In 2010, e-commerce sales made up 6.4% of all overall sales transactions in the United States; in 2018 that number more than doubled—to 13.2%. By 2020, e-commerce made up more than a fifth of total sales dollars in the United States.1 To put it simply, e-commerce is the future–a future we are already a part of. 

While we don’t think brick-and-mortar will disappear any time soon, we don’t necessarily think this model dominates the show as it once did. All major retailers (Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Target, and so many more) have invested billions of dollars into their e-commerce presence – and with good reason. The commerce world used to consist of creating, packaging, and marketing a product but now has grown to rely heavily on the accessibility of products. The most significant point of access? A consumer’s home, their workplace, their commute, …or wherever they WANT it to be. Consumers want what they want when they want it. The inability to easily discover, research, compare, and purchase a product online takes that product out of the running during a consumer’s purchasing process. 

What does this mean for you? Optimizing your own e-commerce standing is not an option—it is a necessity. And optimizing your e-commerce standing takes a lot more than having a great product and listing it online. 

Good product images are critical in today’s e-commerce world

Despite the amount of time, energy, capital, blood, sweat, and tears you put into your product, your description, your pricing model, and your mission statement, 47% of online shoppers rank good product images as the MOST influential factor. When making an online purchase, 50.5% of shoppers in the US want multiple images for each product—at least three to five total.2 Even further, 83% of U.S. smartphone users say product images guide them in making their online purchasing decisions.3

When consumers see great images, two things happen. 

  1. Consumers can see the product better. The better your images are, the closer potential customers can experience the product without physically touching and seeing it in person. 
  2. Consumers trust brands that have nothing to hide. If you’re providing only one poorly lit, head-on image of your product, a potential customer won’t know what to expect. Is the back of the shirt the same color as the front? How big does the pillow look sitting on a standard sofa? Does the picture frame hang horizontally or only vertically?  If your business can’t provide good images of your products, how can consumers trust that the product itself is any good? 

Let’s break this down even further: Typically, 30% of online purchases are returned.4 When you factor in direct costs (shipping, packaging) as well as indirect costs (consumer distaste, potential poor reviews), 30% of your sales being returned is a LOT. Nearly 22% of online product returns are due to the item received not looking like the online image.5 You know what would clear up all those inaccurate depictions? Good. Product. Images. If you depict your product properly and fully express its appearance, features, size, texture, etc., your customers will be far less likely to be surprised (or unsatisfied) when it appears on their doorstep. 

What type of images do you need?

Let’s start with the basics:

  • You have to have good images. Start there. Clear, consistent, and not grainy. Your images should look professional and trustworthy. Avoid dim lighting, overbearing shadows, messy backgrounds, and any flaws or damages to your packaging or product itself.
  • Good images don’t immediately come to life after the shutter clicks. Post-production touches up blemishes, removes glares and shadows, crops out wires or stands used to suspend product, and removes backgrounds. No matter how great your photographer is, your images will never be “perfect” without post-production work.
  • Sometimes the more images, the better, but sometimes too many images for a simple product can be overkill. This depends on the product itself—complexity, size, range of uses, etc. We’ll discuss more in depth below.

Things to consider:

  • Does your product come in a package? Is your packaging important? Consider imaging the product both in and out of the package.
  • Do you need spin images or are still images enough?
    • A good rule of thumb to answer this question is to evaluate the complexity of the product.
    • Are you selling a candle, lipstick, a pen, or something that looks essentially the same from all sides? A notebook that doesn’t show much when viewed from the bottom? If this is the case, still images should be fine for you.
  • Are you selling a desk, running shoes, or a complex mechanical part that has various angles? Are all of these angles important to a buyer? If yes, then a spin (or a multi-row spin) is absolutely the right move for you.
  • How many images do you need?
    • This depends on the complexity of the product as well. 
    • If the product is simple, a few images can do the trick. For the lipstick example, a handful of images (the packaging, the lipstick exposed, an example of the shade on a model or a swatch of the shade) should be plenty.
    • For a larger or more complex product, like a desk, you might want more photos. If the product comes disassembled, images of the individual parts, an image of the product assembled, images of different doors and drawers opened and closed, images with the desk stocked with items and in use, will all be helpful. You will want to give the customer a good understanding of the product’s size capabilities, and appearance.
  • Do you need separate images for product details? Consider these factors:
    • Food items might include close-ups or separate images of the nutritional panels and/or ingredient panels.
    • Apparel might include close-ups or separate images for items like zippers, logos, or differentiating items of your product.
    • Sets of items or packages that contain multiple pieces or assembly parts might include images of the items included in and out of the package image.
  • Should you image single items or product groupings?
    • If your product is one part of a product line, or can be sold individually, or in a package, consider a group image.
    • Product groupings can show off how a single product will look or work with other products in its line and inspire customers to complete the line and purchase more items. 

Other things to consider: 

  • Cost – Using live models versus mannequins, or styling products (in and out of package, groupings, etc.) takes time and requires additional labor, so that cost will be higher.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – Using professional product photographers to create product images initially appears to be a high cost and deters some vendors. But for most products, two or three incremental sales easily offsets that cost.  If you invest in creating great packaging or a great product, you should make sure that your product and packaging is accurately reflected online.

In terms of initial purchasing, product images and 360˚ spins have an incredible overall effect. With the addition of 360˚ spin images,, an online retailer for new and expecting mothers, boosted their conversion rates by 27% (when compared to conversions before the addition of spins)!6

Product image types

Now that we’ve broached the topic of still images versus 360˚ spins, let’s dive further into discussing different image types. As far as standard white background product images (which might not be the most visually exciting, but they’re 100% necessary if you want to sell your products across multiple platforms), we typically categorize still images into the following categories:

Product Image Types

And we categorize 360˚ spin images as:

  • Single row spins (that are typically made up of 24, 36, or 72 images)
  • Multi-row spins (a series of single row spins from different angles, stitched together to provide a more comprehensive view of the product)
multi-row spin image

White background images are vital to product listings. The white background and lack of props encourages the customer to focus fully and entirely on the product itself and prevents any distraction from the subject matter. Although creative freedom may be limited in white background photography, they make product listings uniform, clean, professional, and therefore reliable. 

In addition to white background photography, another popular type of product imaging is lifestyle. This takes your product out of the studio (or at least seemingly) and puts it in real life as it would be used by a consumer. For example: a shot of someone on a run while wearing your running shoes, a family setting up the tent you’re selling, or a hot beverage warming someone’s hands in the mug you fashioned. Lifestyle images are important to demonstrate how your product might look, feel, and work in real life. It gives consumers a better understanding of your product and allows them to envision themselves using it in the future. 

What product images to use and where

When it comes to utilizing your product images, whichever type they may be, image specifications on major retailer sites might vary from what you use on your own website. For instance, Amazon, Etsy, and eBay – some of the biggest e-commerce sites in the United States – all have differing image requirements.

Here are the current image specs for each of the sites mentioned above as well as for RangeMe:

Company image allowances

As you can see, there is plenty of room for overlap in images that can be used across each platform without resizing. Ex: A 2,000×2,000 pixel JPG falls perfectly within the standards of all four mentioned above. 

Just because these are the most current specifications at the time, make sure you double-check with each marketplace to confirm that they haven’t updated their requirements since this was published!

Clearly, e-commerce is vital to a product’s (and a business’s) success and survival. But without great product images, your e-commerce presence might as well be nonexistent. When beginning or improving your e-commerce presence, make sure you are making the investment in quality images; figure out which types of images are best for your products, how many you need, and how to properly format them for different platforms. Investing in a professional product photographer is one of the best moves you can make and your business will surely thank you.

Ready to take your product images to the next level? Connect with PVS Studios on RangeMe Services here

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