Product Images: The Power to Convert

This post is part of our series The Art and Science of the Enhanced (A+) Page, which explains the details of creating product-page content.

If you’re in e-commerce, you probably already know that an image can be worth a thousand (and more) sales. But here is a reminder of how product images can impact user experience and conversion.

From Econsultancy:

In a survey of 2,000 UK consumers, 39% required “multiple images” on product pages to help decide whether or not to make a purchase.

From a 2010 Retail Media Report:

67% of consumers are put off buying a product without a picture; 58% are deterred by poor quality images.

From e-tailing group:

Nearly 70% of consumers consider the quality of images to be an important factor in whether to purchase online.

From Nielsen:

“Users pay attention to information-carrying images.”

I want to talk less about cash register conversion and more about how your images can be your product page’s most valuable proselytizer. Just as your introduction can entice your reader into a further study of your product, your images, when done properly, can convert casual browsers into serious shoppers.

Well-designed product pages with good images invite consumers to read more. In the long tail of the marketing world, this type of conversion can be just as valuable as making the immediate sale.

Appeal to Your Customer’s Senses

One way to approach your images is to think sensually, similar to the way chefs carefully arrange colors and food types when plating their food. You want your product page to appeal to the fullest range of senses possible.
Dessert strawberry crepe drizzled with chocolate sauce
To understand what I’m getting at, think back with me to the 1987 Danish movie, Babette’s Feast.

Babette, a former Paris chef of some renown, lives out her quiet life in an austere Protestant village, serving simple meals to a white-haired congregation of pious church-goers.

But when she wins 10,000 francs in the lottery, she devotes her winnings to producing a true Parisian banquet for the congregation. The result is an incredible feast for senses that few of the diners knew they possessed.

Where only porridge and biscuits had previously tread, Babette fills a banquet table with course after course of French delicacies: potage à la tortue (turtle soup); blinis demidoff au caviar (buckwheat cakes with caviar and sour cream); caille en sarcophage avec sauce perigourdine (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce); and so on.

And the meal works its Eucharistic miracles: the diners re-experience old loves, forgive old wrongs, and are spiritually transported.

Throw Babette’s courses into a blender for the congregation to slurp through a straw, and they would have gotten all the sustenance they needed. But would they have been transported? Would their mothballed passions have been reignited?

If you want to similarly transport your customers, think Babette.

Product Images Define the Product

Just as Babette’s feast would not have piqued the senses of her diners had she blended her creations into a thick, brownish puree, poor images and poor design do not entice the reader to explore the product in greater detail.

Familiar with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences? Product images and other multimedia appeal to customers’ visual-spatial intelligence.

Here’s a niche business if ever there was one: an online shoelace store. But this site is clearly intended only for users who know exactly what they need. There is no effort to entice browsers to explore the possibilities of fashionable shoelaces.

Bland product page of shoelaces with few images

You may ask, “But how can you possibly entice anybody with photographs of shoelaces?”

Take a look at what a splash of color can do for your kicks.

Awesome product image with colorful shoelaces on dress shoes

And niche websites by no means have a monopoly on neglecting their product pages. Calling out Home Depot for neglecting product pages perhaps overstates the case, but take a look at the page for a Kohler vanity.

Home Depot product page for Kohler vanity
Having worked with Kohler on their extensive catalog content, and having visited their state-of-the-art showroom in Wisconsin, I can assure you that form is as important to their story as is function.

But the Home Depot page does nothing to leverage that famous Kohler aesthetic to engage shoppers. A little page design and alternate images could go a long way in attracting attention to this page.

Don’t Add Product Images as Afterthought

Curiously, some of the world’s most respected brands, presenting their products on one of the world’s most trafficked websites, think that throwing images down on a product page with no attention to page design elements will sell products.

Brought to you by Dell on Walmart:

Dell Inspiron Zino product page with weirdly cropped product images

Uninformative, repetitive, and poorly cropped images fail to convey the potential awesomeness of this tiny computer.

Good Product Images Inform and Suggest

Some of the most effective product pages combine simple but well-balanced design with informative product images and lifestyle shots. This from the Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones product page.

Bose headphones product page with lifestyle images and close-up product images

Lifestyle images in combination with a closeup showing product features and a visual representation of what’s in the box complete this enhanced content.

The Takeaway

Use your images and page design to persuade your readers to explore your products.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 10/8/2011 at content26’s old blog, For this update we made minor edits, removed outdated examples, and added a link or two.

Learn how product images can help content26 write enhanced product descriptions in our video, Gathering Assets