A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words, But Only if it’s a Really Good One

August 30, 2017

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By Rachel Cox

By now we all know that multi-seller marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Jet.com are serious about their image requirements. Why? Because bigger, better images lead to bigger, better conversion rates, and the marketplaces know it.

And it isn’t surprising. When you go shopping, you don’t just look at the thing in a window display before you buy, right? You want to get your hands on it. You want to feel how soft that sweater is, or examine the fine detail on that expensive pendant. How far will you have to stretch your fingers to reach the backspace key on the fancy keyboard you’re eyeing? How big is that coffee cup really?

Your customers want to know too. According to a December 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, the two most critical differences between online stores and brick-and-mortar stores are the ability to ask questions (so beef up your customer service, folks) and the ability to pick up the product up. It’s so easy to buy online, and with 1-day or even 1-hour delivery, who would choose otherwise? But a lot of shoppers will still drive halfway across town, fight for a decent parking space, and walk three city blocks through a crowded mall to get a good look at a thing before they buy it.

Big images won’t guarantee conversions, of course, but until online retailers can give shoppers a 3D object to touch and turn in the comfort of their living room, great pictures are the next best thing.

So what makes a great product photo?

  • It’s big. Minimum sizes range from 500 pixels on eBay to 1,000 on Amazon, but bigger is better. Jet and Walmart require 500 pixels but recommend 1,500 and 2,000, respectively, and Pricefalls requires at least 1,200 x 1,200. Check the marketplaces you’re listing on for their specific requirements.
  • Its file size is no more than 1 MB, and less if possible. The acronym “ppi” stands for pixels per inch; the higher the ppi, the clearer the image. But higher ppi also increases file size. Again, check the markplaces for their requirements.
  • It’s zoomable. For that beautiful click-to-zoom feature that buyers have come to expect, high resolution photos are non-negotiable. Walmart requires 2000 pixels at 300 ppi for zoom capability.
  • It’s focused on the product. The thing you’re selling should fill the image space and show just what the buyer will be getting. No watermarks, no marketing copy, nothing to obscure or distract from the product itself.
  • It has a white background — genuinely white. Use RGB 255,255,255. Other colors can change how viewers perceive the product color and can lead to returns and complaints, and the marketplaces usually require white backgrounds on the primary image anyway.
  • It has good contrast to show the product off, especially on dark items where it’s easy to lose the detail. The last thing you want is to turn that perfect little black dress into a featureless blob.

Remember, a picture tells the buyer about your product before they ever read a word.

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for a great product image, but you can think about images the same way you think about product descriptions or bullet points:

  • What do you want to emphasize? Is it the spacious and organized interior of a laptop bag, or the beautifully detailed clasp that won’t dazzle unless you see it up close? Include high-resolution angle photos and close-ups in your secondary images so shoppers can get the full picture.
  • How big is the item? Secondary images are a great place to include photos that show smaller items or accessories to scale, whether it’s a mini-flashlight next to a ruler or a pendant worn by a model. Just be sure the product is always center stage.
  • Do you offer different colors or fabrics? Include those as product images too, and send swatch images if the marketplace supports them.
  • Always send that high-resolution image on the pure white background with no props and no text as the primary image for each item.

That all sounds great, but what if my images don’t measure up?

If your images need a little work and you don’t have someone on staff who do it, lots of folks can help. ChannelAdvisor Image Services (as part of the Professional Services offering) is just one place you can use. Companies like Pixelz and Picsera can also help with photo retouching, resizing, compression and background replacement for everyone from small entrepreneurs to big retailers with application programming interface (API) marketplace integrations.

Of course, you’ll need to weigh professional photo price plans against the other costs of doing business, but give your buyers the very best story you can tell in the very best pictures you can provide. Give them clear, unobstructed photos that show your product from every angle. Give them photos that show how big that pendant will look when they put it on or whether your coffee cup is for an espresso or a double latte. Give them a click-to-zoom option that brings them so close to that sweater they can practically feel it.

You’ve got what they want, so don’t lose them to the mall across town. Show them they can buy right here, right now, from your online store, and know exactly what they’re getting. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, give them something better than a thousand words. Give them 2000 beautiful, zoomable pixels.