The Psychology of Product Images in Ecommerce

Man holding smartphone with choose shirt on ecommerce websiteIt’s no secret that retail ecommerce is powered by images, but have you ever stopped and wondered why?

Who here remembers the early days of online retail?

Think back to 1995 when eBay, Amazon, and even Craigslist were still in their infancy. Things were quite a bit different than how they are today. People were still getting used to the idea of the internet. Postings were sparse, featuring basic text descriptions, contact information, and only if you were lucky, an image of the product you were considering.

And this format worked, briefly. The internet was so mysterious that we were willing to put up with a bit of mystery in our online shopping. But as we know, this is not the case today. Research indicates that the online shopping market will grow to $370 billion in 2017, and a market this size can’t survive with opaque business practices and mysterious product listings.

Product Images in Retail

Most of us, whether we’re an individual seller or an ecommerce retailer, know that images are essential for ecommerce conversion optimization in today’s marketplace. We’re not going to try to convince you that you need them – you know you do.

What we’re more interested in is digging into the psychology of product images and how they impact consumer perceptions. This, in turn, will give you better insight into your customers’ mindset when they visit your site and how you can tailor your other marketing strategies to meet their needs.

Visuals Transmit Information Better

We all know that our brains process visual data faster than text. And although research is unclear on exactly how much faster, there’s no denying that most people prefer to look at images over mountains of text. But aside from how fast our brains soak them up, visuals also show product features in ways text cannot.

Consider how you would sell something like an armchair or coffee table. Ideally, you’d place these objects next to other pieces of furniture in your living room to show buyers the relative size and scale of each. This positioning gives customers information about how the product looks in its environment, but more importantly, shows them how beautiful the furniture looks when placed with matching items.

This type of positive visualization is powerful for building good feelings in consumer minds and moving them towards purchase. This is why high-end furniture stores are laid out in lavish fashion, and you can achieve the same effect through images.

Quality Images Remove Suspicion

There used to be tons of “online seller” guides peppered around the internet aimed at educating users on how to make money on sites like eBay. One of the cardinal rules was to include product images, mainly because it wasn’t the standard at the time. It was a “secret to success.”

These days, we’ve become so accustomed to a quality online shopping experience that any website that doesn’t include images is suspicious by default. Why wouldn’t they include images? Are they being dishonest about their product? Is there shoddy craftsmanship that they’re trying to hide?

Quality images give users confidence that what they’re paying for is what they’ll get. Aside from the wealth of visual data that images provide, offering a variety of photos from a variety of angles shows customers that you’re an upfront vendor interested in making an honest deal.

They’re Sharable on Social

In our socially-connected world (where 70 percent of Facebook users and 49 percent of Instagram users log in daily), making a social-savvy retail site is a powerful way to get noticed. Once again, images are your friend here.

When’s the last time you saw someone go on Facebook and post “Just bought the cutest red purse from! Height of 14” and a 12” width. Great depth!”

No. People won’t go on social media and shill for your brand by describing the features and dimensions of whatever they just bought. They want to show their friends by sharing a photo that will inspire envy in whomever sees it. Images give them an easy way to do this but also gives you free advertising and brings your retail landing page within a single click’s reach of all of their friends.

Image Psychology

Clearly, images influence consumer psychology in numerous ways:

  • They provide information and help consumers visualize how the product will improve their lives
  • They remove the inherent suspicion and doubt consumers have when buying from strangers
  • They offer consumers ways to engage their friends in the buying process through social media

All of these trends contribute to a quality online shopping experience for both you and your market. Online shopping has come a long way since 1995. Use images to give your customers what they want to see.

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