Trying to sell a product? Goods have been sold for thousands of years at bazaars, but selling online is a completely different story. The main difference is which senses are used in the decision making process going on in the customer’s head.
Think about yourself going to the market to buy fruits, you’ll smell the lemons to see if they’re ripe, squeeze the apples to be certain they’re crisp, and taste a grape to make sure it’s sweet… But online you can really only count on the sense of sight. This puts a lot of weight on the importance of imagery and display in your store. Acknowledge this factor when trying to sell anything online.
Surfing the web has become an image rich experience, most people nowadays prefer consuming images over text. This has made human visual perception a recently frequent field of research. In this post we may discuss some things that will seem obvious, but predicting consumer behavior is tricky, many results are surprising and unexpected.
There are few if any proven guidelines on how to use images to increase conversions and revenue. Below are a few which we compiled, along with some results and conclusions, but please keep in mind that every rule has an exception.
Go big or go home
When it comes to product images, bigger is better. It’s more aesthetically appealing and it quickly catches the eye and captivates us. We are currently living in a world of short attention spans and a million and one constant distractions where the war being fought is for a mere few simple clicks. So give them what they want.
Keep it simple
Cluttered or confusing images tend to create the perception that a product or service may be difficult to use, sometimes it’s not clear what the product is. We prefer information that is easy to consume as well as products that are simple to understand. Marketers should remember that clear, straightforward images will drive higher conversions.
The more the merrier
Show as many images as you can of the product. Since the customer depends solely on his vision of the product, give him as much information as possible to strengthen his trust. Different viewing angles, different applications and detailed images. Using a zoom feature or digital loupe has in many cases shown to be an effective technique to improve conversion.
We already have an entire article dedicated to listing the advantages of a white background, but to sum up a few key points of why it’s preferable:
Easier to change shop themes (a colorful background could clash with a new theme)
Use the same images in a wide variety of different selling platforms and marketplaces
Less clutter for customers: simpler design eases the selection process
Smaller file size, less storage space and quicker upload
Looks better when displayed on a mobile device
Many businesses spend millions of dollars a year on eye-tracking and mouse-tracking technologies, as well as on A/B testing, in order to better understand patterns of how we view the web. So much so that a new field, Performance Marketing, has become an industry of its own, where algorithms are applied to statistics and analytical data in order to predict consumer behavior and optimize the visual layout of a webpage in order to improve its efficiency.
We put together a few real case studies conducted by big companies which asked similar questions regarding product imagery. They conducted A/B tests, meaning they changed only one visual element and tested it against the original, then quantified the results.
Upgraded Ape wanted to see if having a white background for their products would really change their conversion rate or if it’s just something that others do blindly because everyone else is doing it.
The result? Their conversion rates went up by 10%, but their social sharing for the images went down by 15%. This company found the tradeoff worthwhile, but this depends on the specific company’s goals. Upgraded Ape also did a test on stock images with a white background versus custom made photos with a white background. As expected, the stock image resulted in a 26% drop in their conversion rate.
Conclusion: white backgrounds increased sales but lowered social sharing. Additionally stock images lowered conversion rates.
Microsoft wanted to test out the effects of a product image within their email marketing, to see if a colored background would perform better over a white one. The image with the white background increased the click-through rate (CTR) by 325% !!
Conclusion: white backgrounds improved CTR in emails with product images.
SmartWool previously had differently sized images on a page rather than the traditional e-commerce design of equal sized images in equal sized rows. They conducted an A/B test on how the traditional design performed over their unique one (testing how the change affected their revenue per customer). They found that the traditional design (version B below) yielded a 17.1% increase.
Conclusion: equally sized images in a grid view showed higher revenue per customer
Mall.cz wanted to see how larger product images affected their sales. They tested product images with text beside against slightly larger images with text below against the same sized image with text that popped up only when the mouse was over the product. The large images with the hover-over text won, showing a 9.46% sales increase.
Conclusion: Keep the design clean, pack shots big and avoid distracting customer attention with text.
Here are a few more image tips that have been shown to improve conversion rates in e-commerce:
If you’re going to show people don’t use stock photos. Real people (hero shots) get a lot of attention while stock photo people look cheap and are largely overlooked.
Show product variations if relevant (different colors, sizes and other nuances)
The most important idea for you to take home from this article is to keep a dynamic environment and an open mind. Nothing is written in stone. People’s viewing preferences change according to nationality, climate, age, sex, currency, religion, language and an infinite number of other factors. So play around, test things out and see what works best for your target audience.