to be so clean and tidy, but damn are they consistent. Letting the colour of the product shine out from the white page and the grey undertones of the featured images, coupled with the strong and evenly matched message of the text makes for an impactful and memorable storefront.
- Being different doesn't have to mean being inconsistent - a visually pleasing store achieved through the regular arrangement of imagery can be just as unique as any other