How to improve product images and boost sales online

Running an online store is no different than running a brick and mortar shop. You need to be available when customers want to shop. You need to offer products they want. And customer service has to be there. The only thing that really differs between those two retail experiences is execution. Especially when it comes to merchandise. You might have to improve product images to effectively catch your customers attention.

Digital Store versus Physical Store

At a physical store, you would likely have a sales associate regularly walk through the store to ensure items hang on the right shelves and that there aren’t visible signs of damage to any products. You understand the appearances of items are what entices customers to get up close.

With your digital store, there’s no associate to check on and organize merchandise. But you don’t have to worry about someone damaging items or putting them back where they don’t belong. Yet, there’s still work to be done in this area. It’s more about setting up your merchandise properly.

There’s a lot more involved with optimizing product images.

Optimize images for search

Search engine optimization (SEO) can improve product images just like any of the written content on your site. Here’s how:

  • Add a description to the uploaded image that includes the same keyword the file name used.

  • Rename your file before uploading it with a name that’s descriptive of the photo.

  • Include an alt tag for your image that also includes the keyword.

The more consistent you are in describing the content of a photo, the more search engines will respond.

Use high resolution product images

High quality product images can mean a number of things. Let’s take a look at what makes an image perfect, regardless of the device or screen it is viewed on.

This is usually known as retina ready. This means there are more pixels within a square inch space, making an image look sharper and clearer than those that aren’t retina ready. In order to achieve this look, your products should be photographed using a high quality DSLR camera.

Create an image sitemap

A sitemap is an XML file you submit to search engines to communicate about the content on your website. Usually, it is required to focus on a sitemap that includes all indexable pages.

But, when your online business relies on the ability to sell individual products, you can improve product images by getting them to rank well in search engines too. Image sitemap information helps Google discover images that we might not otherwise find

Optimize related content for search

In addition to the right descriptive text for photos, surrounding text should tell a consistent story about the product. Take a keyword you used to describe a photo and then use it in the title and description on the product page.

Use a reliable file format

Product images can easily be improved by using either a .JPG or .PNG file format. While there is some difference in sizing between the two formats, the key difference between the two is background transparency.

If your site or app uses a background color other than white and you don’t want your photo to stand out like a sore thumb, use .PNG for a transparent background instead.

Prioritize speed

As costumer attention spans decrease, you can’t afford a slow-moving website or app lagging image load speeds to stand in the way of conversions.

There are many tools available to help pick up speed up performance. This can serve pages more quickly to repeat visitors. There’s also a content delivery network that helps by routing queries by geolocation.

Don’t resize images

Some folks recommend photo software to resize images before uploading them. However, resizing can lead to degradation in image quality.

Because images can drain server space due to large proportions, the best solution is an image optimization software that compresses photos without compromising quality or your site’s speed.

Provide multiple angles

One of the main problems with online shopping is that customers can’t touch your products. While there’s still no way for you to give them the ability to feel the product or test durability, you can at least let them view items from various angles.

You can take multiple photos to show off key angles of products. You could also create rotatable images so customers can view products in 360 degrees. In fact, the majority of retailers found that by improving product images in this manner, they saw a 27 percent better conversion than compared to static images.

Use videos when possible

Because an online shopping experience is somewhat limited, you have to find creative ways for customers to explore products. Instead of always using photos, try using videos instead.

According to a survey, almost 73 percent of people said they were more likely to buy something if they could watch an explainer video about it.

Considering colors

When referring to color, we could be looking at the backdrop color or the color of the product itself. Color is highly influential in the conversion process, so much so that, according to Kissmetrics, 90 percent of all product assessments have to do with color.

Provide context to improve product images

When photographing your products, it might be wise to leave out the solid background color altogether, depending on what you’re selling. A study from the Nielsen Norman Group showed that consumers preferred images with real people using real products. They also liked to see products set within context.

Factor share options into the equation

Don’t forget about the power of word of mouth marketing. Say you have a customer who stumbled across one of your products, and he knew his wife had been searching for that very thing. Rather than forcing him to copy the URL, open his email and send a note, you could save time and effort by including social media and email share icons.

Test your images

Just because you don’t have a physical store that requires regular maintenance and upkeep, don’t forget your site can always additional work as well. This is especially true because you can’t see your customers faces as they walk through the door.

Without an idea of the reactions your product photos elicit, you’ll need a smart testing tool to figure out what’s working and when you should ask yourself things like:

  • What’s the ideal image size?

  • Which angles of your products work best?

  • Is there a specific product color that sells the most?

  • Should it include captions?

  • The length of the product description?

Include user generated content

User generated content is another form of word of mouth marketing you can leverage as an online retailer.

You’ve likely seen shared photos and videos on social media showing products users have recently purchased. Not only are those customers more than happy to have brands use their photos on sites and social media, but prospective customers like seeing it as well.

When brands share photos of products, there’s always some apprehension about how genuine or realistic the photo is. However, when photos come from a customer who’s actually tried the product, there’s a greater chance of establishing trust.

Next Steps:

There are many factors to take into account when you look to improve product images. If you want to ensure you’re getting the most out of imagery to maximize conversions, testing is an absolute must. Not only will it give you insights into what sort of images to use in the future, but it might also tell you more about what your customers prefer in terms of products.

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