How Big Imagery Is Reshaping Web Shopping

Joe Stewart, global creative director at Huge, on the next wave of web retail.

How Big Imagery Is Reshaping Web Shopping
Erin Patrice O'Brien

The ability to instantly communicate through imagery now seems to transcend everything for businesses–for content creators, for e-commerce companies, for mass brands. Facebook, the most popular website out there, decided that images are more important than the written word when it put a cover photo at the top of pages. Instagram has developed technologies that make images load faster and faster. We now understand that humans can parse tons of visual information quickly. The ratio of your time to your satisfaction is high.


These days, companies feel stupid if they don’t have a rich visual experience on mobile. HBO Go is a good example. We designed the iPad app to be very image-heavy. The browser-based version had to be image-intensive, too, because anything less would be a letdown. HBO makes some of the best content in the world, so it needs to feel glossy.

For retail experiences, consumers expect the same level of quality and service from digital that they would get in a store. I’m willing to believe you can draw a direct correlation between a heavy investment in imagery and a return on sales.

Take the Apple site. You don’t feel like you’re looking at a picture of an iPod; you feel like you’re looking at an actual iPod. There’s one less layer of consciousness you have to go through. It’s like buying a dress: If you’re one step closer to imagining your Friday night in that dress, you’re one step closer to purchasing it. If you watch people scroll through blogs and social networks, they just go and go. Brands should embrace that behavior.

As designers, for a long time we’ve been trying to trick people into forgetting they’re looking at a website. Now, it’s about seeing a big immersive image and forgetting that you’re using a mouse and keyboard.

More Articles On The Visual Shift In Online Retail:

Richelle Parham, The Shopping Expert
Akshay Kothari, The Headliner
Edward Flynn and Chris Jacobs, The Collaborators
Alexandra Bylund and David Los, The Monetizers
Smart Talk: Gannett, Airbnb, Pixable

–As told to Margaret Rhodes


[Photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien]

About the author

Margaret Rhodes is a former associate editor for Fast Company magazine.