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How Images Drive Conversions: 15 Ways Images Can Improve Conversion Rates

People love pictures and there’s no better place to see that than online. Facebook alone now stores over 220 billion images. Over seven petabytes of new photos are added to the social network every month. And it’s not just Facebook. We’re seeing a proliferation of images all over the internet, including on other social platforms, news sites, blogs, and ecommerce sites. The internet has become a truly image-centric medium.

For online marketers, images hold a lot of power. That’s because they have the potential to dramatically increase conversion rates for a few different reasons. First, the internet has evolved from a text-centric medium to an image-centric one in recent years where people now expect an image-rich experience. Second, most people prefer to consume images as opposed to text. Third, images can be a subtle, but powerful cue to guide people’s behavior.

In spite of their importance, images are often an afterthought for marketing. They are usually seen as something that has little to no impact on marketing’s objectives. Furthermore, there are few, if any, real guidelines on how to use images to increase conversions and revenue. As a result, producing images for an online marketing program or campaign is often LTTD (left to the designer).

There are some simple guidelines that marketers can use to guide their use of images. Here are 15 basic rules with some examples of marketers who are using images to drive increased conversion rates.

1. Tie images to the product or service

Different companies market and sell different products. Marketers should tie images to the product or service that they’re offering. To use a simple example, e-commerce companies should display product images using a catalog design metaphor. A slightly more complex example might be a for-profit educational institution. In this case, the company could show a successful, happy person that supports the product because that’s really what the school is selling.

education landing page conversion image

That’s certainly what University of Phoenix is doing and they are doing it in a way that uses an image to drive a prospective customer to a conversion – searching for a degree.

2. Tailor images that target your audience

Tailoring images to your target audience is another marketing best practice. Gender and age are among the demographic traits that determine how someone will react to a particular image. When shown an image of a man in a swimsuit, women pay more attention to the left hand of the man than men do. Researchers suggest that women are looking for a wedding band. And a recent eye tracking study focused on online dating profiles found that men examine a woman’s profile picture first and foremost, while women spend the most time on text-based profile details.

3. Use high quality images

Historically, landing pages have been the home of low quality images. Low quality stock photos are the most common example of this. In recent years however, a handful of internet companies have really pushed the envelope on using high quality images as part of their marketing efforts. The reason is simple – high quality images create the perception in the mind of the customer that the product being offered is high quality. That in turn leads to higher conversion rates.

high quality image conversion rate

No company is doing a more effective job of this than Airbnb. The online accommodations site has found that listings with professional photographs are booked twice as often as listings with amateur photos. The effect of high quality photos is so profound that Airbnb offers its customers a professional photography service for free.

4. Feature the customer

Images are also more effective when they show the target customer. One of the more effective image-based conversion tactics is to show the customer using the product or service. This allows a prospective buyer to visualize using the product. It’s an extremely powerful psychological cue. It also creates a form of social validation where the prospective buyer is more inclined to buy because they believe that other people are already happily using the product.

customer image landing page conversion

The team at 37signals conducted a fairly simple A/B test to learn that large pictures of happy customers improved conversion rates on the landing page for their Highrise product.

5. Make images emotionally evocative

Many products are designed to evoke an emotional response from the target buyer. That’s because the emotion that someone feels at the point of conversion is often the driving force as to whether that person will convert or not. Marketers should use images that bolster the emotion that the product is designed to evoke. For example, technology security companies often use imagery that’s associated with fear or threats.

6. Humanize web pages with faces

For a few years now, good designers have understood that displaying faces next to key calls to action improves conversion rates. Adding a headshot of a customer service representative to the “contact support” button or 1-800 number on a web page can increase conversion rates by up to 20%. Social media sites have long used “face piles” in an effort to drive additional activity and page views on their sites. Marketers should use pictures of people and headshots in particular to humanize their calls to action and conversions.

7. Show detailed images

Images are great way to display a lot of detailed information in an easy to consume way. When a conversion depends on a customer understanding the details of a product or service, images can play a critical role. Marketers should  provide customers with multiple views of the product. In some contexts, using a zoom feature or digital loupe can be an effective technique for displaying detailed images. Even information products such as books and white papers are well served by detailed images. In this case, providing a detailed table of contents and excerpt can improve conversion rates substantially.

detailed image landing page conversion

In this e-commerce example, Burton uses multiple images to show different views of the product, as well as a digital loupe to show detailed views of the jeans.

8. Use images to guide the customer

Marketers can use a carefully placed image to improve conversions by literally guiding the prospect’s eyes to the point of conversion whether that be a product placement, button, form, or navigation option. This is often accomplished by using a photo of a person (the “hero shot”) and having that person look at the part of the web page that marketing wants the target audience to pay attention to.

baby image conversion

In a well-known eye tracking study, marketers determined that having the baby look at the product greatly increased the number of people who looked at that part of the page. As a side note, photos of babies generally test very well on all types of landing pages!

9. Consider the context of consumption

Most marketers think of images in the context of a web page, such as a landing page that they control. Increasingly, images are being used on third party sites to drive traffic to the brand’s site. Facebook Ads are a prime example of this. Facebook is a place where people expect to have a social, fun experience. Remembering this context when choosing images for Facebook Ads has a dramatic impact on click through rates. The proof is in the pudding. Data shows that photos of things like human faces, cats, and beer result in improved conversion rates. In fact, Marketo displays beer in their Facebook Ads in spite of the fact that they sell marketing automation software.

10. Image placement is critical

Marketers should also pay attention to image placement on web pages. For example, if a product has a temporal component, people prefer to view the “before” image on the left and the “after” image on the right. It’s just how people are accustomed to consuming this type of information. Moreover, marketers shouldn’t put too much space between these images, as pictures that are closer together create the perception that the product is more effective. These are just two examples. The key point to remember is to place images in a manner that supports how people are accustomed to consuming information.

11. Avoid confusing images

Confusing, hard-to-understand images tend to confuse customers and actually create the perception that a product or service may be difficult to use. It should come as no surprise that a number of studies have shown that we prefer information that is easy to consume. For example, subjects who read an exercise routine in a hard-to-read font estimated that the workout would take almost twice as long as those subjects who read the instructions in the Arial font. Given that we prefer products that are simple and easy to understand, marketers should remember that clear, simple images will drive higher conversions.

12. Larger images work

Do bigger images increase conversion rates? In many cases, they would appear to, particularly when it comes to “hero shots”, a landing page’s central image, and call-to-action buttons. A large image provides many benefits that contribute to higher conversion rates. They tend to be higher quality, easier to understand, and evoke a stronger response.

large image landing page conversion

Dell recently tested a landing page using a large hero shot as the page background. The number of leads generated increased 36% over the control page. As a result, the marketing team at Dell is now testing this page for many of the vendor’s B2B products.

13. Use image priming

Priming involves using subtle cues, often in the form of images, to influence a person’s future behavior. Although it’s the subject of some controversy in academic circles, there have been numerous studies that show image priming can impact conversion rates. A study by Stanford professor Brian Knutson showed that mildly erotic photos of men and women caused heterosexual men to take greater financial risks than subjects who were shown images of office supplies or spiders.

14. Buttons are images too

Many marketing teams equate images with photos. It’s important to remember that there are other types of images as well. Buttons that represent a call to action are an example of a critically important type of image. When properly designed, they have the potential to generate triple digit improvements in conversion rates. Using the right color, large buttons, and a strong call to action are proven techniques for improving click through rates.

15. Don’t forget about color psychology

The primary color of an image can have a material impact on conversion rates. Certain colors evoke particular reactions from people. For example, green and red are two popular colors for buttons on landing pages. Both evoke strong reactions from site visitors and provide marketers with two great options to test for effectiveness. In fact, Hubspot recently tested two nearly identical landing pages where the only difference between the pages was the color of the submit button. The red button outperformed the green button by 21%.

That’s 15 ways that images can improve online conversion rates, from fundamental tips like using highly quality images to more advanced ones like priming the customer with subtle, image-based cues.

What’s been your experience using images to improve conversion rates? Any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author:  Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research, advisory, and consulting firm that believes in a really simple, but powerful idea – that all revenue can be distilled down to a series of conversions. By connecting everything we do back to this core idea, we help sales and marketing organizations exceed their revenue targets. You can connect with Scott on Twitter.

  • David Cheng

    Great post. I just cross-referenced this somewhere else and am going to post it on ShareBloc.

    • Thanks David. Hoping to do a follow up on “priming” soon.

  • lucas compan

    Excellent content. Thanks for sharing, Scott

  • pauls

    Good work Scot Albro,

    You have shared very important ideas to use images to improve the eCommerce website conversion rate. Also check this post where some more unique ideas are mentioned to use images to improve the conversion rate. http://www.fmeextensions.com/blog/top-5-means-to-enhance-conversion-rate-with-photo-galleries/

  • kevin castillo

    Has anyone actually have links to research/studies that support this article?

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