When images are worth a thousand buy clicks
Visual representations of the Internet have come a long way. The amount of data on a website now, could very easily be more than the total data size of webpages for the whole of 2012.
From drab, grey and largely text-heavy websites, we now have richer websites that aren’t shy about the use of images and videos. These two are the main ingredients when brands and companies want to interact, engage and stay on top of minds of their consumers.
But what has it meant for websites and mobile applications?
Akamai’s Senior Director of Product Management, Jason Hatch said that companies have to make their websites rich and attractive to drive engagement and behaviour they want. “Articles with images get 94-percent more total views on average,” he shared and added that 65-percent of shoppers rank products by images first.
So, not having rich media is not an option despite the implications it has on bandwidth usage and storage space.
The move to mobile devices has also complicated matters. While having a mobile portal via which to interact with consumers and with their location to add context to the consumer engagement, the role that video and images play becomes more significant.
In the real world however…
“The challenge isn’t just desktop browsers and making websites work effectively. There are more kinds of users and devices now, and these are connected by all kinds of different connectivity and different circumstances,” Hatch said.
So how to design websites for the worst possible experience while still retaining consumer attention, is a critical balance that companies have to achieve.
Akamai has a solution that allows companies to wield control over at least one factor of the whole equation, to strike this very crucial balance – images.
Called the Akamai Image Manager, this solution will create, store and manage all the different variants of images.
Taking into account all the various different screen sizes out there, different resolutions, the four different mobile browsers, the different formats they are optimised for, and also different connectivity technologies that the device is using at different times of the day, thumbnail pics, large detailed pics, large zoom-in pics and so on and so forth brands could have over 400 variations of an image without even trying.
New technologies like responsive design will dynamically adjust images to the screens they appear on. But, the bandwidth doesn’t adjust and with the same ‘weight’ of image going through, small web pages will experience slow loading.
Hatch explained, “Our Image Manager will understand the devices they are talking to and send the best image for that device.”
Image Manager will also allow its users to decide how much compromise on quality they are willing to accept based on the bandwidth that is available. For example, in exchange for 50-percent reduction in image data size (and faster page loads), there will be a bit of image inaccuracy.
Hatch described, “We have an algorithm called perceptual quality, that’s won an Emmy award for use in film and media. It takes the physiognomy of the human eye and what we notice about image, and allows errors to be introduced in areas we don’t tend to notice.
“We are hardwired to notice the edge of things. So, who cares about a few blurry pics and slightly different colour?” Hatch hypothesised.
In exchange, we get faster response from websites and apps, which is more than fair trade for some when they get to keep their customers happy.
In Malaysia, mobile traffic overtook desktop traffic in early 2016. For the rest of the globe, this mobile traffic tipping point began as early as middle of 2014. And there are no signs of this stopping.
“Consumers have tendency to use mobile more and more. They may be on a desktop, but will pick up their mobile to do online transactions. This is a common trend now because mobile websites focus on minimal number of clicks and have a succinct and efficient way of displaying information,” Hatch observed.
Mobile apps often have to do just as much as mobile websites. Already, about half of consumers expect websites to load in three seconds or less.
According to Hatch also, when people download and install and open apps, they are automatically engaged with it, spending seven times more time interacting with it than with a website. It promises deeper engagement, true, but also requires more commitment for users to choose and download it.
“There is going to be a convergence. Users don’t want to download and install at every site they shop at. So there is a trend of websites taking on more and more app capabilities.
“Apps are becoming more and more rich with features like push notification, camera support and storing content offline so websites can act more like apps,” Hatch concluded.