Facing the truth of E-commerce. The business of selling pixels.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had in-depth conversations with three different e-commerce businesses.

1. An online aggregator for offline designers across India, selling unique accessories for men and women.
2. A peer-2-peer social lending (microfinance) platform where one can give loans to help needy people.
3. A purely online luxury brand for women’s lingerie.

In each conversation I found myself asking similar questions,

  • How much are you investing on creating the content for each product?
  • Is there a unique content strategy in place that will help consumers”feel” the product? What more can be added to influence a purchase?
  • Are you paying attention to a few core values or emotions that are evidently communicated throughout the website?

My questions revolve around a key idea.

Regardless of what we’re selling online – an accessory, a piece of lingerie, or a needy person’s request for a loan – we’re representing this product on a single page. Given the tiny attention span of users, what’s ultimately being consumed is the photograph(s) on that page. This is because unlike text or videos, photos are consumed with minimal cognitive effort and often subconsciously.

In categories where product specifications are fuzzy, the product’s price becomes important only after you love the story that comes across in its pictures.  If you love the story, you will be heart-broken if you cannot afford the product. As a business, I’d rather have heartbroken users than indifferent ones.

Selling real products through photos is not easy. Hence activities such as investing in professional photos, surveying for visual appeal, A/B testing different versions, etc. are all warranted activities in any e-commerce company. This is not an area where the company should under-invent or under-spend.

A picture is often described as ‘worth a 1000 words’, but in e-commerce, a picture is worth a 1000 bucks or sometimes a million bucks, if one were to calculate the life-time value of a photo that makes someone want to spend.

It’s a little sad, but true – when shopping online, or donating online, we’re all influenced and often (mis)guided by the story captured in a well-taken picture.


  1. Very well put Anjali, Images are extremely important when it comes to putting across an idea in a flash of second. Which is why this company stipple.com I think has a bright future.

  2. Sumit Kumar Gupta

    Yeah but, Zoomdeck is different as it is open platform for users to Snap then, spot anything amazing and then share. Apart from that people can have conversation around a particular spot.

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