June 30th, 2008 | 4 MIN READ

Can Product Images Improve Conversion? Showing Products in Context

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

According to a Future Now client, images can lift conversion rates by 147% by showing products "in context."

Yesterday we looked at examples of image zoom and alternate views, which can help customers experience the product better than one small view. A good photographer plus AJAX or Flash technology like Scene 7 or Magic Zoom can achieve this.

But online retailers can go a step further and use photos that show products in use, or "in context."

This can reduce a shopper's fears, uncertainties and doubts about a purchase like "how does this look on a person?" or "how large is this in real life?." Images can also "sell" by triggering an emotion, showing the quality or versatility of an item or illustrating a products features and benefits.

Here are some effective and creative ways online retailers are showing products in context:

Show Items in Use

Delia's shows this hoodie lying flat and on a model. Showing clothing on people gives the customer a better idea of the style of the garment. Is a hoodie fitted like yoga wear or loose like a track suit? Is it a cropped style or long? Seeing an item on a person will also resonate with a certain kind of customer (like "humanstic" shoppers). Showing the flat alternative makes it easy to show different colors without having to dress the model each time.

You could argue that model shots may be less effective than showing the garment in isolation - the model's face, the other clothing she wears or the background might detract from the product itself. Using a white mannequin, you can show the way the item looks on while keeping the focus on the item only.

Using a plus-size mannequin is very effective for plus-size clothing, as Fashion Bug does on the right.

An interesting conversion test would be to compare white-background against outdoor images, especially for clothing and brands associated with sporty/outdoor lifestyle like Cabelas:

American Apparel uses an outdoor, lifestyle shot here. The description says the pants are great for lounging, working out and sleeping. Showing the model walking a dog and sitting by the pool in the images communicates even more uses. Plus, it's raw and more true-to-life than a polished studio shot. The pants are being worn by "a person like me."

This example from American Apparel connects on an emotional level while showing off the garment on kids of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and wearing different colors.

Ease Suitability Fears

HerRoom.com is a lingerie shop that developed its "Try it Under" feature in house. Customers can overlay virtual shirt styles like v-necks over top of the product image to make sure straps and things don't show through.

ArtSelect.com lets you preview your print with your paint.

You can even email the image in an e-card - great for interior decorators who need approval from clients.

Ease Sizing Fears

ArtSelect lets you eyeball how large the piece is compared to a 5'4 woman.

BabyCenter shows the relative size of a diaper bag, and throws in a very happy mommy with baby to appeal to the humanistic shopper.

Again, mannequins do the trick also:

Coach uses a bag sizer tool. Choose your height and see the bag on the shoulder and in hand.

Prevent Disappointment, Build Trust & Minimize Returns

These are some pretty radical earrings, they're not for everyone. A simple photo of the earrings alone could be deceiving - the customer could assume they are much smaller than they really are. If you offer free return shipping, well...

Blue Nile uses a ruler:

Read more on how to reduce size and color fears.

Illustrate Benefits

Spanx uses before and after shots to prove its product is indispensable.

Apple shows its laptop case with laptop inside - plus all the other stuff you can cram in there.

BabyCenter brags how versatile its stool is - both mommy and little one can make good use of it.

Product information is also "in-context." 40 GB and 80 GB means nothing to me, but I can understand the difference between 20,000 and 40,000 songs.

PS: Notice the call to action buttons match the available colors? This is also a nice example of side-by-side upselling - it's clear for only $100 more you get double the storage.

Going the Extra Mile

Video "product tours" can be great for some items. MLB.com lets you watch a video of its dancing mascots and sample its music.

Other products lend themselves to try-before-you-buy, such as free carpet, blind and cloth samples so the customer can see the exact color and texture.

You can make your product images sell for you by thinking through the best ways to show how your products are incredible or solve a customer's problems. It's not just your product description's job! Maximize both product descriptions and images and you'll up the persuasion factor and conversion rates too.

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