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Online product images: how it should and shouldn’t be

This article was previously published on Twinklemagazine.nl

A new year is just around the corner and the e-commerce top lists are coming out of your ears, with predictions about which trends you really must follow as an online retailer to win over the consumer. Augmented reality, social shopping, voice, to name just a few. But the same goes for the big names in e-commerce: think from the customer’s perspective and make sure you have the basics in order! In the first part of this series of tops and flops in e-commerce land, we deal with the virtual shop window.

The visitor forms a first impression of a website within two tenths of a second. That’s the digital equivalent of the time span in which visitors stand in front of your shop window and decide whether they walk in or not. After about 2.6 seconds, the visitor scans the homepage and focuses on the most interesting part. Research shows that these are usually the product images. Not surprisingly, that part is often the only part that gives a concrete indication of the actual product, the design and the quality.

Physical stores
Because these indicators are so important to the buying intention, there are even webshops, such as Coolblue, that open physical stores to give customers the opportunity to look at the products in real life. These web stores realize that shopping is, to a large extent, an emotional process. You look at the product, you are attracted to it, you hold it, you imagine how it would look in your home. In that context, you get a certain feeling with the product (think of the frequently used comment on Instagram: “Need this in my life!”). Partly based on that feeling, you make the choice to buy the product or not.

Stunning images
In the visual field, we are now quite accustomed to it. The high resolution screens of laptops, tablets and TVs are all around us. With the smartphone in our pocket, we now take razor-sharp photos all day long. In addition, we have become accustomed to the eye-catching images that come to us every day via social media. An attractive visual experience is not only the standard, it even has a demonstrable effect on the purchase intention. An attractive presentation of products in a web store is therefore elementary. Sharp product photos and videos with good image quality are not only important for the image of a brand, it gives visitors confidence and the information needed to make a good choice.

Nike does it well
Nike (number 53 in the Twinkle 100) has the visual aspect totally under control. The brand even mimics how people in a store fit their new shoes in front of the mirror, in a product video. The high-quality photos with beautiful colour compositions burst off your screen. Aesthetically speaking, a source of inspiration. Those images are so good you keep on scrolling, you almost feel like exercising.

Bol.com does it badly
When you browse through the store at bol.com (number one in the Twinkle 100) and you look at all the products on the digital shelves, you quickly realize that it might be time to make an appointment with the optician. The product photos on the homepage are almost all out of focus. Only when you’re trying to escape, due to your own visual uncertainty, you decide to click on the product detail page, where you sometimes get a higher quality image. But if you’re unlucky, you can also find a product image where the number of pixels can be counted on one hand. In any case, it’s not consistent and not really a visually pleasant experience.

Why difference?
Why is there such a big difference between the two? There are undoubtedly valid arguments for this. For example, it may be related to the loading time of the shop. Or can be explained by the fact that external sellers on bol.com don’t have to adhere to guidelines for product images. I would really like to know. But one thing is certain: from the customer’s perspective, this experience can be a lot better!

By Vincka Izaack

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