The Power of Real World Context: Going Beyond Screenshots
Images capture us. Our response towards images is more prompt than towards simple text. When developing landing pages, for anything involving software or a product display, your purpose will be better served if you add screenshots to go along with it.
Screenshots are a powerful tool. They can inform, engage, and enchant. But static screenshots can only do so much. It is up to you to take things that one step further and you can improve everything – from your consumer sentiment to your conversion rate. All you need to do is set the right expectation for your clients.
You need to show your product being used in real world context
Start out by thinking about your product and its presence in the real world. Who will use it? Where can it be used? What are the real-life expectations from the product? Try and get answers to all these questions and then start moving outward, both physically and mentally. It will become much easier then, to start developing visuals around the product.
Think about the user
In marketing, understanding the client is the key to sell anything. Knowing the clients, or the personas, who will buy your product is what drives your business. It is critical to craft appropriate messaging, whether it’s the copy or the design, to lure in the right persona.
Personas, at their core, are a representation of customer segments that your product serves. Think of them as character sketches of your customer base. Here’s an example from Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), specifically their division ICANN Labs, on personas that represent newcomers to their organisation.
In the above example, mapping out the personas involved thinking about not only the typical characteristics and interests of the audiences that ICANN services, but also about what the audience segments value. What do they feel? What do they fear? What do they trust? What do they want? What don’t they want?
If you too ask similar questions about your client personas, you can move beyond pure demographics and really understand what you need to create messaging that tempts your target user. Remember: your goal, visually, is to compel the user. You can’t do that by marketing to everyone based on data that you’d find in a census. You have to think more critically than that and go with personas that reflect the human elements of your customers.
Once you have a tangible idea of a persona, you can start thinking about how that persona can be embodied visually.
For example, personas that are more emotionally driven could be displayed in ways that are very expressive. Colorful personalities can be played up with colorful graphic representations. People who value speed and utility can be shown utilizing those behaviors in video. Those who convey and value authority can be captured photographically in the same tone.
But before you can start crafting visuals for a particular persona, you have to know what the persona is. Next, you will need to think about how the persona will use your product – and what it can mean for them.
The most powerful marketing visual is showing real people using your product as a part of their everyday lives.
Landing pages that show photos of “real” people (not overly-posed stock images) see higher conversion rates. This is because, psychologically, the more a client can relate to a product, the higher the chances of their purchasing it. And the way to do so is if they see someone in a photograph or a video, who looks like them, thinks like them or behaves like them, using the product and liking it. The chances of your product failing, or not selling, is less likely than when you use models or stock images for your landing page.
Let us look at a case study. ModCloth, an ecommerce retailer of unique and vintage-inspired fashions, uses the relativity method extremely well. They allow their customers to upload pictures of themselves in the product reviews wearing the actual product, while also providing comments and details on their measurements.
Not only does a ModCloth customer get to see the product being worn by a layperson and not a model, but they also get to see the product as it would look on someone who might have the same body type as them. Now, that’s a powerful testimonial.
Think about where the product is being used
Understanding the environment in which your product will be used can help you create a more accurate context, which will help your customers trust your product and your brand.
For example, if you’re marketing a smart phone that offers robust speeds and connectivity features, then you’d want to show the phone being used by someone on the go in a video that actually displays the real-time speed and not just a simulation.
PRO TIP: Don’t fall prey to simulations. We know it’s tempting to want to enhance your already great product. That’s great – but don’t make a promise that you can’t keep. Sped up performance videos or simulations of product effectiveness may be able to convince and convert, but they certainly don’t build the loyalty you need for your business to grow.
When you show an honest representation of a product’s performance in an environment in which it would be naturally used, you create an expectation in the customer’s mind – which can be met. Additionally, it forces you to craft your products with excellence, since you’re standing by whatever you’re showing visually.
Let us look at another case study. BlendTec, maker of high powered blenders, skyrocketed its business and made its brand more popular thanks to its series of “Will It Blend?” videos on YouTube. In the videos, a BlendTec blender was shown blending a number of items, ranging from tiki torches to iPads.
Wordtracker dives deeper into this case study, but the results of BlendTec’s strategy were powerful: increase in online sales by five hundred percent. Why? Because their visuals did something revolutionary and yet so simple: they told the truth.
Now granted, this isn’t an example of showing the product and where it would actually be used (not too many people would need to blend an iPad), but the concept of being honest in your representation of performance holds true.
As for a case study in showing a product used in the habitat it was created for, let’s take a look at Repetto.
Known internationally for creating fine leather shoes, including famous ballet flats and dance footwear, Repetto has built its brand on quality. But one of the unique features on its international ecommerce site is its display of their shoes in motion. In other words, it shows how a Repetto shoe looks while walking wearing one – not just an edited product photo showing the perfection within the construction.
Being able to see a shoe on a human foot, or a car on a real highway (not a picturesque road with no other cars), or a burger as it comes out of a restaurant kitchen can both dazzle the customer and convince them of how perfectly that product would fit into their lives – and not the life the wish they had (the one we normally see in over-stylised visuals), but the one they already do (reality, anyone?).
Think about how the product is being used
Fundamentally, you should know this before you begin. Understanding how your product can solve a consumer’s problem is something that needs to be discovered and understood before you make and market the product. But it’s always a good thing to take a step back and reflect on that when determining how to visually design a page to include context around your product.
When one displays a product in context, users can easily understand the capabilities of the product and can begin thinking about how they can apply it to meet their needs, desires, and expectations.
A great example of this is Square’s homepage, which uses visuals that show the scale and size of the actual product and its application in a bold, simple, and easily comprehendible representation. In just one visual, it tells exactly what Square can do: it can help you take credit card payments via the Square device and your smart phone.
That’s a powerful visual because it gives the entire story of Square in a way that can instantly be recognised. We can all recall the act of making a transaction – and we can all relate to the desire for simplicity in that action.
Humans are wired to process the world visually. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average consumer attention span is about 8 seconds. That means you have limited time to get someone’s attention and keep it.
Strong visual communications are built upon three principles:
- Appeal: visuals need to be stimulating and attractive in order to obtain attention.
- Comprehension: visuals need to appeal to our brain’s interpretations of objects and their relationships in order to ensure quick and easy understanding.
- Retention: visuals need to trigger memories and encourage people to make connections with information stored already in their brains so that they recognise the significance of what they are being shown.
By showing a simple example of how a product is used, all three points can be checked off, as seen in the Square example.
Let’s bring it all together
When visuals are used accurately, they perform. By targeting the right personas, in the right context, you give your consumers the ability to fully comprehend and appreciate your product (and your core message) before they’ve even had a chance to use it.
That sort of engagement is exciting, and it sets the stage for taking a customer and turning them into an advocate, because they receive exactly what they expected. Or maybe even more than they expected.
Either way, they were told the truth and you appealed to their most human sensibilities – and that takes more than just a screenshot.