The Impact of Visual Persuasion and Experience Design: What Can We Learn from B2C E-commerce?

Humans are visual creatures and the human brain can process an image in just 13 milliseconds. That means that few assets are more effective when capturing attention, driving action, and building user experiences than a picture.

We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s especially true when influencing online purchases. Over the last decade or so, e-commerce has gradually matured in how they apply visual persuasion to drive our behaviors. While this works exceptionally well in online shopping, could we use that digital experience to inform design concepts for other industries – such as finance or healthcare? Let’s look at some examples. 

Predictive quick links provide both clarity and choice

Retail websites often pair frequently-searched or high-traffic categories with predictive quick links to create a streamlined shopping experience. For Valentine’s Day, Macy’s used image driven links to define categories, each serving as a shortcut to a curated selection of gift ideas.

Why this works

Attention is the most precious resource a user will spend on your site. When someone navigates to a page, a business has very little time to establish itself as useful and relevant to the user’s query. Positioning visual “answers” to the most common needs above the fold captivates user attention and encourages them to navigate forward, not backward, to get a satisfying response.

How to apply this strategy

This approach in online shopping could easily be applied to websites for other industries and verticals. A member portal might surface customized quick links backed by customer data already on the landing page, thus giving the end-user visual hierarchy and meaning through imagery or color on the page. Or a financial dashboard with predictive links and personalized shortcuts based on user patterns with added imagery that predicts the commonly taken or suggested next steps. 

Identifying user needs helps reduce friction

Predictive links can be paired with other strategies to effectively streamline decision-making for users. For example, Bank of America’s Erica (Virtual Financial Assistant), offers their customers user experiences based on predictive quick links and analytics:

  • Predictive Quick Links. Saving time by reducing the number of steps needed to complete any banking task.
  • Tailored Experiences. Making day-to-day managing of their finances easier and more intuitive.
  • Predictive Analytics. Enables financial institutions to help customers proactively manage their finances by identifying potential issues or opportunities for savings and investment.

Why this works

Digital experiences are already loaded with distractions, so one of the best services any platform can provide is a clear path to meaningful actions. Adding expertly-guided action steps provide users with a sense of being cared for, streamlining their experience on the platform while simultaneously providing support. 

How to apply this strategy

Organizations with a strong understanding of their user needs can demonstrate that knowledge as a differentiator by suggesting actions for their users to take. Learning and development platforms  often use this method to suggest activities based on student profiles or prior activity. Done well, this is often the best way to improve engagement and time spent on the platform. The developers create an engaging environment by anticipating what people want at each touchpoint.

For example, Duolingo separated users into three distinct categories: new users, reactivated users (active recently but not in the same week), and resurrected users (last active more than 30 days ago). Understanding the needs of their current users on such a granular level based on past experience helped the learning app get a clear idea of how – and why – users stop engaging with the platform. This, in turn, empowered a more targeted user experience, which had a positive effect on both engagement and user retention rate.

Reducing visual clutter with a minimalist approach

We are all aware of Apple’s design system and  its simplicity and minimalism, which plays a significant role in creating a fluid browsing experience. Apple products are easily accessible at the top of its webpage, minimalistically designed visuals to simplify the product search and enhance the shopping experience. 

For example, when you have multiple generations/variations of the same product line, such as Airpod 2nd generation vs. Airpod 3rd generation vs. Airport Pro 2nd generation, these visuals are strong distinguishers – sometimes critical – to making the right selection.

Why this works

Design choices such as clean typography, color palettes, plenty of negative space, and predictable layouts make choosing more intuitive. The greater the visual complexity, the more work the eye has to do to send information to the brain (Why Simple Website Design is The Best: The Scientific Reasons). Likewise, though Apple has many lines of products, a clean and minimal website experience amplifies the simplicity of the consumer’s choices. 

How to apply this strategy

Any company can learn from this successful approach, perhaps a complex consumer manufacturing company adding visuals under their product category, or larger companies within healthcare or finance with multiple sectors/services establishing stronger wayfinding services with a visual navigation system.

Go in-depth when and where it matters

Tiffany & Co, along with many other retail websites, displays a second or third product shot when hovering over the product. This allows a quick glimpse of the product when browsing items and saves time from an extra click. According to usability tests from Baymard Institute, the hover-enabled visual information is observed to drastically reduce wasted time going back and forth between the product list and product pages – another image does tell a thousand words! 

Why this works

When shopping online, you are often limited to a two-dimensional view of the product, whereas when shopping in real life, you would be able to see the item physically from all angles. Therefore, having more product shots available instantly is a smart feature, closer to that of an in-person shopping experience. However, instead of overwhelming the user with content they don’t need, this strategy rewards interest with a more in-depth look at the product.

How to apply this strategy

The idea of giving a quick glimpse or secondary view before having to click to another page can be a feature brought into places such as more utilitarian pages:

  • A secondary image could be translated into a text form – to relieve already text-heavy pages – where for example hovering over the title of the PDF allows a preview of the document without having to click and open or download on a new page. 

Inspired by TeladocHealth, a secondary image could also be used as a visually appealing quick glimpse of a next step, improving the likelihood of the user accessing and assimilating the information.

Final thoughts

Inspiration for better user experiences is all around us – even in online shopping. And overall, visual storytelling and user experience design are not just about aesthetics; they’re about creating a deeper connection with the audience and solving complex digital UX challenges.

Categories: Cloudberry, Experience Design, Visual Design
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