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Getting The Most From Images On Your B2B Ecommerce Site

Or, How to Get More Than 1000 Words From Your Product Images.

Images are powerful and becoming more vital to online success as B2B customers become more digitally savvy. 

The easiest way to get more clicks on results pages from users is to incorporate images into the results.  Experience has shown that the simple act of adding an image to a product that lacks one increases the likelihood of clicks by over 300%.  Those numbers are impressive but not surprising.  When users lack the ability to actually handle the product (as they could in a brick and mortar store) having images is the next best thing. 

Images reinforce user selections and increase their confidence that they have selected the right product.  That confidence leads to sales for those products.  It is no surprise then to note that now if you sell on Amazon, product pages without images may not get displayed on search results pages. 

While any old image will help, great images help more.  People will click on any image but given two similar products one with great images and one not so great, which gets purchased?  The one with great images, of course.

What is a great image? 

One that makes it easy for the customer to inspect it closely to confirm that the item is the one they want.  Great images the ones that clearly show customers the features and/or aspects of a product that the customer uses to make a buying decision. This process is helped by things like white background, consistent styles of images (same angle/aspect, same lens/lighting setup, etc), and high resolution to support zoom.   Another aspect to consider is importance of being able to view the item from any angle.  For optimum impact, plan to provide at least 2 or 3 supporting images that show the product from different angles.  A more advanced option would be images that use “360 degree image” technology offered by specialized imaging vendors (e.g. Snap36) or images made from adapting CAD files (which users can manipulate to see any angle of a product as needed).

Images are worth 1000 words

Images help the customer experience by eliminating the need for filtering facets for every possible feature.  Good images provide a unique “multiple feature display” function such that all those features can be shown *simultaneously*via the images.  Each image is a very information-dense piece of content (perhaps the most dense).  Presenting buyers with a lot of information quickly accelerates decision-making and speeds conversion.  When a customer is able to compare two product images side by side they can simply SEE key differences.  Consider this page of tent options.  While you can have facets for number of poles, or amount of headroom, or door shape, it is much easier for the buyer to make a decision based on what they see.  Also, sometimes, there just aren’t enough words to adequately describe an item and only a photo will do.  Imagine a real estate site without photos of the homes inside and out.

Sources for images

Now that you are convinced that you need to up your image game what are your options for acquiring images?  The images you have are only as good as the images you can get.  You have three options:

Supplier

  • Publicly available, usually limited in number (per product)
  • All sellers have the same image
  • Quality varies by supplier
  • No cost

Shared Data Pool

  • Some differentiation but still shared (often sourced from Suppliers anyway)
  • Fast way to gather a lot of images
  • More costly but not (typically) per SKU (i.e. subscription)

Custom Images

  • Original images add differentiation
  • Can show multiple images to highlight key features
  • Expensive, difficult to scale

When should you go custom?

The best way to get great images is the create custom, original, proprietary images yourself.  This is the most costly approach, in terms of time and money, but to guarantee the quality you want it is the way to go.  To help with the scaling challenges there are a few things you can do.

Hire outside freelance photographers.  While maintaining an inhouse photography studio is the most expensive option it is truly the “best” option assuming there are no budget or resource restrictions.  However, that is not reality for many firms.  So a reasonable compromise is to hire outside freelance photographers , but there are tradeoffs.  The downside with freelancers is that they are (effectively) third parties who can just as easily be hired by your competition.  But on the other hand, freelancers are professionals and are usually able to produce high-quality images even in the absence of proprietary style guides. 

Establish style guides.  There are two varieties of style guides for images.  A “Global” style guide covers the elements that apply to all product images that you manage.  They typically document requirements for accepted image types, file size, file naming conventions, background color, image dimensions, and whether external links (where the images are hosted outside your servers) for images are acceptable.  The other type is a Category specific style guide, which documents how products in a single specific product category are imaged. Category specific style guides usually include details about how many secondary images to include, what angles to shoot and why, what features should be highlighted as well as other technical considerations such as lighting set up, lens types, or use of macro photography.  Using style guides will ensure continuity across your site no matter what photographer is producing the images.

Prioritize - Don’t attempt to “boil the ocean”.  Despite the benefits, committing to custom images can be a significant investment, so it’s important to deploy them only where it will have an impact.    There is no point in wasting money on images for products that aren’t getting traffic.  Analytics can be used to identify products (or categories) that are seeing lower engagement but could be improved with higher-quality images.  Some experimentation would be in order here.

WATCH: Power of Product Data Episode #4 - How to Get More Than 1000 Words From Your Product Images.

Key takeaways

  • You need images, not having them is hurting your sales – period.
  • Having one image is better than nothing so use what you can get even if it doesn’t meet your style guidelines  (providing they are accurate, of course)
  • Recognize that quality of images can be a key differentiator online, so establish a process for custom photography on your most important products
  • Be strategic about how images are displayed and write down the specifications for quality and consistency in a product strategy rule book.

Get expert help.  This all sounds easy on paper, but reality is a different matter.  Our team of digital commerce experts can help you put the principles into practice.  Give us a shout!

Earley Information Science Team
Earley Information Science Team
We're passionate about enterprise data and love discussing industry knowledge, best practices, and insights. We look forward to hearing from you! Comment below to join the conversation.

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