You may have noticed the increasing number of attractive websites and highly visual apps such as Pinterest and Instagram. It's all part of a powerful trend that Richard McManus, founder of the tech blog ReadWrite, calls the Visual Web. In effect, says McManus, "images and video are becoming an increasingly important part of what we consume online."
Small business owners, after investing in websites, blogs, and social media platforms, face an evolving online audience that demands yet another wave of attention. However, when executed well, a product strategy for the Visual Web can help predict future sales or attract new customers.
Use these five steps to upgrade or overhaul your current product and service offerings to make them more attractive to your more visually oriented prospects.
5 Tips to Take Advantage of the Visual Web
1. Get visual with your online product catalog
A research study by the National Retail Federation found that more than two-thirds of consumers think seeing the image of a product is "very important" when making buying decisions. Post more pictures of your products in more prominent places on your website, and then encourage your customers to share those images via Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
2. Authentic images influence prospective buyers
More than half of the participants in an online study said that quality images of a restaurant, hotel, or small business earned that company "more consideration" or made prospects more likely to make contact. Instead of relying on generic, stock images, invest in high quality, original photos or even videos of your facilities, your products, and your team. Your service or product strategy should budget for professional photography, graphic design, and logo development that keep pace with your market.
3. Make products and packaging worth photographing
The Visual Web offers the opportunity for more than just pictures of brunch plates and gadgets. For example, the Discover It card comes in a welcome package so elegant, new customers have documented the unboxing experience on YouTube and Instagram. Think about ways you can take a mundane element of your product or service and turn it into something your customers want to document and share.
4. Predict the future on Pinterest
A new wave of analytics tools can show you exactly how many people on Pinterest have shared photos of your products with their followers. If you make the same sweater in five colors, wouldn't you love to know if the green version got "pinned" five times as often as the other variations? Watch the Visual Web for signs that one item from your product line has broken away from the pack.
5. Encourage your customers to elaborate and collaborate online
Watch the Visual Web for clues that your customers have used your products in innovative ways. Not only will you improve engagement with your target audience, you may even discover unanticipated new markets for your existing product line.
Posting random pictures to your company's Instagram feed may entertain your team and your customers. However, when you set goals like these for your online engagement, you can treat the Visual Web as a source of market intelligence instead of just an occasional amusement.
Joe Taylor Jr. has covered personal finance and business for more than two decades. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, Fox Business, and ABC News. He recently completed a personal finance book entitled The Rogue Guide to Credit Cards; (Rogue Guide Books, 2012).
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