Selling with Pictures - how high-quality images help eCommerce sales

26 Mar 2014

It stands to reason that better quality product images on your eCommerce website will sell more products.  Unless your customers have been showrooming, the images you display are probably all that they will have to go on. The better the quality the more they’ll be able to see exactly what they’re buying and the more likely they are to have the confidence to complete the purchase.

The quality of your product images is also a reflection of the type of business you are (at least in the mind of a potential customer).  If you care about the way your products are displayed you’re more likely to care about the experience your customers have when they shop with you.

But even with the highest resolution and precise lighting there’s only so much you can do with a static image. With a static image there’s not much anyone can do other than, well, look at it. 

Interactivity creates engagement

Even relatively standard interactive features like a rollover zoom make a difference to sales. Zooming gives people the opportunity to see finer details like stitching and texture without filling their screen with a massive high-res photo.  The process of moving their mouse over the image to inspect the details also means they are engaged at a deeper level than just viewing a static on-screen image.

Have a look at this example from The Merchant Fox. I defy anyone not to scroll around to see more details.


But however good the images and the zoom function, the fact remains that not many of the things we buy are two-dimensional.  So trying to sell them through two-dimensional images is always going to have its limitations - even when you offer multiple views photographed from different angles.

3D and 360


Taking the user experience to the next level means using 3-dimensional or 360 degree views of your products. The technology for achieving this is getting better and less expensive all the time. 

For a 360 degree view your product is placed on a turntable and rotated and photographed in stages. The individual photos are then joined together in Flash or HTML5/JavaScript.  More individual images create a smoother rotation and a better experience.  And my advice would always be only do it if you can do it well. A jerky 360 view made from low quality images may not do much for your sales.

More sophisticated techniques allow you to photograph from above and below too to create a full 3D experience. It’s as close as you can get to being in a physical shop and being able to pick something up and turn it around in your hands.

If you have a large or frequently changing product range 360 or 3D product views may not be viable, although online spectacle and sunglass retailer SmartBuyGlasses has managed to do it for around 4,000 lines.  You might choose to focus on bigger ticket items or those where the ability to spin the product round will significantly help people in their buying decision.

Helping people to choose the right products is the real point here. Helping them make a decision by providing appropriate product images will improve your conversion rates. And giving people a more accurate picture of what they are buying should also mean you get fewer returns.

Augmented Reality


One possible limitation with product images is that they are constrained by the eCommerce site displaying them - that’s where you have to view them, and your interaction is limited by the capabilities of the site. At least it was, until Augmented Reality came along.

Perhaps in the future, looking at the outside of your physical shop will launch your eCommerce site and all of your online content and show current offers on items that may be of interest to you - now there’s a thought!

Giving a precise definition of Augmented Reality is not straightforward.  Essentially it is merging some kind of computer-generated input with the physical world to enhance the perception or reality of the user. A simple example would be to merge GPS or Google Maps data into a physical view of a shopping street you are standing in. The view on your smartphone screen or through your Google Glass headset could then be annotated with ratings of the shops and restaurants in your view.

An interesting example of Augmented Reality is the latest Ikea catalogue app which allows you to ‘place’ 3 dimensional images of selected items of furniture in your room - or at least into a 3D image of your room captured on your tablet or smartphone. Bosch has a similar application for selecting kitchen appliances.

Sales tool or gimmick?

While these capabilities create a valuable promotional stir (the Ikea app had plenty of downloads), the fascinating thing for me will be to see what impact this functionality has on sales. We know that good quality images and well-executed 3D product views improve sales because we’ve measured their impact, but will the products with augmented reality really outsell those without? Only time and testing will tell.

Augmented reality also has fantastic potential to enhance after-sales service.  As well as a traditional printed owner handbook, owners of some Audi models have a smartphone app that can recognise features of the car and launch videos or animations to explain operating or maintenance procedures. So if you can’t remember how to change your radio pre-sets or where to find the jacking points you just have to point your smartphone at a relevant bit of the car. The app can recognise over 300 features of the car and launch relevant content.

Check out this example of augmented reality in action via Ikea's app:

Augmented reality also allows you to activate online content such as product videos by pointing your smartphone at a photo or even the physical item you are thinking of buying. This turns the whole business or product images on its head - instead of using online content to help you appreciate what an item looks like - you’re now using its physical appearance to access the online content to tell you more about it.

Perhaps in the future, looking at the outside of your physical shop will launch your eCommerce site and all of your online content and show current offers on items that may be of interest to you - now there’s a thought!

As a leading eCommerce agency we may be able to help you improve conversion rates from your eCommerce store- Why not get in touch?

Have you tested the effects that different types of media bring to your website pages and the impact they have on your conversion rate? Why not let us know you're experiances below in the comments.