Boosting your e-commerce success - the power of high-quality images

How to invest in your photography to meet high customer expectations
A man in a fashion studio adjusts a Canon EOS R5 camera on a tripod, with two mannequins in the background.

Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM at 1/250 sec, f/2.5 and ISO800. © Jake Baggaley

E-commerce businesses are navigating a terrain which undergoes constant transformation, from rapid technology advancements to ever-shifting consumer preferences. But in the last few years, it’s got even more challenging.

The volume of e-commerce sales has sped up dramatically, transforming e-commerce from simply a domain for sales, to the primary domain where brands are competing more aggressively than ever before.

Meanwhile, the line has blurred between brand and customer, with social influencers becoming experts in curating and styling photography. In turn consumers now have a greater awareness of what it means to market a brand.

Amidst the growing noise and crowded space in the digital marketplace, product images take on more meaning: they are not just pictures, they're potent tactics at the disposal of modern e-commerce brands. In the vast expanse of virtual storefronts and digital shelves, it’s images that most capture customers’ attention.

As a result, businesses are investing in their e-commerce imagery, exploring more innovative ways to engage, inspire and ultimately to sell.

The Rising Standards in Photography

There have never been such high standards for photography quality. Thanks to advances in smart phone technology, consumers are now more capable of capturing and editing photography through their smart phones – giving them a greater insight into how brands do so at a professional level.

This drive for better phone camera innovation is just one symptom of the rise in image-led social media platforms. Influential creators have made careers from curating and editing photography, often posting with tips and guidance to their followers about how they achieved their content. Consequently, the average consumer now has a greater understanding and higher expectations when it comes to digital imagery. Those expectations can tangibly impact a brand’s success – companies which fall behind on e-commerce photography are increasingly at risk of damage to their reputation or bottom line.

A man observes a product while handling a Canon R5 camera, connected by ethernet for an easier production workflow.

Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II at 1/100 sec, f/2.8 and ISO800.

But are high-resolution images enough? The Baymard Institute (a body dedicated to researching e-commerce design) explains that online shoppers still have the need to explore and evaluate a product in the same way they would when buying a product in-person1 . To replicate that experience, brands have begun exploring technologies including 360-degree imagery and augmented reality (AR). If your brand is not considering AR already, it can be a great way to bring customers as close to ‘try before you buy’ as possible while online shopping.

IKEA is often cited as one of the first brands to launch an AR e-commerce experience with their app IKEA Place in 20172 , which allowed users to envision furniture in their own homes – including ‘life-like’ texture, fabric and lighting – something which elevated e-commerce beyond the experience that even in-store could offer. In fact, it quickly became the second most downloaded free app built on ARKit3 . By the following year it had set off a chain reaction, leading to many top brands utilising AR technology from Cadbury’s to Converse (which enabled customers to virtually try on its shoes)4 .

AR used in this way depends on photographing products from 360-degree angles in a high resolution to replicate or model the product in another environment – bridging the gap between online and in-person experience. This process can also be used to support customisation where elements of the product are digitally adapted by the customer online, virtually bringing to life more options than even an in-store experience would allow. These advancements are a sign of a broader shift towards a more immersive and interactive online shopping experience which depends on advanced photography.

The Impact of Imagery on E-commerce Performance

Are brands advancing their e-commerce photography just because everybody else is? Or do these innovations have a tangible impact on e-commerce success?

The reality is that the quality of images directly influences conversion rates, reduces return rates, and enhances overall customer satisfaction. Quality can mean different things to different consumers. It’s more than just high-quality resolution; it's the accurate communication of a product to the consumer. This could be confirming that a chair is the right shade of red to fit in with an existing room aesthetic. It might be reassuring a parent that the texture of a clothing item looks suitable for their child.

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Almost all consumers (90%) believe that the quality of product photos is extremely important when making a purchase5 , a higher rating than the cost of the item or the reviews. Despite this, the Baymard Institute found that 25% of e-commerce sites provide product images that are insufficient for users’ need to visually explore and evaluate a product6 . This is alarming considering that the research also found that low-resolution images drag down users’ perceptions of products7 , meaning that poor imagery has a direct impact on brand reputation.

It’s not just that bad images discourage customers from buying in the first place: a substantial 22% of online returns stem from products not aligning with the depicted images. In fact, returns are rapidly becoming brands’ biggest problem. Last year, Boohoo reported a 92% profit loss which it blamed on the volume of returns8 . It’s never been more important for e-commerce images to accurately convey to a customer what they are buying – from colour to texture to quality.

Consequently, 360-degree photography is swiftly becoming indispensable, offering consumers a more immersive and accurate representation of products before making a purchase decision. Going further, 66% of online shoppers say that the inclusion of 3D and augmented reality visuals on product pages significantly increases their confidence in making a purchase9 . We can see this in action: after Wayfair introduced its AR app, it saw a surge in sales that led to the company’s share price rising more than 36% in a year10 .

“In many cases, having low-quality images is almost worse than having no images at all” - Baymard Institute

In focus: Shooting to Sell

It is crucial to recognise that not every business share identical priorities in this diverse e-commerce landscape. A luxury boutique may place importance on creative photography, striving to craft visually compelling narratives that resonate with an audience that wants to be inspired. Conversely, a high-volume footwear brand, for example, might prioritise consistency and a streamlined, high-speed workflow to cater to the demands of a broader consumer base and higher stock inventory. Despite these varying emphases, the common thread binding successful brands is the images that establish and maintain a compelling online presence.

In this context, the importance of selecting the right partner for e-commerce photography cannot be overstated. Beyond providing high-resolution images, businesses need a photography solution that aligns seamlessly with their unique priorities.


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  1. Baymard Institute: 25% of E-Commerce Sites Don't Have Product Images With Sufficient Resolution or Level of Zoom
  2. Practical Ecommerce: 12 Augmented Reality Apps from merchants
  3. LinkedIn: Is the IKEA Place Augmetned Reality App a Success?
  4. 10 Brands Already Leveraging the Power of Augmented Reality
  5. Why Product Photography is Important
  6. Baymard Institute: 25% of E-Commerce Sites Don't Have Product Images With Sufficient Resolution or Level of Zoom
  7. Baymard Institute: 25% of E-Commerce Sites Don't Have Product Images With Sufficient Resolution or Level of Zoom
  8. The Drum: Returns are killing retailers and the planet: can ad industry strategists find a solution?
  10. Elizabeth Landry: Wayfair's "Try-Before-You-Buy" Augmented Reality Experience

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