LONDON — Apu Gupta, cofounder and chief executive officer of the visual commerce platform Curalate, discussed how brands can leverage the imagery they already have — and imagery from online fans — to entice customers and make them buy.

“Today, consumers discover in more places than ever and form opinions from more places than ever,” he said. “We consume content not just from TV and print but from the Web, from apps, from social, from blogs — and the number of touch points just continue to grow. Every one of these touch points is increasingly being dominated by images and that is leading to a tremendous explosion of content that is being created both by you and for you,” he said.

He pointed out that content created by brands for their dot-com sites was just a small slice of the overall content being created around the brand by fans, influencers and blogs.

“We almost never use that content and it’s a shame because that content is incredibly powerful, it’s beautiful,” he said, pointing to the aspirational, lifestyle images that appear on Instagram and other social media sites. He compared them with the straightforward product shots that are regularly used on e-commerce sites, created for accuracy rather than beauty.

“The problem is we create these incredibly powerful assets for aspiration and we put them on channels where those assets die in mere minutes,” he said. “The life of content on [social media] is minutes to hours at best. Unlike the stuff that sits on our dot-com, this really powerful content that we have deployed to all these other channels has no information about the products.”

He added that the really forward-looking brands “are starting to connect these images to the products that are contained within them. If you can do that, you can deploy them anywhere, any touch point that a consumer might discover you on. You can influence discovery and ultimately conversions across any touch point.”

As an example of a brand that is managing to tap into that rich vein of underutilized aspirational imagery, Gupta held up Forever 21, which has a huge following on Instagram. The brand uses the Curalate-created Like 2 Buy platform that makes Instagram images shoppable.

“Historically, Forever 21 would take great photos and post them out to Instagram and now what they are doing is connecting those pictures to products. When a consumer engages with their Instagram account, they can actually discover the products that this model is wearing,” he said.

“The first two weeks that Forever 21 launched this capability on their Instagram account, they delivered 38,000 visitors to their Web site. And those visitors stayed on site 24 percent longer than a typical mobile user.” Likewise, Guess used its Instagram imagery on its app, connecting those to products to purchase.

Alternatively, Gupta said that Target didn’t want to just leverage new forms of content, it wanted to leverage new sources of data to simulate the experience of browsing and discovering in a shop. The store used data from its social media channels to identify the Target products that were most talked about.

From this, it created a new site called Awesome Shop, populated by the products most pinned on Pinterest. “It helps consumers discover things they may never have known they wanted,” he said.

Blog content created by brands is another source of imagery that can be used to drive sales conversions. Crate & Barrel does this by leveraging influencers to create this content. But, instead of a clunky list of links to products beneath an image, the store made the images shoppable, so that by hovering over a product, a consumer could click straight through to a product to purchase.

“As a result of this, they are now sending twice the traffic from their blog to their e-commerce site than they ever did before,” said Gupta. has begun distributing shoppable content to blogs that are part of its affiliate program. When these influencers embed that image on their blogs consumers who discover theses things can instantly go to the right place.

“Ultimately the point of purchase is going to move to the point of discovery,” Gupta said, but it’s still a way off. “Five to ten years at least, while the technology catches up with consumer behavior.”