Reducing Size and Color Uncertainty in Product Photos

Shopping online is risky. Customers rely on relatively small, 2-D product images or sometimes video to get an idea of the actual 3D product they are potentially buying. One of the most common reasons for online returns is the item appeared different on the site, and the customer expected a different color, higher quality, different size or other attribute than what was perceived from the image.

If a customer has a negative experience buying online, even if only once, the buyer will likely be more cautious for every future online purchase. This wary customer needs more trust-builders to convert. Common concerns include sizing and color fears.

Sizing Fears

Looks can deceive. From this category page, certain items appear relatively larger than other products when in reality they are MUCH smaller, simply because of how the product image was taken. The customer may overlook certain products because they perceive them as too large for what they’re looking for.

If possible, indicate product sizes using consistency in photography (or relative resizing), using a sort by size filter (depending on your products), or including sizes product titles or descriptions.

Nine West has incorporated sizes into most (but not all) their product titles, and this is how they appear in the Endless.com Nine West category page:

Even though product thumbnails use different zoom, the customer has some idea of what to expect of how large or small the product is.

Jewelry is another category that can be very deceiving, since to show good product detail, images are often blown up very large which is deceptive.

Consistency in default product image zoom is very important for suggesting alternative items. Assume a customer prefers a thinner chain-link in a bracelet. The product viewed is too thick for her liking, so she considers the “similar items” merchandizing zone. It is deceiving to have zoomed-in images shown along with zoomed-out – 2 bracelets of the same thickness can appear to be very different.

Here, Amazon’s product title includes the size of the chain in inches, not of the pendant.

Interestingly, both reviewers of this product mentioned the size – “about the size of a dime” and “smaller circle than you typically see in jewelry stores” should now be incorporated in the product description – not everyone reads the reviews but everyone should know what to expect the final product to look like.

QVC includes a reference measurement image, which is a good idea.

Showing the item on a real neck, or at least a mannequin or bust would help communicate this, too.

Toys R Us does a good job showing relative sizing by showing the products “in context” (in use). Customers can gauge the appropriateness of an item much better than the product alone.

Color Fears

The ability to switch the colors of an item on the product page is a fantastic feature, but when an item is simply “Photoshopped” into various colors, it may not reflect the actual item itself. Victoria’s Secret allows you to change colors on most but not all of their products, but usually it just flips the color, the model doesn’t move. A customer who recognizes this is just “Photoshopping” may not trust your color match.

Showing SKUs at different angles proves your images are of the actual item, like Endless.com has done here. When you roll over alternative colors, you can tell it’s a different photo because the angle will be slightly different.

A manual audit of your site’s images vs. actual product can also help you identify where you can improve your product descriptions, since you can’t always rely on customers giving you that feedback. Have your staff compare images and descriptions to the product you carry and watch for true-to-size and true-to-color issues.

High quality images and multiple product views, combined with user ratings and review feedback can help ease customer FUDDs (fears, uncertainties, doubts and dealbreakers) and reduce your rate of return, and also improve conversion rates and overall customer satisfaction.

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6 Responses to “Reducing Size and Color Uncertainty in Product Photos”

  1. Thank you for your post here. We work with flowers online. Its tricky to get great product pictures of flowers (I know its surprising, but it is true!) Spot on ref image sizing, ie keep all the same. Thanks again for this.

  2. Mhairi says:

    How true this is. I don’t know how often I have decided not to buy a product because I can’t “see” what its really like. Its not enough to have one image of an item, I want to see it from all angles before I decide, and get an idea of how big it is and what each color option looks like.

    Having just returned from the UK where eCommerce seems to be more mainstream than it is here in Canada, I also noticed that people are more inclined to buy if there is any easy and understandable returns policy posted prominently.

  3. Andy says:

    Great tips – especially about scale. We have found that even when we provide exact measurements, it is not enough. The visual is stronger.

  4. tiffany says:

    Thank you very much,I have read it now.
    And welcome to my site,

  5. Jihan S. says:

    Lands End had a novel idea – they send you FREE color swatches for some of the products. Not sure if you have to pay for shipping though.

  6. Great post. Product photography is extremely important. With my new site, the suppliers photos are not very good and i will have to retake them especially after reading your post. If you work with dropshippers, it can be difficult if their images are poor and they have hundreds of products to get decent images of.

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