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July 11, 2017

First Unilever, now Barilla Group rolls out mobile ready hero images in lieu of pack-shots to better communicate crucial information to shoppers. But will these online optimized images ultimately help drive greater conversion?

The explosive growth of e-commerce in areas such as travel, technology and apparel now batters hard at the doors of consumer-packaged goods (CPG). But as shoppers become increasingly open to purchasing their consumer goods on-line, CPG brands and retailers with worse online than in-store market shares face a serious problem. Can alternative online layouts and packaging such as Mobile Ready Hero Images really facilitate online shopping and help CPG brands quickly differentiate and drive conversion?

A case for change

In addition to concerns over purchase of perishable goods (meats, produce, etc.) stymying the online growth of the CPG industry, the pack-shot format used in the display of those goods online has also proven to be a barrier to e-commerce adoption for many CPG brands and retailers. Why?

Unilever sponsored research by The University Of Cambridge Design Group, indicates shoppers purchasing CPG products make fast decisions based on familiar patterns, shapes, colors, symbols — and quick comparisons of products. In fact, when making decision on the purchase of CPG products, the most important pieces of information shoppers seek are brand, format, variant, and size. Pack-shots and current online purchase environments fail to quickly and efficiently communicate these critical points of information to shoppers.

Similar research on Overcoming the Hurdles of E-commerce by PRS In Vivo found online shoppers accidentally selected (and occasionally bought) wrong variants of intended purchases, such as whole bean instead of ground coffee. These errors were often because shoppers did not bother to check text to verify accompanied pack shot images which looked similar to those they expected.

Small screen compaction

The need for a fresh approach in creating clear, concise online product images gets further compounded by the small screen size of mobile devices — the increasingly preferred form factor for online shoppers.
Again, brands like Unilever and Barilla witnessed poor conversion rates as the result of shoppers disappointed with mobile CPG shopping experiences. In a 2016 podcast, Unilever’s Global E-commerce Design Director, Oliver Bradley identified this as “a big challenge for retailers because you’ve got shoppers wanting to move and use their mobile to shop, instead of using a desktop or laptop, but the experience is sub-optimal and wasn’t leading to the conversion that both us and our retail partners would want.”

What was needed was a way to make online shopping really accessible to as many people as possible, on the digital form factors they preferred.

You need a hero

Mobile Ready Hero Images do that by making it simpler, cleaner and easier to identify and verify brand, format, variant and size, especially on small screens.

Created specifically for e-commerce to act as the primary image in thumbnail results these images make better use of space than a conventional pack-shot and is designed to work well on all screen sizes that are typical for online retail.

Mobile Ready Product Hero Images have been tested live against conventional pack-shots in A/B split tests with a range of retailers. In a test on the Coles website, Mobile Ready Hero Images saw an average weekly sales uplift of 74.5% when they changed from conventional pack shots. Similarly, Coles front loader launder powder saw a 55% sales uplift post image update.

Towards formal guidelines

The Cambridge Design Group have created a simple visual guide as an open standard to help CPG brands create primary images that follow inclusive design principles. However, GS1 has since joined the fray and now drives a joint-industry initiative to produce guidelines on how to implement global and consistent Mobile Ready Product Hero Images.

They’ve started a Mobile Ready Hero Images Working Group to develop guidelines for product images presented in online retail environments on small screens that all brands can follow to achieve consistency in conveying brand, variant, format and size information concerning CPGs.

Towards improved CPG online shopping experiences

It’s hoped that Mobile Ready Hero Images will become a consistent, global approach to the way CPG brands and retailers display imagery, layout, iconography and symbols. The idea is that it will help shoppers recognize and understand information about products with little or no reading of text while shopping online.

The wholescale move to Mobile Ready Hero Images may not be the complete answer to lack-luster online shopping experiences. It does, however, provide a more clear, concise means for shoppers to identify desired product and differentiate variants within complex product lines. A significant improvement for the CPG online shopping process.