There is a recurring theme to this post: online shopping is primarily a visual experience. The online shopping experience relies on visual content — primarily product photographs and product videos of different types — so ecommerce marketers should constantly strive to raise the standard of their ecommerce business’s visual content.
Product descriptions and SEO are important, and the layout and design of your e-commerce site matter, but those are topics for another post. Today we’re diving deep into how visual content can increase your ecommerce store’s conversion rate.
6 Ways Visual Content Increases Ecommerce Conversions
Use Real Photos to Represent Your Company and Brand
You might be tempted to dip into the vast repositories of free-to-use, no attribution stock imagery available online and use photos of stylish, smiling, beautiful models to represent your company, but don’t. People prefer to see the real you:
- “A debt company sees a 35% increase in online sign-ups with a picture of the founder vs. the top-performing stock photo.
- A 3 fold increase in ad click-through occurred when user-generated photos wearing the product were used instead of stock or with stock.
- A moving company that replaced THAT generic shot of happy people moving (who’s happy when they’re moving?) with a photo of their team or their truck (a truck!) and saw 45% more quotes from their digital marketing.” (TheMarketingGarage)
It turns out that people crave authenticity. They want to see the actual people behind your company and not the perfectly manicured models from stock photos.
That doesn’t mean you should start snapping photos with your Android. Professional-quality photography still matters. Lighting, composition, and a high-quality camera create a much more aesthetically-pleasing shot that will result in a much more professional site.
It’s not just about a professional appearance, though. Professional photography has also proven to boost conversions…
Use High-Quality and High-Resolution Product Images and Make Them Big.
Airbnb found that listings with professional photography get booked 2.5x as often as those with amateur photography! In fact, it makes such a big difference that they provide professional photography services to new hosts (in certain cities) for free. That’s probably expensive, but it’s safe to assume they’ve done the math, and it’s still worth it. That’s a powerful statement on the difference professional photography makes on conversion rates.
Airbnb’s web design team pioneered the “incredibly large product images taking up as much of the web page as possible” design aesthetic that has since become pervasive in ecommerce. Shoppers want to see what they’re buying in as much detail as possible. Nothing does that better than a huge, well-lit, high-def, professionally shot photo.
Online shoppers crave enormous, ultra-detailed photos because the online shopping experience competes with the sensory thrills of the in-person shopping experience. In a brick-and-mortar store, you can pick up an item, feel its heft and its texture. You can inspect its build quality. You can even smell it. But, none of that is possible online. Online shopping is almost entirely a visual experience. As an ecommerce digital marketer, you’re forced to lean into the visual aspect of the shopping experience. It’s all you and the consumer have.
Make sure your product photography is high definition. Today the most common computer display resolution in the U.S. is 1920×1080 pixels, and the trend is toward higher-resolution displays each year. Phone displays and mobile devices are also getting bigger each year, and pixel density is increasing:
The demand for high-resolution photography is only going up.
Why not future-proof your product photography and product listings by capturing the highest-quality product images you can? Most users are using high-speed connections, so the difference in load time is negligible as long as you’re keeping file sizes reasonable.
Getting into the nitty-gritty on sizing images for all the different ways those images are used in today’s ecommerce product listings is beyond the scope of this post. It is complicated, so I will point you to the best guide I found on the subject for those details. The short answer is that the best image size for product images is 2560 pixels wide. This image size allows for a full-width display on a high-definition display and adequate resolution for a zoom-in feature.
Provide as Many Product Images as You Can
eBay Research Labs put out a painstakingly detailed academic paper on product images’ effects on buying behavior and concluded: product images increase conversions. Having one picture doubled conversions over having none and having two pictures doubled conversions over having one. The more product pictures you provide, the better.
You want to recreate the in-person shopping experience as closely as possible for your website visitors. That means showing your product from as many angles as possible. Why would anyone want to see the inside bottom of your product? Who knows? But there are probably more people than you’d think that won’t buy from you unless they can.
- Show up-close macro shots that show the detailed texture of the surface of your product with angled lighting. Show the stitching, seams, and edges of your product.
- Show shots of people holding your product in their hands and in front of their bodies. This helps show scale.
- Show action shots that show people using your product. This helps people picture themselves using your product.
- Show the product in its context. If it’s a couch, show it in a room with other furniture around it. If it’s a plant, show it in a pot on a windowsill. If it is a shirt, show it on a woman with her friends around.
You might think that product photography for an iPhone case would be pretty boring. Front, back, side. Maybe a shot of an iPhone inside of it. Notice how Native Heritage has product image scenes that show its phone cases in different upscale settings:
In this product photo cosmetic company 100% Pure found a creative way to convey a lot of information in a single image:
Stand Out with 360° Rotating Product Images
If you’re in a competitive niche, you might consider investing in 360° product imagery. This is something your competitors probably aren’t offering, so it’s a chance to stand out from the pack and offer an above-and-beyond shopping experience.
This has proven to be more than just a gimmick. According to CXL.com, online retailer DueMaternity.com increased its conversion rate by 27%. Dimitri Bir, founder of Webrotate 360, says that improvements will vary by industry, but it’s realistic to see a 14% increase in sales and a 17% better shopping experience.
Create a Great Product Video
If content is king, then video is the crown jewel. Consumers cannot get enough. Here are just a few statistics that drive this point home:
- Viewers say they retain 95% of a message when it’s from a video. (Social Media Week)
- 84% of people say that they’ve been convinced to buy something by watching a video. (Wyzowl)
- 78% of marketers say video has directly helped to increase sales. (Wyzowl)
- 87% of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI (Hubspot, 2021)
I could go on, and on, and on. Your company needs to invest in video content and make video marketing a pillar of your marketing strategy. That doesn’t mean you need to hire an in-house videographer and purchase an expensive camera — that’s what we’re for. But it does mean you need to start producing the video content your customers crave before your competitors do.
Again, the challenge with ecommerce is that the shopping experience becomes primarily visual. Video adds audio and motion to the experience. Online video is a much richer, more immersive experience. Adding a product video on top of product photography is like going from flipping through a stack of photos to turning on a movie.
But be careful if you just add the video to a list of thumbnails on a product listing. You’re going to be disappointed by the results because it’s going to be overlooked. Use video as the focal point of your product pages to be sure they get plenty of attention.
Types of Product Videos to Create
If you’re selling something very straightforward — a vase or a t-shirt — you can safely skip the explainer video. If you’re selling something new, different, or uncommon that could use some explanation, a video detailing “how it works” is a great way to help a consumer understand how a product will benefit them. These videos shouldn’t have a salesy vibe. It’s not about selling. It’s about simplifying the product and explaining it with helpful visuals and, sometimes, animations.
According to Wyzowl, 62% of businesses say their homepage explainer video is effective.
Customer Testimonial Videos
If you have a high-ticket item or a product that people might be skeptical of, it can be helpful to provide video of actual customers talking about their experiences. These customer spotlight videos don’t have to be infomercial-esque, hard-selling, or cheesy. The more honest and authentic they are the better. They build trust with potential customers.
Education and Tutorial Videos
Customers like to know that a company will be there to help them post-purchase. There’s nothing more reassuring than seeing that a company has produced videos to help you use the product and made them available to you ahead of purchasing. It builds trust, establishes credibility, and helps them learn how to consume the product and feel comfortable with it. Overall, it improves the customer experience, which is a smart way to increase conversion rates and customer satisfaction after the sale.
Product Demonstration Videos
Product demonstration videos are similar to explainer videos but they tend to be more focused on showing how a product works in action whereas explainer videos may be more conceptual and go into more background information.
Consider Augmented Reality
If immersive experiences help with product visualization, which leads to increased conversion rates, it’s no surprise that Shopify reports 200% increases in conversions when customers implement AR using Apple’s Quick Look feature.
In 2018, Shopify announced that it was integrating Quick Look into its ecommerce suite, making that capability available to all 820,000 of its merchants. WooCommerce users also have a Quick Look solution. So do Magento and BigCommerce users. Almost all ecommerce websites are AR capable.
Early adopters of AR for ecommerce might benefit from a conversion rate bump from the “wow factor” as the new experience bowls over consumers. Will that bump outweigh the cost of production? If you suspect it might, then start small. Do a test on one high-margin product and then extrapolate the results of that test out to the rest of your inventory with figures that error on the conservative side.
How to Increase Your eCommerce Conversion Rate with Visual Content
Think of Imagery Production as an Ongoing Process, Not One-Off Projects
You want to be sure that you’re constantly raising the bar on your online store’s visual content quality. Not just to stay ahead of the competition, but because that’s what matters to the consumer. It’s what matters with online shopping because it’s a visual experience. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s not going to change — even after virtual reality becomes common. Sure, descriptions matter (especially to the search engines), but your product images, product photography, and product videos are going to be what drives sales in the foreseeable future.
That’s why Airbnb provides free professional photographers. It’s why DueMaternity.com saw a 27% bump in sales when their product models spun rather than stood still. It’s why augmented reality doubled sales for Shopify merchants.
It’s best to think of your store’s visual content as another project that is never “done” — like conversion rate optimization. Your e-commerce conversion rate is a constant, never-ending optimization process. It’s one of those things you’re never going to check off and put behind you. You need always to be sure you’re making consistent progress every quarter.
Improving your store’s visual assets — your product images, your product videos, your landing page images, your email marketing imagery, etc. — should be thought of the same way. If you’re not pushing forward, you’re moving backward.
Outrun the Sands of Time with Initiatives That Push Ahead
Unfortunately, after a product image is produced, its quality is slowly degrading. Its resolution, while once considered amazing, is only mediocre a few years later. What was stylish clothing and hair a couple of years ago now looks slightly dated.
As marketers, we are constantly battling the march of time and the only way to stay ahead is to keep pushing forward by producing new and better visual content each year. We have to try to outdo our competition, of course, but once we’ve done that, we have to try to outdo ourselves.
- How can you raise the bar even higher than you did with your last batch of product photos?
- How can you explain your product even better than you did with your last video?
- How can you create an even more immersive and tantalizing online shopping experience?
Get Started Now: Plan Your Next Batch of “Raise the Bar” Visual Assets
Now it’s time to get your next batch of product images and videos started, and it all begins with your creative brief. Here’s a step-by-step template, plus a guide to writing a creative brief to get you started.