The power of visual content: Images vs Text

Retailers and brands are already aware that visual content is a valuable tool and sharing it is important for their brand awareness, but not many people know why it’s so important. Of course, it can allow a company to reach more viewers instantly and it gives customers a chance to engage with a brand directly, but there’s a more science-based explanation to it, too.

Simply, visual content reaches an individual’s brain in a faster and more understandable way than textual information. Or, more accurately, a person’s brain is hardwired to recognize and make sense of visual information more efficiently, which is useful considering that 90 percent of all information that comes to the brain is visual.

If you consider body language, traffic signs, maps, facial cues, advertisements, and the plethora of other forms of visual communication a person experiences everyday, it’s not hard to see why our brains might have adapted to discern visual concepts easier. For example, 40 percent of nerve fibers to the brain are connected to the retina.

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It also takes the brain longer to process text-based or verbal information, while the time it takes to process non-verbal, visual content is 0.25 seconds. Some sources even suggest that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, which explains why we often find ourselves re-reading the same sentence eight times or staring at a page and realizing we have no idea what we’ve read.

It is believed that human communication has existed for over 30,000 years, but text-based communication has only been around for 3,700 years. So for the vast majority of human history, people have had to communicate without written word, meaning our brains had plenty of time to brush up on visual messages. Our brains became hard-wired to process visual data, including colors, which have been coded in our brains to represent certain messages or evoke specific emotions. Apparently, exposure to the color red increases pulse and breathing rates.

Modern applications are already successfully experimenting with this information, with many mobile apps focusing on images, from Instagram and Snapchat to Pinterest and Vine. And it doesn’t seem to be a passing trend: Engagement per follower is 58 times higher on Instagram than on Facebook.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average customer’s attention span is eight seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. That is officially less than the attention span of a goldfish (nine seconds). Our capacity to focus on one thing is diminishing, making the initial impression all the more valuable. This is especially true for brick-and-mortar retailers launching an omnichannel strategy: for shoppers with ever-increasing accessibility and ever-decreasing attention spans, they’re attention can be pulled in several different directions from in-store and digital to mobile and online; it’s important to catch their attention quickly, but also through the right channel.

If it takes the human brain less than a second to interpret a single image or video, that leaves the brand more than seven seconds to engage with the customer how they see fit or, importantly, push the customer further down the path to purchase. And sharing visual content inside the store is easier than ever before with digital technology.

When combined with micro location and customer insights, visual content gives retailers and brands the upper hand over competitors. It has been shown that website visitors spend 100 percent more time on pages with videos on them and, more impressively, shoppers are 85 percent more likely to purchase an item after watching a product video.

Now go forth and share visually stimulating content.

1 Comment

  1. Hammad Hussain June 27, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    I appreciate your efforts Felicia for this comprehensive write up. Due to the significance of visual communication, it has really become an integral part of every technology especially Digital Marketing. These days I am also in the phase of exploring the power of visual content.

    Reply

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