Many factors influence how much consumers spend when they shop on your site, but the most impactful one — and the hardest to pin down — is inspiration. Brands that can introduce shoppers to those “must-have” products in just the right way are able to inspire shoppers to add more to their carts. Since humans are such visual creatures, these powerful product discovery moments are most effective when they focus on images, whether via product recommendations, UGC, or your merchandising strategy. With the right tools and approach in place, visual product discovery journeys can be your most strategic method to increase average order value (AOV).
The Relationship Between Visual Product Discovery and AOV
Visual product discovery refers to the variety of ways you can introduce shoppers to products via imagery, including tools like image search, product recommendation carousels, on-site Instagram galleries, product photos, customer photos, and more.
These elements on your site enable you to inspire, establish an initial connection, and sustain engagement with your shoppers. Images have a meaningful impact on buying behavior and brand recall, with Google research finding that images help 50% of online shoppers make purchase decisions.
Not only that, but brands using visual discovery tools like the ones mentioned above, powered by visual AI, see an average increase of 16% in AOV.
This means that by presenting the right product with the right image at the right time, you can inspire shoppers to find and add more items they love, or even items at a higher price point, to their carts throughout the buyer journey.
Since most shoppers won’t sift through your entire inventory one page at a time, crafting powerful visual experiences that increase average order value has to be done strategically. This post will share key ways to create effective visual discovery pathways on your site.
Enable Shoppers to Search for Products on Their Own Terms
The foundation of any strategy for improving AOV is to connect shoppers with the products they have in mind along with the ones they don’t yet know they’ll want. Let’s start with the former: How can a shopper add the items they’re looking for to their carts when they can’t even find them?
Both online and offline, inspiration can strike consumers anywhere. It can come in the form of a beautifully designed lobby while they check in at a hotel or a distinct piece of jewelry worn by an acquaintance in a social media post. Oftentimes, while they know they like what they’ve seen, it can be tough to find the words to describe what makes it so appealing.
Visual discovery, enabled by a visual search engine, can transform your customers’ inspiration into reality without forcing them to find out the terminology for the details that caught their eye. When retailers enable shoppers to upload a photo and explore visually similar results, it’s like opening a pathway that empowers your shoppers to browse by their aesthetic taste, rather than following generic category and product names in the hope that they’ll find something they like.
Create Immersive Visual Experiences
To encourage visual discovery beyond site search, you can set up your homepage to include curated inspirational galleries with shoppable content. Make it easy for your customers to find their ideal gallery by using your product tags to create collections that are automatically updated with new items fitting specific parameters, for example, formalwear, prints and patterns, mid-century modern, etc. This strategy will help you increase average order value because it exposes shoppers to a range of items that all have details they like, making it easy for them to start putting together outfits and even decor for an entire room.
To take this effort a step further, consider using UGC. According to Bazaarvoice, 19% of consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by shoppable images and videos on social media. On top of editorials and product images, you can incorporate visual content from social media (both your own and your customers’) in these shoppable galleries to promote authenticity and provide a layer of social proof,
Combine Continuous Visual Product Discovery With the Right Pricing Strategy
One of the biggest mistakes brands and retailers can make is assuming that product discovery must come to an end. Think about the experience of shopping in a store. Often, as you wait in line to check out, there are displays with lower-priced add-ons that are quick and easy to add to your shopping basket. In the dressing room, if something doesn’t fit quite right, a store with good service will bring you similar items that you might want instead. A thoughtful sales associate will make sure she shows you items in the same ballpark when it comes to price.
By continuing to offer you new items in a smart, nuanced way, these stores create an ongoing visual discovery journey that often leads to increased AOV.
To translate this experience online, you need to give your shoppers a way to keep going even at common dead ends. Let’s take a look at the out-of-stock example. The typical reaction when a shopper arrives on a PDP and is disappointed to find that the deep purple cocktail dress they want isn’t available in their size is to leave. If you’re lucky, they may provide their email for a restock notification.
What if instead, you allowed them to click through on the product image and find similar items in their size? In these cases, you want to honor the shoppers’ initial intent, so you can set merchandising rules that keep pricing within 10% of the original item’s price. Suddenly, a journey that would’ve ended without a purchase continues with the most optimal browsing experience.
Say that shopper finds a dress in a slightly different shade of purple in her size, and the price is right. She adds it to her cart, and the cart window shows up on the screen: Another common exit point (this time, a happier one). You can again keep this journey going by suggesting relevant, matching accessories within the cart window. These lower-priced items will be easier to add to cart, taking your shopper from not buying anything at all to purchasing an entire outfit.
When people have their eyes set on a particular style, being able to move them past the disappointing out-of-stock experience to a cart full of exactly what they had imagined is a powerful way to develop strong customer relationships.
Recommend Products Like a Friend
Recommendation engines are often used to increase average order value through upselling or cross-selling. But suggesting products online can be hit or miss, especially when it’s just based on what people in a similar demographic have viewed or purchased.
To ensure your product recommendations truly spark inspiration and lead to additional purchases, you need to ensure that the items suggested align visually with what each specific shopper prefers at a deep level. When your product metadata is super robust and detailed, you can then extract this information to provide the most relevant recommendations possible.
For example, you won’t simply recommend a black t-shirt, but tops with v-necks, cap sleeves, in ribbed cotton with a lettuce-edge trim. Inspiration lives in the details that make us stop scrolling and start clicking. The same way your best friend would understand what you like about a particular item, visual product discovery journeys should make you feel seen and understood in a similar way.
Seamlessly Complete the Look to Increase Average Order Value
A post about how to increase average order value through visual discovery would be incomplete without addressing complementary item recommendations. This is a tried and tested method to inspire shoppers to add more to their carts.
Traditionally, these carousels are displayed in the second fold of product detail pages, underneath the main product images. However, by bringing this capability into the main product image itself, you create a new entry point into product discovery.
Give your shoppers the ability to click on any main product image and isolate items within it, down to the tiniest accessories, so they can identify each piece intuitively and complete the look with the items they truly love, in addition to the offering in your carousels.
Inspiration Thrives With Visual Discovery
Visual discovery done right keeps inspiration alive throughout the customer journey by connecting shoppers to the most relevant products and content in the most intuitive way. In a highly visual, digital-first retail landscape, using visual assets in strategic and innovative ways has a direct impact on the customer experience. By providing shoppers with visual experiences that are as sophisticated and personalized as their daily online interactions, you prove your brand to be a trusted and helpful shopping destination for the long-term.