Why your product images need to be accurate

17Dec07

Virtually every e-commerce site provides pictures along with their product descriptions. Since the same pictures tend to appear on multiple sites, I’m guessing these images come from the product manufacturers. So far, so good. But if an outdated or just plain incorrect image gets in there, it can wreak havoc on sales conversions and return rates.

In particular, if customers can’t tell what they’re buying, sales numbers are going to drop. And for those that do buy, if the product they receive doesn’t match the image, they’re a lot more likely to return it. For these reasons and more, having accurate product images is a good idea.

That’s why I was surprised to learn that CDW, Buy.com, and other sites had incorrect pictures of a printer that I was looking at. Their pictures showed different features than the manufacturer’s site. When I asked one of the e-commerce sites about it, they insisted that their picture was right and the manufacturer’s site was wrong. It wasn’t until I checked on NewEgg.com that I won the argument.

Why was NewEgg so useful? They provide high resolution photos of nearly everything they sell. In my case, one of the pictures showed both the disputed feature and the model number that appears on the printer within the same frame. This left no room for argument.

In fact, I believe NewEgg’s approach should be a model for all e-commerce sites. From what I can tell, they actually open one box for every product they sell, take a ton of photos, and then post them on the site. They don’t rely on someone else’s images. Granted, this may not be practical for every website. In that case, Amazon has a nice alternative: let users upload their own photos to supplement the original images.

Whatever approach you choose, it’s a really good idea to let users tell you when a photo is wrong. Then take these reports and flag the image for manual review. Doing a reality check on each new photo before you post it, i.e. does the picture match the product description, is another way to reduce costly errors. Otherwise, you could be losing sales, incurring high return costs, and seeing customers flee to other sites where the product they receive actually matches what they saw online.



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