People hardly buy anything without seeing it. Usually they also want to touch it, hold it and take it for a spin. You really can’t do those things online (unless it’s web based software). So to compensate for all of that, you need to work twice as hard to make your products come alive via excellent photography and graphics.

I know of a guy selling construction hardware online. He added images to all the screws he’s selling, and the sales of screws went up.

Schwan’s (home delivered food service) has one of the highest conversion rates among e-commerce sites, and when you go to their site you can sense that it’s based on their juicy images.

High quality images

This should go without saying, but too many websites try to sell products with low quality images.

Made.com is a site that caught my attention recently with their beautiful images that let their products shine. Screenshot:

Another great one is Best Made Company. Screenshot:

Always do what they do: pick a default image that is shown in full size and display clickable thumbnails (that produce enlarged images).

Alternate & detailed views

Don’t just show a single image, show as many as you can – from different angles.

Let’s take that same axe above. You can see all of these views on its product page:

Much better than just a single photo of an axe, isn’t it? You get a feel of it. They’ve also managed to take those photos in a way that show character and carry a brand. Well done indeed.

Context

Context matters. Don’t just show the product, show it in context. Let me imagine using it.

Remember the photo of the couch above? They also show a person using it:

Sell earrings? Show me what it looks when I’ll be wearing it. This is how Wild Gems does it:

“It’s so easy to use, even the kids can do it.” Even better to communicate that via contextual image:

Zoom

Zooming in / using a digital loupe can be a nifty feature if your product has ornate details your customers might want to look at. Like in the case of this $1400 leather case for your iPad:

 

No PC-handshakes, please.

Avoid cheesy stock photos

Usability tests by Jakob Nielsen show that people always pay a lot of attention to images. When it comes to people, real people get a lot of attention while stock photo people are largely ignored. Don’t use cheesy stock photos.

I won’t go on a rant, but if you’re using shiny people and suits shaking hands, you’re stupid and you think your customers are too.

Most phones have decent cameras today, most any random picture will be better.

Draw attention to products

Images can be used to draw attention to your product or copy, as this well-known eyetracking study says:

Here’s another post with great examples that prove the same.

Men are pervs, women are gold diggers

Miratech conducted an eye tracking study to measure how men and women look at the photo of a sexy young woman.

Image source

Conclusion: the men look at the woman’s chest and the women look at her ring.

Also, people in different countries act differently. For instance French women stared at the chest more than 2.7 times more than British women! Men who looked at the breasts the longest were also from France (and Denmark). Some cliches seem to hold water.

Try 360° rotating images

DueMaternity.com, an online retailer of items for pregnant women and new mothers, boosted their conversion rate by 27% thanks to 360° rotating images. In the past they used conventional two-dimensional images on their website, such as the front and back of a model wearing a maternity dress.

After adding 360-degree spin to the images that rotate automatically when shoppers visit a particular merchandising page, the conversion rate on products sold on those pages is about 27% higher than for standard two-dimensional images.

Golfsmith.com claims that products with the special spin feature have conversion rates at least 10% and sometimes as much as 30% to 40% higher than products without it.

360 degree rotating images are usually created by taking a series of pictures (“frames”) with a product, or any object, on a computer controlled turntable. Here’s a more technical blog post of how one guy did it, but there are also service providers around (such as this or this).

Product images in site search window boosts conversions

After online retailer BrickHouse Security added an automated drop-down menu of textual results that appear when shoppers enter terms into its site search window, it boosted conversion rates.

“With the product images in the site search drop-down window, we get a 100% lift in conversion rate among shoppers who use site search”

About 8% of buyers use search on their site , and about 25% of that group click among the new image-based search results in the automated drop-down list instead of completing the entry of a search term and clicking the search button. This results in a 15% lift in the overall site search conversion rate.

Human photos on a landing page increase sales and conversions

Medalia Art sells Brazilian and Caribbean art online and using photos of artists on their homepage increased conversions by 95%. They had these painints of artists:

When they replaced the painting with actual photos almost doubled the conversion rate (conversion in this case was clickthrough, not sales):Image source

This article tells a story of how adding photos of real people to their customer service phone number increased visitor-to-call rates by 21%:

37Signals started to use photos of their customers on their landing pages, and conversions went up:

Image source

Will any photo of people boost conversions? GetElastic mentions a split test where using a photo decreased conversions, but the they used cheesy-to-the-maximum stock photo, so that explains it.

I recommend always starting out with a photo of real people and never using cheesy shiny stock people. In case you have to use models (e.g. to show off merchandise), Flint McGlaughlin from MarketingExperiments said this:

A strong face as the primary means of greeting visitors gets a strong reaction that polarizes conversion rates. Never put up a face photo that hasn’t been thoroughly tested. It needs to be the right face.

This was the image in question (screenshot of narscosmetics.com):

Want more CTR on your Facebook ads? Beer helps

One Facebook advertiser, who was not in the business of selling beer, observed that an ad containing a picture of beer delivered its best CTR. In fact, it performed 57% better than any other ad tried:

Another company tried to replicate that and found the similar success with CTRs, but alas the traffic did not convert. In fact, only one of those 1,250 clicks actually produced a conversion. Ouch.

Their business is selling merchant accounts, so it’s extremely specific customer they’re after. My guess is that a consumer good with broader appeal might be able to convert that beer traffic.

Images on blog posts

I couldn’t find any conversion research on this, but I am sure of it: using quality images in your blog posts makes you sell more of your stuff. Why?

Images improve readability and general user experience (breaks patterns, catches attention, eye candy, worth 1000 words etc). Posts without images are boring, and lead to less reading.

The more people read your stuff, the more they like you, the more they develop a relationship with you, the more they trust you and that all moves them further along in your sales funnel (doesn’t even matter what the funnel is like).

My advice: always use images in your blog posts.

Related blog post: 

» How to Use Video to Increase Conversions