The term "micro-content" was initially used in a user experience context. According to Jakob Nielsen, micro-content is concise copy used to “describe an article or long blog post, add clarity to an interface, or encourage a desired behavior.”
Outside of user experience, however, micro-content in marketing usually refers to short, snackable, standalone content.
Most digital natives are used to being bombarded with micro-content: social media posts, short Twitter videos , clever quote cards, funny GIFs, etc. We've all been producers of micro-content at some point too: Instagram Stories, tweets, Facebook status updates, Vine videos...you name it.
It's no secret that ecommerce thrives on this content, especially when it's visual. According to research, it takes only 1/10th of a second to understand a visual, and 60 seconds on average to read 200-250 words of text. In the highly competitive world of online shopping, visualized information gives us an edge in competing for consumer attention.
But when it comes to visualizing information, there are more visual micro-content formats than just product images and demo videos.
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Why Visual Micro-Content?
Micro-content presents just as many opportunities as challenges. While it gives marketers opportunities to create engaging content without excessive effort and production budget, its low barrier to entry means everyone can put out micro-content.
To stand out in the overcrowded world of micro-content, to be the signal rather than more noise, marketers need to think hard about what to create.
You might want to consider incorporating visual micro-content if:
- You're tired of creating the same old social media posts with diminishing engagement.
- You lack the budget to bid for more Facebook video views.
- You have unique product niche knowledge but are concerned it might bore your target consumers unless it's presented in an interesting way.
That said, let's take a look at some innovative visual micro-content formats that cost nothing or very little to try.
1. Visual "How to" Posts
Whether your ecommerce store sells cosmetics or digital gadgets, you are providing utility for your customers. But the value you offer goes beyond products themselves. When communicating usefulness, think of the complete customer journey from the moment your customers realize the problem, to the moment they are delighted by the outcome.
That’s why how-to content is so in-demand across product categories. People seek answers all the time. Fulfilling your customer's need for guidance has more than one benefit:It can:
- Help them choose a product.
- Teach them how to use a product.
- Show them how to use your products in conjunction with other products to improve their lives.
In this example above, a short yet impactful visual guide explains everything one needs to know to pick the right sunglasses.
To create a successful visual how-to post, you must first of all understand your customers’ need gaps. In this case, people of all face shapes need a pair of sunglasses that complement their facial characteristics, and yet very few have the knowledge to make the right choice.
By bridging that knowledge gap between an average consumer and expert shopper, you are helping your customer move forward with their purchase journey.
When to use it: At the start of the consumer journey when they are becoming aware of the problem and searching for a solution.
How to create it: Research your target consumers’ knowledge gaps around your product, and find an illustrator to create a visual story of the solution narrative. You can hire one on Fiverr.
2. Quotable Stats
If you want to advocate the benefits of your product, nothing is more convincing than science-backed statistics. Our brain is easily persuaded by numbers because they appeal to our reason. In addition, a few data points are easier to recall than blocks of text.
And when you pair numbers with exciting visuals, the likelihood of your target audience remembering these facts is very high. The key is to deliver these quotable stats in simple and direct terms so they serve as a conversation starter, not the entire conversation. Rather than throwing in a bunch of stats that compete for your audience’s attention, try to emphasize only one or a few data points.
In the example above, the takeaway for the benefits of chia seeds is easy to comprehend and remember. The key is to find trustworthy data points that support your claim. For a better storytelling effect, use numbers that are rarely known or contradict conventional wisdom.
On the design side, use a minimal color palette and lots of white space to make the data points hard to dismiss. When you pair striking data with impactful design, the potential is limitless.
When to use it: At the Awareness stage when consumers are aware of the solution but aren’t aware of your product benefits yet, or at the Consideration stage when your customers are choosing between a few brands.
How to create it: Research your product niche to find interesting statistics to highlight. You can cut design costs by using any of a number of free or paid infographic tools with professional templates to create mini-infographics.
3. Creative Periodic Tables
What better way to show off your domain knowledge in your niche than a comprehensive periodic table?
Very few online shops have done it, and even fewer have done it well, which gives you all the more reason to try and excel at it.
The periodic table was first created to group and show chemical elements by their properties. With color-coded rows and columns, its grid system is great for grouping any elements that have similar properties. In an ecommerce context, it can be used to establish your domain authority by classifying products and help your target customer make educated buying decisions.
In the example above, Coffee Co-Mission made a periodic table based on all the varieties of coffee. It showcases the company’s impressive knowledge about coffee, and also serves as an educational guide to help consumers make an informed buying decision.
You might have suspected that this content type might be time consuming to research and create, but once created, it is timeless and evergreen, meaning that you can keep it in your content inventory forever to help drive sales.
When to use it: At the Awareness stage when your target customers haven’t heard of you yet, or at the advocacy stage to foster trust and loyalty among your customers.
How to create it: The most crucial part of creating a periodic table is the research. Make sure your research is thorough because your brand will be held accountable to it. The actual design of the table is rather straightforward. You don’t need a designer to color code your grid.
4. Fun Venn Diagrams
Originally invented to represent logical relationships between concepts, venn diagrams are mostly used in scientific contexts.
So you might think “fun venn diagrams” is an oxymoron.
But as a matter of fact, you can inject some deadpan humor into this rather rigid visual format.
Humor is a universally disarming tool to win over friends and establish trust. A humorous venn diagram can make your audience laugh, and help you make your way into their heart.
When it comes to making your own venn diagrams, there are actually many types of venn diagrams to choose from. Beyond the conventional two-circle venn diagrams like the one below, you can use multilayered or star venn diagrams to illustrate more complex relationships.
The example above is a picture-based venn diagram that plays on words. The beauty of venn diagrams is that because of their relatively simple form, you can play with the variables you represent in very creative ways. You can use it to drill down into complex ideas, explain relationships between parts and the whole, or present your arguments.
When to use it: At the Awareness stage when you are getting your brand name out to your target consumers by creating memorable content.
How to create it: A good venn diagram thrives on having a good concept. The copy needs to be simple and to the point—it’s about the big idea. You can create them using Microsoft Office tools. There is also a long list of free templates here for a more polished look.
5. Trend Maps
In today’s globalized ecommerce world, products are sourced, produced and shipped worldwide. There is a myriad of geographical data ecommerce marketers can tap into such as product distribution, regional differences, customer location, and much more.
To showcase these geographical trends in a visually interesting way, there is no better alternative than a trend map. These maps can help you illustrate interesting trends across regions. For example, choropleth maps use color to encode different types of qualitative data, while dot maps use dot density to represent frequency of a tracked event.
In the location map shown above, highlighting the staple hotdog of each state tells a very clear and visually compelling story. Think about what kind of geographic data you own or have access to, and how they can inform or delight your customers. It can be geographical patterns about your product, seasonal shopping trends, etc.
When to use it: At the Awareness stage to educate your target customers about your product, or the Advocacy stage to drive continuous engagement among existing customers.
How to create it: This type of visual content is a little more demanding on visual design skills if you are to create it from scratch. Luckily there are many free tools out there for you to use. Tableau Public is free for advanced visualizations, but the learning curve can be a bit steep. If you are looking for something quick and easy, try using preloaded map templates where you just need to populate the data.
To innovate is to survive in today’s competitive ecommerce world. Luckily for ecommerce marketers, experimenting with visual micro-content won’t cost you very much. What it requires is innovative thinking: an outside-of-the-box approach to consumer-driven content.
Do you have a micro-content type that works well for you? Have you found other types of innovative visual content for shopping sites? Let us know in the comments section below.
Banner image of elephant earrings via Burst.
About The Author
Lucia Wang is an art school graduate and human-centric technologist. She currently works on Growth at Visme, an online infographic & presentation maker. You can find Lucia on Twitter at @luciazw and Medium @luciaw.