Design heroes helping brands conquer eCommerce

* 3 min read

The online shopping marketplace is a highly visual one these days, and recent research has shown that mobile devices are now becoming the majority platform for grocery shopping. Today about half the adult population owns a smartphone, and by 2020, 80% will.

Mobile has transformed the way we all shop. Our phones give us access to search for products on the fly, whether it’s waiting in line at your local coffee shop, commuting into work or comparing prices online when you’re at a store to see what’s the better deal.

Everyone expects to able to do everything that your laptop can do on your mobile, however there are a few major differences; the screen size is much smaller and the rate of scrolling is much faster.

This presents real challenges for brands as more and more consumers turn to mobile to do their weekly shop. Online, your front-of-pack design is first viewed as a thumbnail about the size of a postage stamp, and as a result, your packaging has to work much harder to secure a sale.

So how you do maximise the effectiveness of a thumbnail? A recent collaborative study into e-commerce, led by the University of Cambridge and Unilever, yielded some insightful results and provided key recommendations on how to design e-commerce images that are visually clear. The main outtake of the research was to move away from conventional pack shots, and instead adopt a digitally-created representation of the product, known as a hero image, that delivers a stronger recognition of brand, product type, variant and pack size.


Oliver Bradley, Global eCommerce Experience Design Director at Unilever said: “Cambridge helped create a simple visual guide as an open standard to help others create primary images that follow inclusive design principles.” 

Sun Branding account director Kevin McAulay has been working with some of our key clients to bring hero images in to the brand design process.

“Pack shots are still industry standard, however with more consumers now using their mobiles for grocery shopping, I would say these standard pack shots do not work,” he said.

“I would even go so far as to say they adversely affect the user experience.

“Consumers want to be able to visually scan when shopping online and don’t like being forced to read. With still the same amount of space on screen, mobile ready hero images deliver stronger recognition of product, brand, size and variant.

“Sun Branding has already worked with a number of global brand owners to help launch their mobile ready hero images to market; in doing so, they’ve  seen a double digit sales uplift versus standard pack shots.”

Kevin McAulay, Account Director at Sun Branding Solutions

The artwork template for creating this new breed of eCommerce image is completely open source, and hero images have been found to deliver a significant sales lifts vs. conventional pack shots on all screen sizes (in quant studies with 3,000 shoppers on Amazon mobile and desktop) it’s likely to become standard practice for brands to add it to their packaging design process.


Mobile is already the number one platform for eCommerce both in developing and developed markets, so it’s important that businesses augment their packaging design to work for online rather than just traditional selling environments.

Want to optimise your brand for eCommerce? Give us a call on 01274 202382 or fill out our contact form.