5 Ways to Use Images for Better Conversions

by 7 10/07/2013

“Focus on the purpose of the images, and you will turn photos from window dressing into key conversion tools”

That’s how the widely recognized UX Expert, James Chudley, in his article, “How to use photos to sell more,” summarizes the way you should select high-converting images.

It boils down to this: What’s the purpose of the images on your website?

Conventional thinking may lead you to believe that you need them to “beautify” your website because too much text makes your website look dull. Or, because when you are selling something online, your customers would like to see the product before they buy.

And while all this is true, but there is so much more to images on your site than this.

Here are the 5 ways you can use images to serve different purposes on your site that ultimately contribute to your website conversion goal:

1. Convey a Product Benefit

Now your product might have three to four good benefits. But which is the one that your customers care about most? Figure that out. And instead of using words, let your image do the talking here.

Montane is an eCommerce store that sells all the stuff  a mountain biker needs, from backpacks to jackets for different weather conditions.

The primary concern for their customers is the storage or the weight of their product, since things like legwear or jacket can take up a lot of space in their backpacks.

So, the Montane team makes the smart move and, along with their product display images, they add an additional image on almost every product page that compares storage space of that product with the size of an apple.

See it for yourself in the image below:

Montane showing their jacket packed ina small bag for bikers

Isn’t this amazing? Had I been a biker, I would have definitely been sold.

2. Add Credibility to Your Site

The best way to make people see your website as “spam” is to add stock photos. They are phony. They compromise your site’s credibility and people often ignore them. In short, they waste your website’s real estate. Don’t use them ever.

The web is a very depersonalized medium. Giving a face to your company adds credibility to your website.

People like to get a sense of the company they are dealing with. And real human photos can do that for you in a breeze.

InfusionSoft pulls this off quite well on their homepage by adding a large, high-quality image of their employees:

Infusionsoft uses real people's image on their homepage that add credibility to their site

37Signals tested their customer’s image on their landing page against a page with no image and found that images with their customer’s images made their conversions shoot up.

Want to take this up a notch?

Add the image of an influential figure in the company. Below you can see the image of Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mind Valley Insights, alongside the newsletter signup of their site.

Mindvalley Insights uses the picture of their Founder to add credibility to their newsletter signup offer

Medalia Art found that adding images of the artists increased their conversions by 95% when it was tested against the Control page that contained images of only their art work. You can read the complete case study here.

3. Direct User Flow

This point is best elaborated with the image given below:

Directional cue meme

Gotchya! Right?

The point is, people cannot help but follow the direction in which we are guided.

The power of directional cues to improve conversions has already been proven by this popular eye tracking study. Use them in your design to guide your visitors’ thought process and direct their attention to important elements on your web page.

Headlines, call-to-action buttons, or lead generation forms are usually the main elements that should draw visitors’ attention.

You can also direct your visitors’ attention towards a powerful testimonial rather than a call-to-action button if you think it would better influence their buying decision.

Here is an example from Kissmetrics:

Directional cue used by KISSmetrics

You can even guide user flow by making your visitors follow the direction of the eyes in your images. Gieco is a good example here:

The little lizard-like thing from Geico looks at the headline which is guiding user flow on the page

4. Make Them Imagine How They Will Feel When They Take Action

Ever planned a trip or booked a hotel without looking at the images of the place or the accommodation?

Exactly! Travel websites understand this very well. Beautiful locations, luxurious settings, and serene natural beauty all sell you the dream of a perfect holiday without saying much in words. Their images do the persuading for them.

We tend to think we make rational decisions. But the the truth is, we make decisions when our emotions are triggered. After that, we just try to justify our decisions, so they make sense to our rational mind.

When you convey positive feelings or make visitors imagine the experiences they might miss out on, they take action. Make them connect with you and sell them a positive experience with your images.

For example, the image below from Human Touch has a feel-good factor that instantly makes you imagine the relaxed, comfortable feel that you would expect from a great reclining chair:

Human Touch pictures evoke positive emotions

5. Give Context to Your Products

When you use lifestyle-based images or present your products in the context of their surroundings, people notice them.

The image below, from an eyetracking study, shows how people interacted with lifestyle images from Pottery Barn on the left as opposed to plain still-life images of products from Amazon on the right:

Eyetracking study shows people interacting more with contextual lifestyle images from Potterybarn (left) than still-life images from Amazon (right)

Some sites take it one step further. They combine the two approaches to give users both the contextual images and the ease of noticing product details in individual product images. Wildgems is one great example.

You can see it in the image below:

Wildgems make it easy for their customers to imagine how their gems would look on them

It might seem easy to choose a relevant image with the right context, so you might not give it much thought. But the wrong image can actually hurt conversions.

One of our customers at Visual Website Optimizer A/B tested an image on their landing page that increased their conversion rate by 40.18%. You can see the comparison image below:

Exact Target Comparison Image

As it turned out, people were probably confusing the Marketing conference, which is a live event to be held in Indianapolis, with the virtual event because of the laptop image on the Control page.

Of course, you need to test first, no matter which idea you choose to try. And for any of this to work, you really need to make sure that you are aligning your efforts with the basics of using images online.

Images are a great way to communicate and using them just for “decoration” purposes will never get you any better conversions than you have right now.

What Do You Have For Me?

Okay, so I’m done. Now it’s time for you to spill some beans.

Are you guilty of using those cheesy stock photos? Or, are you the stud and have already tested some images that align with your website conversion goal? Let me know in the comments section.

About 

Smriti Chawla is a Content Marketer at Visual Website Optimizer, which is an easy-to-use A/B testing tool for marketers. You can sign-up for their 30-day free trial to improve the conversion rate of your website. To read more posts on A/B testing or conversion optimization, you can visit their split testing blog.

Get our Daily Newsletter

Get conversion optimization, design and copywriting articles delivered to your inbox FREE

7 COMMENTS

Designer Rob Russo

Excellent post. We share the philosophy that images should communicate. They should be used for a specific reason and not just as pretty pictures.

October 7, 2013 Reply

David Moloney

Yes, original images are good. But these also need to be decent quality. The last thing you want is a poorly lit or pixelated image trying to hero your website. That would be a huge detractor. So, if you can’t find a good original image, use a non-cliched stock image. Avoid stock images that have been downloaded thousands of times. And avoid the image of Gary!

Here’s Gary: http://smallbusinessplanned.com/marketing/gary-most-successful-man-in-the-world/

October 7, 2013 Reply

Brad Shorr

Terrific post. In particular I love the ideas of showing a benefit and putting the product in context … I wonder why so few e-comm and B2B sites fail to do this. For conveying benefits, captions work well, especially if photographing benfit images isn’t practical.

October 9, 2013 Reply

Smriti Chawla

Thanks for reading, guys. The ignorance about the use of images is just legendary. If only people could understand their practical value and test them, they will know what they are missing.

October 11, 2013 Reply


Leave comment

Some HTML allowed

Get conversion optimization & A/B testing articles FREE >>>