How Top Retailers Show Product Images

We’ve all heard Confucius’ famed quote “a picture is worth 1,000 words” at least 1,000 times.

Online, pictures are worth more than words, they’re worth dollars. But how many dollars depends on how effectively product images *speak* to customers. We’re talkin’ details. Just like textual product descriptions describe a product in detail, enlarged images and alternate views better describe your products. And many products cannot be fully described with words.

According to a 2007 survey of online shoppers by the E-Tailing Group:

  • 77% are “very to somewhat” influenced by the quality of content (descriptions, copy, images and tools) when deciding to purchase from an online retailer

  • 79% “rarely or never” purchase a product without complete product information
  • 76% believe content is insufficient to complete research or purchase online “always,” “most often” or “some of the time”
  • When faced with incomplete information, 72% go to a competitor or research further

Future Now did its own customer experience study and found 24% of online shops do not allow customers to enlarge images, and 63% don’t offer multiple image views. I decided to do some research myself, cruising the Internet Retailer 500 List looking for examples of how online retailers are showing off their goods:

Images in Action

A simple way to enlarge images is to have a link “click to enlarge” that opens up a pop-up with the thumbnail image blown up. The next level up is to offer alternative images in the pop-up with the ability to change the image with a click or mouseover.

A bit more advanced is using a Javascript or Flash tool like Magic Toolbox
or Adobe’s Scene 7. Magic Toolbox’ Magic Zoom lets you hover over any area of a product image without a pop-up or click (stay on the product page). There may be other products that also do this, but I’m only aware of this one.

This example from Danskin shows how you can view the front or back of this product in any of its 4 colors:

Scene 7 is typically launched in a popup window with the option to click a plus or minus button to enlarge, then click and drag the image around the window to look at specific detail. Or, use the magnifier to blow up one portion:

I found Scene 7 was fussy to use, and on some sites would load a blank window. Not to mention the time to load. I do prefer the Magic Toolbox product, as a web user.


Altrec uses a slider for image zoom which you can control by clicking and dragging left and right from the enlarge pop-up. You can then click and drag the big image to move it around within the window.

The Adidas Store does the same thing right on the product page (no pop-up. less clicking required). is like Adidas, but includes alternate views which really help describe the product. You can view them all without pop-ups.

I’m not sure the magnifying glass is a good icon here – that’s more associated with a search box than image magnification.

Quick Look

A handful of retailers like Gap’s brands use a Quick Look preview from the category page, with full product information. If you want an even larger view you can click to a popup with color switching and view switching.

Huge Category Zoom explodes images on the category page with a rollover – the biggest previews I’ve ever seen.

Large Default Images on Product Pages

Moosejaw uses a large image on its product pages with detailed information in tabs. Just rollover alternative views for instant enlargement. uses large product images too. Ties are one type of product that really only need one view, so this is usable, effective and inexpensive.

Retailer Creativity

By showing front and back views on one image, Causal Male saves clicking between 2 images on the product page, and also gives more product information from one thumbnail on the category page. This is great for shoppers in “competitive” buying mode who want information fast, fast, fast. Plus, it never covers up the call-to-action.

Uncommon Goods’ approach is uncommon, but good (I know it’s cheesy but I couldn’t resist). For certain products, the image is shown in a landscape banner with zoom and move controls right there on the page.

Neiman Marcus and Venus Swimwear use floating images in the sidebar that follow you down as you scroll down the page.

Horny Toad lets you select size scaling on the category page:

ACLens offers a .pdf print-out of the actual size of its frames:

J.Crew allows enlargement and multiple color / angle views for cross-sells as well:

full cross-sell set and enlarge them and color switch them on the same page

What do you think about the call to action? Too long? Cute the first time but annoying when used on every product?

So these are some examples of providing slick product views in usable and creative ways. But how can you up the persuasion factor and tell a story with your product images? Tune in tomorrow for tips and examples on how to show products “in context.”

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28 Responses to “How Top Retailers Show Product Images”

  1. Thanks Linda, you make a great point of how product images affect the purchasing decision and provide examples of many different ways etailers implement them, but do you see any preference from a usability perspective on one method vs. another?

  2. Definitely, my preference is mouseover englarge rather than popup – like Magic Zoom’s product used on Danskin and Casual Male. Scene7 is really slick but it takes a few seconds to load and requires much mouse control. Sometimes it doesn’t load.

  3. Great post Linda. I’ve been meaning to do one myself on the importance of product images.

    I recently came across a free software by Zoomify, that simplifies the process of creating Zoom flash images out of regular jpeg images. It’s a great tool for eCommerce retailers on a budget who want to implement zoom technology. The link is below:

  4. Justin, that’s a great find, thanks for sharing that link.

  5. [...] 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 [...]

  6. [...] And its very worth reading “How top Retailers Show product Images”. [...]

  7. It is important for your images to be big and clear and if possible, zoomable. The less clicks a person has the quicker he/she will decide if they will buy your products.
    A free online zoomable tool is Zoomify which can be found here :

    – Daniel Chege
    Poppa Productions Web Designs

  8. [...] How Top Retailers Show Product Images [...]

  9. [...] this week we discussed why enlarged images, alternate product views and showing products in context can help [...]

  10. thinks says:

    Small Business Ecommerce Link Digest – July 4, 2008…

    Linda Bustos, Avinash Kaushik, GrokDotCom, Seth Godin and Search Engine Land all visit the Link Digest. Talking ’bout pictures, mostly.

  11. [...] meer: Deel 1 op Get Elastic: Hoe geven e-commerce sites hun afbeeldingen weer? Deel 2 op Get Elastic: Kunnen [...]

  12. Jane says:

    I found another way of showcasing products. 360 degree product views like offers. I was thinking of implementation in my store. It’s not expensive considering they only charge $30 per product and I believe it worth the money. May I know what is your opinion?

  13. Hi Jane, Elastic Path (the company that supports this blog aka my employer) is going to implement 360 degree shots on a client site that we are supplying end-to-end ecommerce services for, so after that’s up and running I’ll have a better opinion on it – the ROI and the conversion difference.

    Until then I think it’s a fantastic idea, and likely where the apparel category is heading – 360 degrees works for other products too, of course.

  14. Great article and viewpoints! I am including a link to this article in one of our online classes at Photo Styling Workshops, call “Style It & Shoot It.” There is such useful information here!

  15. I was recently shopping online at the Top Man store (UK) and noticed that they also had the magnifying glass effect with the images.

    It actually encouraged me to buy one shoe over another.

  16. dunk sb says:

    images wil do us a lot of favor, so pay more attention to it.

  17. yup. we should take care, make sure your images can allure customers. lol

  18. Linda and Jane,
    We do the Photography and create viewers for high-resolution zoomable 360 degree Product images as well as Zoomable Still Images similar to the zoomify example above, and some our clients have shared with us that they have had an eye-opening increase in ROI and Conversion over thier products that do not have zoomable or interactive imagery and their rate of returns has decreased remarkably.

    Of course with the advent of YouTube and the like, 30-60 second product videos are starting to take hold in the industry. Our Large Internet retailer clients are banking on rich media 360, zoom and video technologies!

    Just 2 years ago the technology was at the point where 360 product images and 30-second videos were $250 per product. Now with all of our streamlined technology you can get even higher quality for only $50 per product.
    you can see samples at the following links:



    Best of luck to all of you in showcasing your products!


  19. [...] Spontaneous are text scanners, so bullets would be better here, too. They like to see products in action, a link to a demo video would be great. Or an enlarged image. [...]

  20. Mowbes says:

    I have done some good research into 3d product photography and I feel that the level needs to be at what a company called 3D Studio are doing. It looks like they have worked with some good brands.

  21. Linda, your article is great. I think there are so many online retailer out there are not focused on to represent their products efficiently. Some of them have one image and a few of them have an image gallery. These online owners needs to be aware that having an online store is like having a storefront. You need to have the storefront decorated well enough and have a great product placement. Presentation is everything. With 360 degree product photography customer will have the ability to take a closer look to the products. It is like picking up the product at the store and examine it thoroughly before purchase.

    We are very exited to be a part of this solution provider.

  22. Todd O. says:

    What are your thoughts on short product videos (20-60 seconds) as a means for enhanced product images?

  23. [...] Uit het onderzoek bleek dat afbeeldingen het eerste waren waar participanten naar keken, ongeacht de positie op de productpagina. Voor meer informatie verwijst het onderzoek naar de blogpost van Get Elastic. [...]

  24. You might take a look at Jquery Reel as a way to showcase products

  25. [...] a great Get Elastic post on how Top Retailers Show Product Images.    Linda Busto’s post on zoom and hover-preview pertains to ecommerce shopping in general but [...]

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