Of product images and conversion rates: a relationship intertwined?

What makes your shoppers’ hearts skip a beat when they visit your online shop? Your product images.

By that, we mean images that communicate what your products have to offer where words alone would fall short in. They are the ones that can bridge the space between reality and the online shopping world.

What does science say?

Numerous previous studies have demonstrated the role of product images in increasing conversion rates. However, they were on a small scale and delimited to the subjective biases of their respective eCommerce markets and segments.

Insights from those studies, nonetheless, inspired a team at eBay Research Labs in San Jose, California to conduct a study into this persistent question on a larger scale.

The researchers leveraged the marketplace’s millions of listings from across all product categories to obtain an unprecedented dataset to examine.

Among the key questions asked in the study were:

  • How visual information helps improve conversion rate for online shopping in terms of increasing trust and reducing perceived risk?
  • How image properties impact sales positively?
  • How images compare with other selling variables in regards to importance?

What kind of product images drive up conversion and which ones don’t?

Because image quality is a highly content dependent and subjective concept, the researchers used ‘quality scores’ as measurement.

Employing a ‘learned model’, they scored good quality images based on those having ample brightness, vivid contrast between foreground and background, and a clean, uniform background.

On the other hand, images that scored poorly were those that were blurry, with bad lighting, have cluttered background, with specular reflections, and with bad composition overall.

From the user’s perspective, good product images have a significant impact on overall browsing experience.

Image quality did turn out to be a strong determinant for bringing in more sales, according to the study. It is, however, not the sole determinant as the researchers also factored in other variables, including price, shipping fee, item condition, and item/seller reviews. All of these had a significant influence on buying likelihood.

Another interesting finding is that not only did high-quality product images boost conversion rates, but there was also a transfer of positive affect towards sellers who used such types of images.

Consequently, these sellers were given higher trust ratings because they were deemed to be professionals, implying that the use of high-quality product images in listings stimulated the repeat purchasing behavior with the same sellers.

“…these sellers were deemed more professional and were given higher trust ratings, implying that the use of high-quality product images in listings stimulated the repeat purchasing behavior with the same sellers.”

A closer look into the results further revealed that buyers were more finicky about product image quality in certain categories, i.e. consumer electronics and Fashion items (clothing, shoes, accessories) over others.

Interestingly, in marketplace listings for used or refurbished products, image quality had a limited impact vis-à-vis buyer experience.

This may be because experienced buyers have started building tolerance for poor quality images knowing that the associated listings were likely from casual sellers. Expectedly, the latter often do not have the means to produce professional quality images.

Nevertheless, product image quality remained a strong determinant for items where appearance plays a key role.

Does image quantity matter?

Besides image quality, image quantity also seemingly has a positive impact. Sellers who showed at least two product images per listing sold nearly double than sellers who showed just one.

One explanation is that showing more images provides a more descriptive visual representation of the product. This aids in the mental processing of buying decisions.

The takeaway message

The study confirms that both the quantity and quality of product images play vital roles in increasing conversion rates. Thus, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of using high-quality product images in online retail.

The good thing is, in this age of machine learning, it has never been easier to create highly impactful product images by leveraging tools like autoRetouch to do the heavy lifting for you.


If you would like to read the eBay research article in full, you may view it here for free. To experience end-to-end, automated image processing just sign up for a free autoRetouch account via the link below.