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Do Online Pack Shots Need a Hero (Image)?

Marketers need to change the way they display pack shots on mobile devices. Hero images do significantly better than traditional pack shots when tested with consumers.

Editor’s Intro: Both marketers and researchers have been slow to adjust to people’s rapid migration to mobile devices. Researchers have been slow to adjust questionnaire layouts (grids are a big problem) and for shortened survey length. As Mirna Đurić shows in her article, marketers need to adjust how pack shots are displayed to shoppers on mobile devices.

Out of all social media, texting, chatting, and gaming, shopping was the fastest growing activity segment on mobile in the past year, up by 54% YOY. The share of transactions completed on a smartphone is 28% higher in Europe and 22% higher in the US in Q1 2018 than the same time in 2017. However, the potential of mobile has not been fully realized due to the shortcomings of the core user experience.

Shoppers expect to find what they are looking for in a split second, all the while they are being distracted by notifications and surroundings. They scroll fast, skip text, and scan product images to obtain information as quickly as possible. Their final decision, as eye tracking shows, is usually based on pack-shots.

The trouble is that an average pack-shot fails to clearly communicate all relevant information consumers need, with 1 out of 5 having difficulty discerning the product details. As EyeSee’s research experience has shown, the margin of error for online shopping products with very similar package designs (e.g. the same type of coffee in different sizes) is alarming. Fortunately, when it comes to this part of communication, online channels provide much more flexibility to CPG companies than traditional retailers – all we need is an optimal solution.

Unilever and the University of Cambridge developed hero images– e-commerce product photos specially tailored to provide a clear and readable alternative to conventional pack-shots. This project is an important development in enhancing the online shoppers’ journey and helping them recognize four key product elements (brand, variant, format, and size). The risk of buying a wrong item is minimized, and the opportunity for online sales conversion significantly increased.

However, some companies push even further. Prompted by observations and several projects for different FMCG companies, EyeSee, for example, introduced the Spotlight Hero Image. This solution highlights the product’s most distinct feature, i.e. variant, thus informing the purchase in a more effective manner. After all, we know that most purchase decisions are made implicitly – with an impulse of the heart rather than ratio.



A case study on pack-shot design effectiveness

To establish what the optimal solution is currently, my team tested both Hero image solutions against the standard pack-shot across six very different product categories: cereals, dog treats, body wash, dish care, toilet paper, and pain reliever. A total of 500 US shoppers were recruited online and asked to go through the category pages on the e-commerce website they were browsing. At the same time, they were asked to click on all products they would buy while their eye movements were tracked. After that, the respondents filled in a questionnaire.

The results clearly indicate that hero images grant more visibility across all tested categories. For instance, in an online shop search ranking, the product using a hero image has a better chance of getting noticed. This would in effect mean that CPG companies can hack this search mechanism and maximize the position, performing as well as items ranked above. Eventually, the positive feedback might even result in a better position.

The study has also proved a positive impact on brand equity as a whole. Hero images function as a shortcut by passing the traditional need for costly advertising campaigns to promote products. Now, companies could appeal to and trigger shoppers during purchase browsing, which would effectively allow them to re-think and re-purpose their advertising budgets.


Why go for Spotlight Hero Images?

Spotlight Hero Images are liked more and in 4 out of 6 categories chosen as most purchase inviting. In this case, as well, intuitively created images are expected to be liked but this kind of preference is insufficient to predict purchase decision. What Spotlight Hero Images allow for is choosing and strategically highlighting a feature of the product. To take the most out of this approach, you really need to know your consumer – what they prioritize about the product and why, what the barrier for shopping that particular item online is… Testing with behavioral methods can provide valuable insights into which feature should be emphasized and how consumers respond to it.

However, it is important to note that, whatever hero image solution you are considering, test it out and make your move quickly. The first innovators in this area will be the ones to benefit most from making their products distinctive.

For the full list of EyeSee’s findings, explore the full case study.

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Mirna Đurić

Mirna Đurić

Research Director, EyeSee