“A picture is worth 1,000 words” has never been truer than in today’s visually-driven world. With billions of photos shared daily, consumers are always engaging with new visual assets — making it far more challenging for marketers to capture shoppers with commonplace imagery.

There’s no doubt about it: In order to remain competitive, brand marketers need to raise the bar with their marketing materials. This is particularly true in e-commerce, an environment where consumers are showing intent to purchase.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of marketers are facing challenges getting the most out of their images. Only 8% of marketers reported that they were optimizing the images featured on their websites effectively, according to a September 2015 study conducted by Curalate and the Internet Marketing Association.

While producing inspiring imagery appears to be challenging to many brand marketers, those on smaller budgets might find it especially daunting. If you fall into this segment, you might even feel like the odds are stacked against you.

Well, I’m here to tell you that a low budget is not a curse. In many ways, it’s actually a blessing. It’s an opportunity to think outside the box, and a bit of creativity and effort can go a long way.

Here are five ways you can make your site visually pop on a small budget.

1. Use free or low-cost tools to spruce up your images

If you’re going to invest in anything, it should be a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera. Many of them fall under the $500 range, and are incredibly user-friendly. If a DSLR camera just does not fit into your budget right now, lean on your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy in the meantime to help you produce beautiful product photos. You can do it as long as you keep a few things in mind: Good lighting, composition and context are crucial to setting up successful snapshots.

When it comes to editing, Adobe Photoshop is clearly the standard, but it can definitely be a bit pricey for smaller brands. To give your images a polished and authentic look for free, use the VSCO app or Pixlr.

2. When it comes to text, less is more

Visual consumers are cognizant of when brands are trying to sway them, and they typically aren’t receptive to it. Oftentimes, when marketers are lacking in images, they turn to prose to inspire shoppers to make purchases. This is a huge mistake. A wall of text explaining why your product is the “best on the market” will only result in turning shoppers off.

Instead, share product dimensions, color, materials and other pertinent details to convey your message. Aside from those key details, allow your product images to speak for themselves.

That’s exactly how Moorea Seal does it. The brand relies on a plethora of images to convey how every product looks in real life. The “Details” section of each product page simply lists the most pertinent details about the product.


3. User-generated content is your friend

This is a no-brainer for brands with smaller marketing budgets. If you’re low on time and funds, have your fans create content for you. It results in a win-win situation: You make your current customers happy by featuring them on your website and social channels, and you win new business with authentic pieces of content.

UGC is pretty influential: International beauty brand Sigma Beauty saw a 16X ROI after creating UGC galleries on SigmaBeauty.com.


You can encourage your fans to share content with you several ways:

  • Integrate an upload widget on your e-commerce site, asking consumers to share their photos for a chance to be featured.
  • Include a call-to-action to share photos in-store, if you have a brick-and-mortar presence.
  • Promote sharing on your social pages.

Check out how juice company Suja prompts customers for content:


To avoid any legal mishaps, always ensure that you are properly asking for permission and attributing images correctly.

4. Produce short-form videos

2016 might just be the year of digital video. People are consuming more video content than ever before, and your e-commerce site is a great place to leverage that.

Again, you don’t need fancy equipment. Your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy should be enough, so long as the lighting is great and you have an interesting story to tell. You might want to invest in a tripod mount, so your camera holds steady while you shoot. You can find many of them for less than $20 at various retailers.

Lululemon may not be a small brand, but the company’s short YouTube videos on product pages are a good example to follow. Their videos often depict someone wearing a product, and include subtle lines of overlay text to explain how the item serves its purpose as activewear.


Keeping your video under one minute is a good rule of thumb to follow. According to research from Locowise, the average video length on Facebook is 55.3 seconds. The average view duration? Just 18.2 seconds. Remember – you’re not creating a movie; just a snippet of visual content to give consumers a better idea of how your products look and feel.

5. Create a visual lifestyle blog

One of the most creative ways to make your e-commerce site stand out is by creating a lifestyle blog alongside it.

To start, focus on creating one post per week. Make it image-heavy and inspiring, and watch the followers flock to your blog. If you’re at a loss on the kind of content consumers want to see, consider these innovative blogs from Schoolhouse Electric, Mark & Graham and Urban Outfitters.

Here’s an example from Schoolhouse Electric:


The best way to take advantage of a lifestyle blog is to link the products you feature in your images back to their e-commerce product pages.

Small Budget, Big Moves

Staying competitive on a small budget can feel like a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. By staying on top of the latest trends, tricks and tools, any marketer can create a world-class visual content strategy. Read our free guide “The Complete Guide to Visual Commerce” to learn additional strategies to help you command attention in today’s visually-driven world.