This much is clear – it’s only a very small minority of visitors who are going to be interested in purchasing your product if you don’t have images of it. That said, even in 2015, you can still find smaller e-commerce stores with an unfortunate “there is no image for this item” message on some of their product pages.
Even if customers are quite aware of what an item looks like, they are still unlikely to part with their cash via a page that doesn’t include a decent photo. Take Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone product, for example. Would you buy an iPhone from a webpage that was missing an image of the device itself? I sure wouldn’t, even though I already know exactly what the phone looks like. That’s besides the point – the lack of a photo makes me distrust the retailer.
Those sites are a minority though, as most small enterprises have recognised that product images make or break an e-commerce businesses. That said, even in today’s sophisticated marketplace, many businesses still supply very poor quality images to their customers, and seem to think that’s enough.
Perhaps these sellers feel that a low quality image will suffice, or perhaps they are on a tight budget and hoped to save money on photography. But this is a false economy, as high-quality photos make sales and low-quality photos reflect poorly on your business.
When shopping online, high-resolution photographs are the closest a customer can get to picking up, touching the item, and inspecting it. Photographs are the only tangible representation of the product, so it’s your job to make sure your images showcase your products in the best light possible.
As well as having appealing and high-quality photographs, how they are displayed on the page is also important. Now that high-speed Internet connections are commonplace in many markets, more and more e-commerce businesses are choosing to load high-resolution images across the product page, allowing customers a great view of the product’s detail, without requiring a user to click on a little magnifying glass or the like. Designer furniture retailers and luxury fashion brands have been early adopters of this method, as it allows them to demonstrate the fine detail of their products as if the customer were in a physical boutique, in an upmarket part of town.
In today’s competitive marketplace, you’ll want every advantage you can get, and having high-quality photography is no longer enough. The content of the images also has to be optimised. Here are some tips on how to use the content of the product photography to increase your conversion rates.
Use your images to depict emotions
Anyone who has skimmed the blurb of Freakonomics knows that while we convince ourselves that our purchases are made based on careful calculations and the balancing of needs, most of the time we spend cash based on emotional factors.
If your product photography included a little more emotion, could it cause an increase in conversion? Instead of demonstrating the product in the most literal way possible, why not demonstrate how it makes the wearer feel, instead?
If your product photography included a little more emotion, could it cause an increase in…
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Will these heels make the wearer feel like they can take over the world? Will this video streaming service bring the family together? Will this protein shake help the customer to get the body they’ve always wanted? Show them the emotional benefits of the product as well as the features of the product itself.
Only a small percentage of our purchases are required for survival, the rest are made to fulfil our human emotional needs.
Show your product in a suitable environment
The environment that your photo is set in is also important. While shooting on a plain white or plain background can make for seamless integration of the images into your web pages, a real background can help add context to your product as well as creating brand associations in the mind of the viewer.
Take this example from Range Rover. As well as showing off the top-of-the-range luxury vehicle in all it’s glory, the car is parked in an expensive retail area of London. This reinforces Range Rover’s image as a luxe British brand, adored by landed gentry.
Show another side of your product
Lots of websites have a high-resolution images of their products, but many only have the one. A better option is to have multiple images showing the product from various angles and showcasing its best features.
Instead of offering your customers just one photo of your handbag, why not include a macro shot of the zipper, or a close-up on the stitching. This helps to recreate the inspection of luxury goods that would have occurred in the boutique. If you are selling a pair of jeans, why not include a rear view as well as the front? What the back looks like is just as important as the front to many people.
Why not also include photos of each colour option? Nothing is more frustrating than finding a sweater with 3 colour options and having to guess what the less popular options look like because there is only one version in the photos.
Below is an example of how you can use multiple photos taken from different angles to showcase various features and details of your products.
Another option for showcasing products is the increasingly popular “360 degree photograph”. While these run the risk of not working on everyone’s computer, and while they require special equipment to create the images in the first place, they are also a powerful way of creating an exciting and “hands-on” shopping experience.
Show the product in context
Models get paid huge sums of money because they allow brands to show clothing products in context, and in a flattering light. That said, many e-commerce sites never show customers their products in context.
Too often, you see jewellery pages with no models showing what the product looks like when worn, furniture outside of the context of a furnished room, or tools with no images showing how they work.
Here is an example in which skate brand Supra showcase their product (at multiple angles) as well as showing the audience an image of someone who they admire benefiting from the product’s genuine functionality.
Not only do photographs which show the product in context help to explain the features of the product, they have the psychological benefit of helping customers to visualise themselves using the product, or allowing them to imagine the product improving their life in some way.
Why not take the opportunity to showcase your product being used in a way that isn’t realistic, but highlights some feature of the product in a flattering way? A great example of this is when Apple released the advert for the Macbook Air, which featured the laptop being slipped out of a paper envelope. Now, it probably wouldn’t be safe to actually transport a laptop in that way, but the point was made. The Macbook Air wasn’t fast and didn’t have a great battery life, but it was thin – and that’s why you were supposed to buy it. Their product imagery wasn’t realistic, but it made a point.
The human touch
Sometimes, you’ll have the option to include people in your product photos or focus on the product alone. For example, if you sell art, you will have the choice of whether or not to include photos of the artist alongside photos of the artwork itself. If you sell software, you may find yourself able to choose between an image of your software loaded onto a shiny new Mac, or a photo of a customer enjoying using your software.
In these situations, it’s almost always better to use the photo with the person. Humans are social animals and we relate to one another in ways we do not relate to machines or concepts.
Software company 37Signals found that when they moved away from a text-heavy page product page (with a nicely designed graphic showcasing the product’s features) to a full-width image of a smiling customer, conversions shot up but 102.5%. That tells you all you need to know.
Learn from eye-tracking studies
Studies show that when a model is looking at a product or headline, the audience looks at it too.
While the model may just be an image on a screen, made up of pixels, we treat them as if they were real and follow their lead when it comes to which elements of the screen to pay attention too.
This well known image comes from an eye tracking study and shows the effect of getting the models line of sight correct.
Harsh as it may sound, eye-tracking studies have also shown that men are constantly assessing models, particularly female ones – looking at their lips, breasts, stomachs and pelvises. While how long men’s eyes linger varies by territory, it’s quite universal that men will focus mainly on the breasts if an image of an attractive woman is presented.
The studies also show that when a female customer is presented with the same image, they focus on the eyes, breasts and then material goods such as her clothes or jewellery.
These studies support the idea that marketers can take advantage of evolutionary psychology when formulating their campaigns.
As you can see in the diagram below, women closely inspect the woman’s material property, including her belt buckle and engagement ring, while men are mainly interested in her breasts.
Now that you know a little more about how important seemingly minor aspects of your product photography are, you can produce images that better showcase your product, offer more information to your customers, and make the most out of patterns in our behavioural psychology.
Now go out there and shoot some new, higher converting product photos!