You know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, it is especially true in the world of ecommerce. With more and more shoppers making the switch to online shopping out of convenience and availability, retailers need to make up for the lack of physical experience shoppers would normally get from experiencing the product in person. So, as retailers, how do we wisely choose images that will convey the “thousand words” we need them to?
The following four points will help you successfully provide your shoppers with the information they need to plunge into the buying process.
1. Large, high-quality images that are free of visual distractions
In their User Experience (UX) research report, E-Commerce User Experience Vol.3, the Nielson Norman Group provides us with valuable context to explain the importance of large, high-quality images. The research concludes that users were more attracted to and felt better informed to make a purchasing decision when product images were clear and of a higher quality. One shopper even said,
“The biggest problem with any kind of shopping I’ve done online is that it’s not a big enough picture for me to assess whether or not I like it.”
Clear product images were crucial for decision making in this case ("E-Commerce User Experience" 109-110).
Researchers at the Baymard Institute also discuss in their research report, M-Commerce Usability: Exploring the Mobile Shopping Experience, the importance of using large, detailed product images. The report explains that the physical experience a shopper gets in a brick-and-mortar store is compromised by the nature of ecommerce. In the world of ecommerce, shoppers are not able to experience a product's texture,
2. Additional views of the product from different angles
When you don’t have the ability to physically hold and experience a product, the more visual information you can provide a shopper with, the better. The Nielsen Norman Group research report states that almost any product can benefit from showing additional views from other angles. These views may show, but not be limited to, the front, back, side, details or special features of a product ("E-Commerce User Experience" 117-118).
Along the same lines, the Baymard Institute research report explains that by viewing a product from different angles the shopper is able to better judge the product’s quality, materials, and packaging— all vital in the buying decision ("M-Commerce Usability" 203). Seeing the interior of a backpack, bottom of a yoga mat, or
From an article written for the Baymard Institute entitled, UX: 7 Product Image Categories, Christian Holst poses a valid question: besides the traditional white background product shown from three different angles, which other product shots can provide shoppers the information they need? As you may have guessed, this brings us to our third point...
3. Product in lifestyle settings
By seeing a product in an everyday, lifestyle setting, a shopper is able to better imagine and visualize how they would use the product themselves. In the Baymard Institute article, Holst explains some of the benefits that can be gained in shooting products in lifestyle settings. For instance, a product’s size and proportion can often be difficult to determine from an image. But, when a product is placed in the context of other applicable items, size and proportion can be better communicated. Seeing a backpack with a water bottle, bike helmet, keys, shoes, and money can help the shopper imagine what items of their own would also appropriately fit in the bag ("UX: 7 Product Image Categories").
Another benefit explained by Holst is the idea that by showing a product in a lifestyle context the product begins to feel less sterile and more human. By including humans or living creatures within the product image, an emotional response can be evoked within the
4. Video of the product when applicable
Here's a Few Good Examples of What Others Are Doing.
Gaiam - #1 innovator of premium yoga mats
- Large, high-quality images utilize a hover zoom tool, providing the shopper with a more detailed view of the texture and quality of the yoga mat.
- Shoppers are able to toggle between additional views to get a new perspective of the yoga mat from different angles.
- A lifestyle image of the mat in use gives shoppers more context about proportion and usability of the yoga mat.
- An aesthetically pleasing video shows the yoga mat in action and gives retailers the opportunity to convey more detail about the product to the shopper.
Ways to Improve: If the retailer included additional lifestyle images, they could provide the shopper with a better sense of brand personality. For instance, by showing a yogi riding their bike to class with their mat neatly folder within a Giam yoga mat on their back would allow the retailer to show an eco-friendly brand personality and additionally promote a second product.
Herschel Supply Co USA
- Large, high-quality images provide the shopper with a closer look at the detail and quality of the bookbag.
- Shoppers are able to slide between front, back, and side photos of the backpack to get a better look at the bookbag from different angles.
Ways to Improve: Although the retailer successfully provides the shopper with large images of the product from different views, they, unfortunately, regret to provide any interior views of the bookbag. These interior shots could be helpful in answering questions regarding the organization, usability, and scalability of the bookbag. The retailer could also benefit from providing the shopper with more lifestyle imagery. For instance, by showing the bookbag being worn by a man hiking along a beautiful mountain with a few friends, the retailer is able to show an adventurous brand personality while also showing a potential use of the bookbag. The shopper is better able to imagine themselves wearing the same bookbag on a hike with some of his own friends, ultimately making him purchase the product!
- Large, high-quality images utilize a hover zoom tool, providing the shopper with a more detailed view of the texture and quality of the Nixon watch.
- A 360-degree video provides shoppers with the ability to view the watch from every angle.
- An illustration of a woman's wrist provides the shopper with an idea of the size of the watch. Additionally an illustration of different watch face sizes allows the shopper to accurately determine if that size watch is appropriate for their particular wrist size.
Ways to Improve: Although Amazon successfully serves as a platform for various brands to sell their products, it would still be beneficial for them to provide several lifestyle imagery options to the shopper. As previously stated, providing lifestyle imagery allows the shopper to gain a better understanding of the products usability and begin to imagine him or her utilizing the product.
In the end, it's the customer experience that matters most to online shoppers. And as expected a limited user experience will garnish limited results. Customers will continue to set expectations for ecommerce retailers. It's our job as user experience designers to meet and exceed what they expect when possible.
To learn more about our ecommerce experience, check out our work for Apple accessories retailer Twelve South.