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E-Commerce Product Images Best Practices

E-Commerce Product Images Best Practices

Product images are an important component in e-commerce marketing and the primary way for users to inspect and evaluate products. Research has shown that a variety of image types are needed for an optimal consumer experience.

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Dec 24, 2023

Digital Commerce

Product Images

Why Product Images are Important for E-Commerce

Why Product Images are Important for E-Commerce

For digital shopping experiences, product images play a pivotal role in consumer decision-making. As the primary tool for inspecting and evaluating products, high-quality and diverse product images have become indispensable for e-commerce, often serving as the primary way for users to inspect and evaluate products, substituting the experience of physically handling them. Baymard Institute reports that 56% of users first engage with these images upon visiting a product page, prioritizing them over reading titles or descriptions. This underscores the need for a variety of image types on e-commerce sites, as outlined in these guidelines. However, a significant shortfall exists for many e-commerce websites. According to their research, 28% of e-commerce sites provide only 1-2 angle images, inadequately meeting the user's need for detailed visual inspection. This is particularly insufficient for products where aesthetics and specific features are crucial, such as electronics, furniture, and apparel, which require a diverse range of imagery, typically 5-15 different types of product images.

3-5 Product Images for Each Product

Product images have emerged as a vital aspect of online shopping, often being the first element users interact with on product pages. Testing shows that 56% of users start by exploring images, even before reading product titles or descriptions, regardless of whether the product is spec-driven like electronics or visually-driven like apparel. These images form users' initial impressions and are crucial for their preliminary evaluation. Most e-commerce sites understand this, providing multiple images even for simpler products, creatively showcasing them in various contexts to engage users. However, testing identified a need for specific types of images: those showing products "In Scale," highlighting features, and presenting multiple angles. If accessories are included, an additional image should show the product with these accessories.

In practice, this means each product typically requires at least 3 to 5 images, with no observed issues handling up to 10-15 images per product. High-quality images are essential; low-resolution or poor-quality images negatively impact user perception and can lead to abandonment. While users may not appreciate the cost of providing high-quality images, they judge a product and the site based on the images presented. The challenge varies between brand sites, which can easily produce multiple images for their products, and traditional e-commerce platforms selling products from various vendors. For these sites, it's essential to at least source or create high-quality images for key product verticals and best-selling items. To justify the investment in more images, A/B testing can be used to monitor the return on investment, particularly for high-traffic products or categories.

Product Images with Scale Reference

In physical stores, assessing the scale of products like refrigerators or smaller items like shoes is straightforward for shoppers, but this immediate sense of size is challenging to replicate online. During Baymard's UX testing, a significant 42% of subjects tried to gauge product size from images. However, traditional "Cut Out" images, which show products on a plain background, often fail to convey accurate size. This leads users to work harder to determine sizes or draw inaccurate conclusions. "In Scale" images, which place products in typical environments or alongside familiar objects, are crucial in helping users understand product size. For instance, showing a refrigerator in a kitchen setting or a hand cream bottle next to a water bottle can provide a clear sense of scale.

The importance of these "In Scale" images is evident when UX research subjects compare similar products. Baymard reports that users respond more positively to products with "In Scale" images, as they could easily determine the product's size. These images also help users visualize how the product fits into their lifestyle. For products that are worn or used directly, like backpacks or kitchen mixers, showing them in use or in relevant settings helps users understand their size and utility. Additionally, for e-commerce sites with large product catalogs, sourcing or creating "In Scale" images for key products or bestsellers is recommended, while computer-generated images based on product dimensions can be a feasible alternative for the rest of the catalog. This approach ensures users get a realistic understanding of product size, enhancing their shopping experience.

Feature Callout Product Images

"Feature Callout" images play a crucial role in online shopping by highlighting specific aspects of products, such as a bag's closure or a refrigerator's icemaker. During UX testing, Baymard observed that while most sites provided some "Feature Callout" images, challenges arose when these were insufficient or of poor quality, leading users to overlook important features. This is particularly significant given that users often rely more on images than on reading product descriptions or specifications. Without adequate "Feature Callout" images, customers might miss essential features, as evidenced by a user's comment about being a visual learner. Indeed, over half of the users first explore product images upon arriving at a product page.

These types of images are not just zoom functions or close-ups; they need to explicitly highlight product features. For example, showing the knobs of a grill or the pockets of a bag in detail can significantly influence user understanding and interest. "Feature Callout" images are also an opportunity for sites to showcase product uses or features that may not be immediately obvious, thereby enhancing the product's appeal. In terms of implementation, there's a disparity between what's feasible for brand sites, which can easily create high-quality images for their entire range, and traditional e-commerce platforms dealing with multiple vendors. For the latter, focusing on the most important or best-selling products for "Feature Callout" images is more realistic. Sites should aim to include 2-5 images of a product’s most popular features, and also consider more mundane aspects or creative uses. For products without obvious visual features, like hand lotion, creativity in showcasing the product's texture or application can be key. In all cases, high-resolution images are vital for effectiveness. If color variations are available, a "color collage" can be particularly useful, providing an overview and reducing the risk of users overlooking available options.

"Feature Callout" images play a crucial role in online shopping by highlighting specific aspects of products, such as a bag's closure or a refrigerator's icemaker. During UX testing, Baymard observed that while most sites provided some "Feature Callout" images, challenges arose when these were insufficient or of poor quality, leading users to overlook important features. This is particularly significant given that users often rely more on images than on reading product descriptions or specifications. Without adequate "Feature Callout" images, customers might miss essential features, as evidenced by a user's comment about being a visual learner. Indeed, over half of the users first explore product images upon arriving at a product page.

These types of images are not just zoom functions or close-ups; they need to explicitly highlight product features. For example, showing the knobs of a grill or the pockets of a bag in detail can significantly influence user understanding and interest. "Feature Callout" images are also an opportunity for sites to showcase product uses or features that may not be immediately obvious, thereby enhancing the product's appeal. In terms of implementation, there's a disparity between what's feasible for brand sites, which can easily create high-quality images for their entire range, and traditional e-commerce platforms dealing with multiple vendors. For the latter, focusing on the most important or best-selling products for "Feature Callout" images is more realistic. Sites should aim to include 2-5 images of a product’s most popular features, and also consider more mundane aspects or creative uses. For products without obvious visual features, like hand lotion, creativity in showcasing the product's texture or application can be key. In all cases, high-resolution images are vital for effectiveness. If color variations are available, a "color collage" can be particularly useful, providing an overview and reducing the risk of users overlooking available options.

Multiple Angles for Product Images

Multiple Angles for Product Images

In physical stores, customers have the advantage of examining products from various angles, enhancing their understanding and confidence in their choices. This tactile interaction is particularly important for items like toys, where customers can physically handle them to appreciate their shape and features. However, this level of interaction is often lacking in online platforms. Tests have shown that many shoppers feel a sense of dissatisfaction when unable to view products from various perspectives. While "In Scale," "Feature Callout," and "Lifestyle" images offer some visual insight, they fall short in providing the comprehensive visual overview that dedicated multi-angle images can.

The necessity for multiple angles becomes particularly evident when key features of a product are only partially visible in the provided images, leading to user frustration and missed appreciation of hidden attributes. "Feature Callout" images, while helpful, can lack context, leaving users uncertain about the feature's placement or relevance in the overall product design. Despite the availability of 360-degree views and product videos, these tools are not always used by consumers, making them insufficient substitutes for multi-angle images. A combination of various angle shots and a robust zoom feature can significantly enhance the user experience, allowing for detailed exploration without overwhelming them with excessive images. Despite the clear preference for multiple views in online shopping, a notable percentage of e-commerce sites still fail to offer more than one or two angle images for their top-selling products, indicating a significant area for improvement in online retail to meet customer expectations and aid in confident purchasing decisions.

In physical stores, customers have the advantage of examining products from various angles, enhancing their understanding and confidence in their choices. This tactile interaction is particularly important for items like toys, where customers can physically handle them to appreciate their shape and features. However, this level of interaction is often lacking in online platforms. Tests have shown that many shoppers feel a sense of dissatisfaction when unable to view products from various perspectives. While "In Scale," "Feature Callout," and "Lifestyle" images offer some visual insight, they fall short in providing the comprehensive visual overview that dedicated multi-angle images can.

The necessity for multiple angles becomes particularly evident when key features of a product are only partially visible in the provided images, leading to user frustration and missed appreciation of hidden attributes. "Feature Callout" images, while helpful, can lack context, leaving users uncertain about the feature's placement or relevance in the overall product design. Despite the availability of 360-degree views and product videos, these tools are not always used by consumers, making them insufficient substitutes for multi-angle images. A combination of various angle shots and a robust zoom feature can significantly enhance the user experience, allowing for detailed exploration without overwhelming them with excessive images. Despite the clear preference for multiple views in online shopping, a notable percentage of e-commerce sites still fail to offer more than one or two angle images for their top-selling products, indicating a significant area for improvement in online retail to meet customer expectations and aid in confident purchasing decisions.

Lifestyle Product Images

Lifestyle Product Images

"Lifestyle" product images go beyond the basic function of showcasing a product's features or scale, by emotionally engaging users and associating the product with a desirable lifestyle. These images have proven effective in influencing purchasing decisions, as can be seen from user testing where subjects become more inclined to buy products depicted in an aspirational context. For instance, a portable speaker becomes more appealing when shown in use at a social gathering, highlighting its role in enhancing an active social life. This approach mirrors classic marketing strategies, where products are not just displayed but are shown as integral to a certain lifestyle or experience, like cars in scenic drives.

However, not all products may require "Lifestyle" images. Items that are highly technical or specific replacement parts, for instance, may benefit more from detailed "Feature Callout" images or information about included accessories. For such products, customers typically have a precise need and may not be influenced as much by lifestyle imagery. The feasibility of creating "Lifestyle" images also varies between brand sites, which often already have such imagery for advertising purposes, and larger e-commerce platforms with diverse product ranges. For these larger platforms, focusing on key product verticals or best-sellers for "Lifestyle" imagery is more realistic. Including these images on product pages is crucial as it ensures all users, regardless of how they arrive at the page, have the opportunity to see and be influenced by them. Additionally, product videos can complement "Lifestyle" images by dynamically showcasing products in use, further enhancing the user's connection with the product.

"Lifestyle" product images go beyond the basic function of showcasing a product's features or scale, by emotionally engaging users and associating the product with a desirable lifestyle. These images have proven effective in influencing purchasing decisions, as can be seen from user testing where subjects become more inclined to buy products depicted in an aspirational context. For instance, a portable speaker becomes more appealing when shown in use at a social gathering, highlighting its role in enhancing an active social life. This approach mirrors classic marketing strategies, where products are not just displayed but are shown as integral to a certain lifestyle or experience, like cars in scenic drives.

However, not all products may require "Lifestyle" images. Items that are highly technical or specific replacement parts, for instance, may benefit more from detailed "Feature Callout" images or information about included accessories. For such products, customers typically have a precise need and may not be influenced as much by lifestyle imagery. The feasibility of creating "Lifestyle" images also varies between brand sites, which often already have such imagery for advertising purposes, and larger e-commerce platforms with diverse product ranges. For these larger platforms, focusing on key product verticals or best-sellers for "Lifestyle" imagery is more realistic. Including these images on product pages is crucial as it ensures all users, regardless of how they arrive at the page, have the opportunity to see and be influenced by them. Additionally, product videos can complement "Lifestyle" images by dynamically showcasing products in use, further enhancing the user's connection with the product.

Product Images for Included Accessories

Product Images for Included Accessories

Including images of accessories that come with a product is an essential aspect of online product presentation, as it significantly impacts customer perception and purchase decisions. During testing, subjects expressed a higher likelihood of buying a product when they could see it comes with additional accessories. However, clarity is crucial in differentiating between included and optional accessories. When included accessories are not shown, customers may undervalue the product, assuming it comes without extras. Conversely, displaying optional accessories without clear labeling can mislead customers into thinking these are part of the purchase, leading to frustration when they realize this is not the case.

For optimal clarity, "Included Accessories" images should be placed prominently in the main image gallery, clearly alongside the product, to communicate their inclusion effectively. This approach counters the tendency of customers to overlook detailed product descriptions in favor of visual information. Similarly, when optional accessories are a key selling point of a product, they should be highlighted in an "Optional Accessories" image within the main gallery, with explicit indication that they are not included in the base price. For less critical accessories or when there are numerous options, like for laptops or cameras, a separate cross-sell section is more appropriate. This strategy ensures customers can easily identify what is and isn't included, enhancing their shopping experience and preventing any confusion or disappointment post-purchase.

Including images of accessories that come with a product is an essential aspect of online product presentation, as it significantly impacts customer perception and purchase decisions. During testing, subjects expressed a higher likelihood of buying a product when they could see it comes with additional accessories. However, clarity is crucial in differentiating between included and optional accessories. When included accessories are not shown, customers may undervalue the product, assuming it comes without extras. Conversely, displaying optional accessories without clear labeling can mislead customers into thinking these are part of the purchase, leading to frustration when they realize this is not the case.

For optimal clarity, "Included Accessories" images should be placed prominently in the main image gallery, clearly alongside the product, to communicate their inclusion effectively. This approach counters the tendency of customers to overlook detailed product descriptions in favor of visual information. Similarly, when optional accessories are a key selling point of a product, they should be highlighted in an "Optional Accessories" image within the main gallery, with explicit indication that they are not included in the base price. For less critical accessories or when there are numerous options, like for laptops or cameras, a separate cross-sell section is more appropriate. This strategy ensures customers can easily identify what is and isn't included, enhancing their shopping experience and preventing any confusion or disappointment post-purchase.

Descriptive Text & Additional Graphics

Descriptive Text & Additional Graphics

Descriptive text and graphics on product images bridge the gap between visual representation and detailed product information, providing users with a comprehensive understanding of the product. While images excel in showing scale, features, and lifestyle context, they often fall short in conveying intricate details, which are typically found in text descriptions. However, many users prefer visual cues over reading lengthy texts, as indicated by 56% of subjects initially exploring product images during testing. Descriptive text added to images can clarify ambiguous aspects, particularly when feature callout images are cropped too closely, leaving users confused about the feature's location or purpose.

This combination of imagery and text becomes even more crucial for conveying non-visual or abstract features like weather resistance or scent. For example, outdoor furniture images can include a water droplet graphic with “all-weather fabric” text to communicate weather resistance, or beauty products can use a lavender flower graphic with "lavender scented" text to indicate fragrance. Users responded positively to such creative combinations during testing, quickly grasping features like water resistance from a speaker image surrounded by splashing water. Furthermore, this approach is cost-effective for e-commerce sites, especially those with extensive product catalogs, as it reduces the need to shoot multiple images for each feature. However, care must be taken in technical implementation to ensure readability on both desktop and mobile platforms, either by using captions or ensuring the mobile view is considered during the creation of images with embedded text. This strategy effectively communicates crucial information and enhances user experience without overwhelming them with extensive reading.

Descriptive text and graphics on product images bridge the gap between visual representation and detailed product information, providing users with a comprehensive understanding of the product. While images excel in showing scale, features, and lifestyle context, they often fall short in conveying intricate details, which are typically found in text descriptions. However, many users prefer visual cues over reading lengthy texts, as indicated by 56% of subjects initially exploring product images during testing. Descriptive text added to images can clarify ambiguous aspects, particularly when feature callout images are cropped too closely, leaving users confused about the feature's location or purpose.

This combination of imagery and text becomes even more crucial for conveying non-visual or abstract features like weather resistance or scent. For example, outdoor furniture images can include a water droplet graphic with “all-weather fabric” text to communicate weather resistance, or beauty products can use a lavender flower graphic with "lavender scented" text to indicate fragrance. Users responded positively to such creative combinations during testing, quickly grasping features like water resistance from a speaker image surrounded by splashing water. Furthermore, this approach is cost-effective for e-commerce sites, especially those with extensive product catalogs, as it reduces the need to shoot multiple images for each feature. However, care must be taken in technical implementation to ensure readability on both desktop and mobile platforms, either by using captions or ensuring the mobile view is considered during the creation of images with embedded text. This strategy effectively communicates crucial information and enhances user experience without overwhelming them with extensive reading.

Product Variation Images

Product Variation Images

In e-commerce, the visual display of product variations plays a crucial role in customer decision-making, yet it's often underutilized. Testing showed that users frequently overlook variation selectors like color drop-downs, mistakenly believing a product is available only in the displayed variation. This misunderstanding can lead to lost sales, as customers might reject a product based on its color, not realizing other options are available. Including a "Product Variation" image in the main image gallery addresses this issue effectively. It not only captures user attention - since the gallery is often the most engaging element - but also allows for immediate, side-by-side comparison of all available variations, like color or material, enhancing the user's ability to evaluate and choose.

Many e-commerce sites fail to incorporate "Product Variation" images, despite their clear benefit in showcasing all variations at a glance. Such images, often used in homepage or campaign materials, are crucial in the product gallery, especially for users landing directly on the product page. This approach is particularly beneficial for visual variations, such as color, style (e.g., different lengths of a winter coat), or functionality (e.g., a fridge with an ice maker). For variations like size, however, this method may not be as effective. Adding descriptive text or captions to these images can further aid understanding, especially for users who may struggle to discern variations, like those who are color blind, by clearly stating options like “Available in 8 colors.” This strategy improves the overall shopping experience and potentially increases sales by highlighting the full range of options available.

In e-commerce, the visual display of product variations plays a crucial role in customer decision-making, yet it's often underutilized. Testing showed that users frequently overlook variation selectors like color drop-downs, mistakenly believing a product is available only in the displayed variation. This misunderstanding can lead to lost sales, as customers might reject a product based on its color, not realizing other options are available. Including a "Product Variation" image in the main image gallery addresses this issue effectively. It not only captures user attention - since the gallery is often the most engaging element - but also allows for immediate, side-by-side comparison of all available variations, like color or material, enhancing the user's ability to evaluate and choose.

Many e-commerce sites fail to incorporate "Product Variation" images, despite their clear benefit in showcasing all variations at a glance. Such images, often used in homepage or campaign materials, are crucial in the product gallery, especially for users landing directly on the product page. This approach is particularly beneficial for visual variations, such as color, style (e.g., different lengths of a winter coat), or functionality (e.g., a fridge with an ice maker). For variations like size, however, this method may not be as effective. Adding descriptive text or captions to these images can further aid understanding, especially for users who may struggle to discern variations, like those who are color blind, by clearly stating options like “Available in 8 colors.” This strategy improves the overall shopping experience and potentially increases sales by highlighting the full range of options available.

User Submitted Product Images

User Submitted Product Images

User-generated product images, akin to user reviews, significantly enhance the authenticity and reliability of product detail pages. In testing from Baymard, 36% of subjects found these images crucial for gaining a deeper understanding of products, particularly appreciating the real-life context they provide. Unlike the often 'perfect' appearance of site-provided images, user-submitted photos showcase products in genuine use conditions, which is especially valuable for high-cost items. For example, one test subject expressed frustration at the absence of user-generated images for a fridge, highlighting their need for detailed, real-world visuals before making a significant purchase like a $1,300 fridge.

These images not only offer a realistic portrayal of products but also can give insights into the product's scale by showing them alongside commonly known items, adding a layer of practicality that site-provided images may lack. However, the placement of user-generated images on product pages remains a topic of debate. While some users prefer them integrated into the main product gallery, others find them less useful, indicating the need for clear labeling to distinguish them from official images. Encouraging users to submit their photos, possibly with incentives, is vital, given that 40% of e-commerce sites don't facilitate user-submitted images. Concerns about misuse can be mitigated through automated or manual photo verification processes, making these images a cost-effective way to enrich product pages with authentic, site-specific content that resonates with potential buyers.

User-generated product images, akin to user reviews, significantly enhance the authenticity and reliability of product detail pages. In testing from Baymard, 36% of subjects found these images crucial for gaining a deeper understanding of products, particularly appreciating the real-life context they provide. Unlike the often 'perfect' appearance of site-provided images, user-submitted photos showcase products in genuine use conditions, which is especially valuable for high-cost items. For example, one test subject expressed frustration at the absence of user-generated images for a fridge, highlighting their need for detailed, real-world visuals before making a significant purchase like a $1,300 fridge.

These images not only offer a realistic portrayal of products but also can give insights into the product's scale by showing them alongside commonly known items, adding a layer of practicality that site-provided images may lack. However, the placement of user-generated images on product pages remains a topic of debate. While some users prefer them integrated into the main product gallery, others find them less useful, indicating the need for clear labeling to distinguish them from official images. Encouraging users to submit their photos, possibly with incentives, is vital, given that 40% of e-commerce sites don't facilitate user-submitted images. Concerns about misuse can be mitigated through automated or manual photo verification processes, making these images a cost-effective way to enrich product pages with authentic, site-specific content that resonates with potential buyers.

Source

Baymard Institute

Baymard Institute

E-Commerce User Experience Research (2023)

© 2024 Hypersonic LLC

3867 N Palmer St Suite 211, Milwaukee, WI 53212

© 2024 Hypersonic LLC

3867 N Palmer St Suite 211, Milwaukee, WI 53212

© 2024 Hypersonic LLC

3867 N Palmer St Suite 211, Milwaukee, WI 53212