According to trade body IMRG, UK online spending will rise by 17% this year. That’s a whopping £107bn of products we’ll buy without necessarily seeing or touching.
What’s interesting is that we haven’t changed (our need for a deeper experience of a product before we commit to purchase is the same). What’s different is that we are now fulfilling that need through high quality imagery, video and digital experiences.
For example, every serious automotive manufacturer has an online configurator now. Drivers can personalise a near real image of the car they want, down to wheel choices and interior trim. They can rotate it, explore it and share it with friends. Increasingly an actual test drive with a dealer is a validation step, if it’s taken at all. Even traditionally dry industries like venture capital have embraced the visual world. Every pitch for crowdfunding investment comes as a slickly produced video, packed with infographics and animation. This extends post purchase too. We can often get the aftersales help we need from a ‘how to’ video, rather than calling a helpline or reading a manual.
The way firms interact with customers has obviously been shaped by the increasingly visual way we interact with each other. Sharing video and imagery through social media is the norm. It’s even the primary means of communication for some. Witness for example the exodus of teens from Facebook to Instagram as a way of ensuring a parent-free, visually driven experience. All of this change brings new and challenging demands for a CCO trying to manage customer interaction across an organisation. There are three key conflicts to resolve:
1. Quality vs volume – Creating compelling imagery and video in a socially enabled world can be a daily or even hourly job. Maintaining quality with volume requires the right processes, tools and partners. They need to be governed by clear guidelines that make on brand, quality production totally idiot proof.
2. Consistency vs flexibility – If a brand is the aggregate of all perceptions of a product or business, being consistent is critical. That means creating a common visual experience across all on and offline channels. Each will have different lead times to manage and may be owned by different functions within the organisation so coordinating them and defining the role they play in the visual landscape of a customer journey is vital.
3. Cost vs investment – Not so much a conflict as an imperative. The creation of high quality visual material and visually rich experiences has to be treated as an investment and protected from inevitable cost-cutting. Visually rich worlds that convey an experience of both the product and the brand are the new normal. Closing your eyes to the need is not an option.