Most eCommerce owners think image optimization SEO is limited to reducing the file size.
BUT there’s more to it than meets the eye.
eCommerce image optimization refers to any action you carry out on improving the user experience and SEO of your store pictures.
This could be:
- Adding descriptions
- Improving the quality of images
- Reducing file size
- Or even using the right file type.
Image optimization SEO can only be truly effective when common misconceptions are acknowledged and fixed.
In this article, we’ll address some common misconceptions and what you can do differently in your store.
1. Customers ONLY need to see how the products look like
A lot of stores understand the importance of high-quality product pictures and so spend time developing these images.
However, beyond image quality, providing context is very helpful to your customers.
So you need to ditch the solo picture shots and show your products in use.
For example, if you’re selling a bag, while a picture of the bag would generally suffice, a picture of a model wearing or using that bag helps your customers see themselves with that product. It’s even much better when it's a picture of a model using it at an event.
See how Triangl achieves this whenever you hover on an image listed on their category page;
In our example below, Pourmoi does an excellent job of selling these leggings by showing them in use.
Rather than describing the pockets this product has, they show you a practical use case of this feature - how you can keep your phones in during a workout.
The model is also in a gym so you can picture yourself in this outfit either running or doing your daily workout.
- Always show your products in use, especially in situations/events they were designed for
- You can merge both solo shots and context shots on your product page for a more varied view
- Introduce user-generated images to show off real-life customers who wear or use your product
2. Thumbnail images do not need optimization
Thumbnails are a great way to show your customers that there are multiple pictures across the site.
In fact, an excellent tactic to improve product page SEO and conversions is by optimizing thumbnails.
The first thing to do is to ensure that these thumbnails are showing several variations at a glance. That way your customers can see that by clicking on them, they’ll be seeing different aspects of that product.
Bando automatically shows the bigger image once you hover on a thumbnail.
Next, you want to place them in a strategic location that is visible yet not distracting from the main image. See how Minaal does it in our example below.
You also want to give them different alt attribute text from the bigger versions. You don’t want a case where there are duplicate texts.
If possible, we recommend skipping alt text on thumbnails altogether. Why? So they don’t steal attention away from the actual product images.
Finally, ensure that your thumbnail file sizes are super small so that they do not affect your page speed over time.
- Let your thumbnails show different angles or variations in one glance
- Ensure you use small thumbnail files to avoid long load times
- Limit alternative texts to main images so your thumbnails don’t rank on search engines
3. Augmented Reality is just hype
There are a lot of tech trends and during this period, there’s a lot of hype around certain buzzwords. This is why many store owners have this misconception that AR is just one of those trends.
And although there’s hype to it, AR significantly helps users improve their shopping experience.
For example, in Amazon’s partnership with L’Oreal, customers can find the right lipstick shade on the app with AR. Users have the option to either scan a picture of their face or use a model with their exact skin tone.
With AR, a customer can see what a piece of clothing or accessory would look like on them.
So once they point a camera to whatever they are purchasing an item for, they can see a digital overlay of the product and decide whether it fits or not.
See how Nike recommends a shoe size for its customers in its mobile app.
You can integrate AR into your store with popular AR studios like Spark and Shopify AR. To successfully create your product AR, you’d also need a 3D visual of the product and specific measurements.
- Integrate your store with AR via Shopify AR or Spark
- Not all customers will want to scan their home or body - offer realistic AR-generated models to test with
- Offer recommendations to help customers make a more informed decision
Hey, you'll love this: Build the perfect mobile product page (22 proven ideas)
4. The same image can always be tweaked for mobile
The images you use for your desktop version cannot be simply tweaked for mobile.
Many store owners tend to focus on just resizing one image for several screen variations but mobile image optimization goes way beyond that.
Your user experience has to reflect the mobile experience.
For example, see how bulletproof optimized their mobile experience in such a way that the image doesn’t take up the entire page and there’s still enough room for other elements.
So you’d typically want to answer if users can scroll without getting stuck on an endless image loop.
Can they pinch and zoom?
Are your thumbnails easy to tap?
And have you allowed easy swiping?
The answers to these questions will help you push your mobile experience forward.
See how Bombas offers a clear pinch and zoom for customers who’d want to view product specifics
- Resize image resolutions for a more responsive mobile view
- Ensure that your elements are properly placed and that there’s room for thumbs
- Enable pinch and zoom for mobile so users can see the details of your product images
5. 3D images don’t add much to the shopping experience
While this is untrue, this misconception has encouraged store owners to stick with 2D images or videos of the product.
When in fact, customers want to see a product image in a 360-degree view.
95% of customers prefer an interactive 3D representation instead of video playback.
In our example below, Thinx offers a 3D and 360-degree view of models wearing the product so you can picture it from all angles.
You might also prefer to render all close-up shots to get the perfect 3D image for your store.
These types of shots are typically:
- On a white background
- ¾ image view
- Hero shot, front, back, and side view all in a white background.
See how Bremont already attracts its audience with this close-up, almost 3D-like image
These types of pictures may not be exactly functional for low-ticket items like a T-shirt but are perfect for high-value products like a sofa or furniture, that need a little more push.
- Replace video playbacks of your products by sharing 3D images
- Contact a 3D rendering service to generate 3D product images
- You want to typically take some up-close shots in a white background to help with the rendering
6. One large detailed image is enough
As we discussed above, customers love to see a lot of pictures.
And so when you stick with just one detailed image, the experience they have becomes bland.
Sharing varied product images helps to provide a richer user experience.
For one, they can see all angles of your product and become more interested in purchasing that item.
For example, Au Lit Fine Linens shows in one glance different images available. As you’d see there are only three. And that’s because while multiple pictures help the user, too many images can also cause them to abandon.
When curating your images, ensure you have several types which could include:
- One standalone product image
- A close-up shot of the product
- The product in context either by a model or a customer
- A side view of this image.
It could also be the different color variations or styles you have available.
See how NCLA does it in this example below;
- Share multiple images to show off different angles of your product
- Ensure that these images are between 3-5 so they don’t cause shopping fatigue and endless scrolls for your customers
- This is also a great time to show the different variations you have i.e colors or patterns
7. No real difference in tapping or swiping images
The amount of physical and cognitive effort it takes to tap an image is lesser than swiping across a carousel.
This is why the misconception that there’s no difference is completely untrue. Your customers have a higher chance of seeing your entire product images while swiping than manually tapping on each thumbnail.
So, incorporate a carousel-style for showing off your product images. You’d also want to let your users know that, this section is a carousel. This means adding directional cues to nudge them into swiping.
For example, Master Dynamic uses directional cues to show users that they can swipe left to see more images.
We also recommend using breadcrumbs to show how many images are left during the swipe. This way customers know how long they have to swipe.
US hem adds this along with its directional arrows. You can see the three dots below the product image.
- Use a carousel-style to showcase multiple images so it's easy to swipe through
- Add directional arrows so your customers know where to swipe and when to stop
- You can add breadcrumbs to show how many images/swipes are left
Hey, have you seen this? eCommerce image carousels: The good, the bad, and the ugly
8. Consistent look and feel across products lines are boring
Low-quality images leave a terrible impression on your store. This is why in addition to using high-quality images, you need to have a consistent look and feel that tells your customers what your brand eludes.
Having different feelings can cause uncertainty and make your customers sceptical about whether or not they’d get the exact product as displayed online.
Start by ensuring that your product images show the exact variant and sizes available.
This experience should be the same for both web and mobile versions of your store. Then let the product pictures elude your brand personality.
For example, see how St. Frank eludes homely across their product images as a handcrafted product brand.
A great way to provide consistency is by ditching stock images.
Instead, you should optimize your images for trust in the following ways:
- By consistently using the same models
- By having a brand aesthetic for stand-alone images
- By using customer-generated images of them using the product
In our example, see how Nerdwax shows off its community with user-generated images.
- Ditch the stock images and use real-life pictures instead
- Use images that immediately show your brand personality and story. We recommend using the same photographer or brief
- Let your product images show the exact variant you have in store to prevent high returns
9. Lifestyle Photography is a fancy add-on
Product photography is popular because it gives the customer sufficient information about the product.
Lifestyle photography does well because it appeals to user emotions.
However, some store owners tend to think that it's just a fancy add-on.
To build the true value of your products, you need both product and lifestyle photography.
That way, you can evoke emotions from your customers and sell that life through your product.
When shooting for lifestyle photography, focus on the details of what you’re selling; from the models to the environment.
In our example, Beardbrand sells the lifestyle of being cool as an old or young customer.
Biko also does an excellent job of complementing the product description by providing a calm yet nostalgic lifestyle in this image.
Aside from excellent lighting, the flowers and details of this image make it a good lifestyle image to emulate. You’d also see from the thumbnails that this image is accompanied by standalone product images
- Lifestyle photography is better paired with product photography for optimal results
- Let your pictures tell a story and evoke certain emotions e.g youth, elegance, calm, etc
- Focus on the details of your environment and the model to sell better
10. Only product descriptions need to reflect the brand
While selling your brand through product descriptions is a great way to start, pictures are a more effective method to explore.
Since humans are visual beings, the essence of a brand can be processed more easily through images.
For example, SundaySomewhere doesn’t even spend much time explaining the product. By showing the famous Beyonce as a model, they’ve already explained that they sell luxury.
And so anyone who’d want that luxurious feel would be inclined to make this purchase.
In another example, Quadlock complements its product description by showing British cyclist Chris Froome securely mounting this bike. So asides from selling this brand as a fitness brand, it eludes trust.
- You communicate your brand better when you use your product images to explain
- Use models that reinforce your brand stance; e.g athletes for a fitness brand or a celebrity for a luxury brand
- Complement these images with a solid copy that tells the same story
11. Bulleted features can replace the detail focus in images
Bulleted features are great. But what if your customers don’t want to read or skim through text? What then happens if you’ve replaced these images?
The thing is visual elements complement listed features.
If your customers skim through your bulk of text and see a corresponding image, it makes your product more believable and appealing.
In our example, Studioneat sells the Totebook as a slim and light product. The image corroborates that reference by showing a slim book.
You can also create a deeper reference by showing close-up images of the features you’re referencing.
For example, WP Standard doesn’t need to reinforce the durable two-way zipper thanks to this detail-focused image.
- Instead of replacing detailed pictures with text, complement those texts with images that reinforce said features
- Always use close-up shots to depict the details you’re trying to communicate
The Bottom Line
Image optimization is a complex exercise to undergo.
However, once you understand the misconceptions around certain image optimization SEO strategies, you’d be on a more focused path to getting conversions from your product images.
Start by ensuring that your images are functional, low in file size, high-quality, and multiple to get results.