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Why You Need More Than Photos for eCommerce Websites

You need amazing content. You have some great photos for your product listings, but the ROI just isn’t cutting it. And how do those shoppable videos work? You need more than photos for eCommerce websites.

Videos increase conversion and consumer confidence at much higher rates than photos. Today’s customers simply expect you to have video content so they can better understand how your product works. From user-generated content to video product listings, it’s time for your business to embrace the power of videos for eCommerce. 

This article covers a brief history of eCommerce, classic categories of eCommerce photo content, an overview of video content types for eCommerce, and how your eCommerce business can take advantage of the psychology behind videos to increase sales. Let’s get into it.

Brief history of visuals and eCommerce

The very first eCommerce system was launched in 1979. It utilized a combination of TV and telephone processing centers to provide viewers with quick purchasing options. Basically, people saw a product on the television and then called in to order it. Then, once the Internet arrived, Amazon became the first company to launch online shopping in 1995. The online auction site eBay also launched in 1995. Soon after, Alibaba and PayPal came into existence, and eCommerce has only continued to grow since then.

Buying things online has always required impressive visuals along with secure purchasing options. 

In part, Amazon and eBay worked so well in the early days because customers could see photos of the products. This allayed their concern around buying a product online without having touched it or seen it in real life. Fast forward to today, and the top three buying destinations for consumers are Amazon, branded eCommerce websites, and physical brick-and-mortar stores. It’s estimated that shoppers spend a whopping 36% of their budget on online purchases.

The future of eCommerce is projected to grow as new generations of digital natives enter the marketplace. So whether your business is B2C, B2B, or something else, it’s time to refine your eCommerce strategy to stay competitive.

Overview of types of eCommerce photos

There are several classic types of eCommerce photos. We’ll review each type along with their common applications and limitations. Remember that the right type of content depends on your business. More specifically, it should align with your target audience. How do they understand data best? What style and aesthetic would they appreciate? Photos are a good complement to videos, but photos alone are not the best strategy to impress and retain customers.

Basic product photo

The first type is the basic product photo. This photo presents your product alone, typically against a white background. It is not styled and provides a generic, crisp, and unbiased look at the product. Lighting should be bright, the focus should be sharp, and multiple angles should be provided. This type of photo works very well for mass-produced products. It allows people to know exactly what they are getting and it doesn’t pigeon-hole your customer into a specific demographic with any overly stylized backgrounds.

Lifestyle photography

The second type is lifestyle photography. You will recognize this style from magazines, Etsy, Instagram, and more. In lifestyle photos, the product is shown in action. A styled shoot is typically created around the customer journey. For instance, if you’re selling piñatas then a lifestyle photo might show your product tethered to a tree at a children’s birthday party. Lifestyle photos can be powerful for eCommerce because they can speak directly to your target audience’s style and values using carefully chosen imagery. This type of photography is also used on Instagram and Pinterest to show how real people are using the product. 

GIFs, Hero Shots, and 360 Degree Views

There are several other types, like GIFs, hero shots, and 360-degree views. GIFs can be helpful for showing products in action and they often lend a sense of humor and personality. Hero shots are great for traditional advertising campaigns, banners, or product-specific sales materials. 360-degree views are mostly popular among furniture or appliance manufacturers so that customers can see complex items from all angles.

Overall, some guidelines hold true across all types of eCommerce photos. Your photos should be well-lit and offer multiple angles. Depending on what you’re selling, lifestyle photos could be appropriate. 

But photos are no longer the only big fish when it comes to eCommerce. In addition to having photos for eCommerce websites, you need great videos.

New studies show that videos increase conversion more than photos

A modern customer journey goes something like this: 

A potential customer visits your online storefront. She begins by reading the product description and thinks it looks great in photos. But then, she then clicks away from your website to visit YouTube or Instagram. She wants to see what real people are saying about the product. She wants to see the production in action. She is looking for videos. 

Today’s brands are grappling with changes to the typical consumer purchasing journey. 

On the one hand, influencer marketing is a powerful tool for creating great visual content. By working with influencers to create “real-life” videos that feature your product, it’s easier to catch customers who leave your website in search of authentic reviews. But not all companies have the budget to support influencer campaigns. It’s also possible that you sell a service, not a product. You could be struggling to figure out how to demonstrate your service in video form. It would be wiser to begin with videos that live on your company’s website. 

Studies show that videos increase conversion and increase consumer confidence way more than photos do. Conversion is the entire goal, right? Videos can help turn potential customers into customers, quicker. For instance, in an eCommerce product listing, four times as many people would prefer to watch a video about your product than read a description. Plus, one study found that the average visitor session duration actually increased by an incredible 340% when the product page featured videos. Not only that, but videos can help answer some of your customers’ most commonly asked questions. As a side perk, videos can end up saving your customer service teams more time. 

It’s clear that videos are far more powerful than photos on eCommerce websites. Customers expect videos, and when they don’t find them, they leave your website to seek them somewhere else. Videos have a bigger impact on conversion, retention, and confidence. If your eCommerce strategy does not include videos, then it’s time to think twice about your business goals and reevaluate how video could help you achieve them.

Types of eCommerce videos

No matter what you sell, your eCommerce business can benefit from video content. So which kind of video is right for you? This section describes different types of video options for eCommerce videos. Most are related to the products themselves, but other video ideas are simply great value-adds for any eCommerce business. Let’s get started.

The basic ‘About’ videos: meet the team, office tour, explainer, and product demo

A brief video can be a great way to introduce your team and your company to potential customers or partners. Many companies have a brief two-minute Hello World video embedded on their About page or landing page. In this video, you can introduce key leadership, your company’s UVP, and give a behind-the-scenes peek at your office or manufacturing center. A well-done introduction video can give off a good impression of friendliness, professionalism, and accessibility. However, a bad introduction video can come off as arrogant or unprofessional. Keep in mind that this type of video is often viewed by customers as well as potential new employees. 

Another popular video for eCommerce websites is the explainer or product demo video. This type of video gets more specific about what your company offers. Viewers click this video to understand how the product works in real life, including specific features and example applications. Many explainer videos include a case study or testimonial to highlight the results that other customers have achieved from using the product or service. HubSpot provides some great examples of explainer videos here. This kind of video can be animated, live-action, or a combination of both. 

It’s a good idea to include an ‘about us’ or ‘about our product’ video on your company’s eCommerce website. Videos help build relationships and can give a favorable impression of your brand. People are more likely to buy from a brand they like, and videos can help customers get to know your brand’s personality a bit better. The ROI is slightly less than that of product listing videos, but these basic videos still have a measurable effect on improving customer confidence and loyalty.

Video testimonials from satisfied customers

This type of video can be incredibly powerful if well-executed. We’ve all seen the dieting advertisements on YouTube where it’s unclear whether the people are scripted or authentic. This a major mistake that too many brands make when soliciting video testimonials. 

Because, on the one hand, you want a customer to express himself authentically and in his own words. But on the other hand, it’s important that your brand exerts some control of the portrayal of the product and the tone of the testimonial. Proceed with caution.

A reel of video testimonials can be simple to make. It doesn’t require you to show how the product works, although it can be powerful to intercut footage of the product in action while their voice describes the result. Many businesses record video testimonials at conferences or industry events, where current customers pass by on the conference floor. This is especially powerful because it shows the brand situated in the real world at the cutting edge of innovation. 

Another option is to invite select customers to submit video testimonials to you for editing. Typically, these are long-time customers who understand your product well and are already acting as evangelists for your brand. A third option is to organize a video shoot where professional actors portray customers. These actors either perform written testimonials from real clients, or you can script fictional user experiences to portray an ideal use case for your product. Be careful not to portray these as real video testimonials. Today’s consumers are savvy and they won’t take kindly to being fooled.

Product listings with videos

Now we get into the really meaty stuff! This type of video has the most ROI when compared to photos on an eCommerce website. Top brands are now amping up their plain old photo product listings by embedding videos. 

These product videos can showcase the product from all angles, such as a panning 360-degree overview in high definition. For products with multiple functionalities, videos are perfect for demonstrating specific features. Rather than five photos of your product from different angles, you could have five videos that showcase the product in action. Show how the product opens and closes. Show how you clean the product. Show the unboxing process. Show how people can use the product collaboratively. Show where the product lives when it’s off-duty, perhaps a point of pride on an office bookshelf. 

This type of video can fall under the lifestyle content umbrella. On the one hand, you could go for a more generic video against a white backdrop with a set of hands manipulating your product. This type of video can be great for small to medium-sized businesses with lean marketing budgets and a broad customer base. But another option is a styled shoot, which is great for products that have very specific customer profiles. In these videos, you can play with the set dressings and stylistic elements to signal to specific target demographics. For instance, let’s say you sell pots and pans. Your lifestyle-inspired product listing could portray someone stirring a pot of soup. In the video, you could play with the type of kitchen decoration and jewelry the actor wears to target your ideal customer. Product listing videos are great for suggesting ways to use your product that customers may not have previously imagined.

UGC, or user-generated content videos

This is the ultimate form of video marketing for eCommerce businesses when it comes to social proof. When happy customers are creating content for you, it’s easy to embed it onto your site (with their permission). Lots of UGC photos on eCommerce websites are from influencers. You can also use content from regular customers. The quality of this content can vary, so you do need to be mindful of quality control. 

Today, most videos and photos on eCommerce websites are shot in the studio. Taken alone, these can create the perception of an out-of-touch brand. An ideal content strategy for eCommerce businesses should include a combination of in-house content and user-generated content. UGC shows your product in action in the real world. Whether you work with skilled influencers or not, UGC can have a powerful impact on customer perception of your brand. UGC offers social proof, free marketing, and valuable insight into how people use your product.

In-app shoppable video content on Pinterest, Etsy, and Instagram

Finally, we come to shoppable videos. This type of content has skyrocketed in popularity since 2018 when Instagram made in-app shopping possible. Now, on mobile apps like Pinterest, Etsy, Instagram, and others, it is now possible to make purchases inside the application. Shoppable videos pack a power punch and brands are quickly realizing that the future of eCommerce hinges on shoppable video content. 

Shoppable videos on social media include three crucial elements: the social proof of influencer marketing, the lifestyle attraction of styled shoots, and the seamless purchasing ability of online shopping. Your brand’s social media strategy should definitely prioritize shoppable video content, no matter which platforms you prefer. Shoppable videos can reduce consideration time, increase sales volume, and inspire customers to stay on your site longer or share the content with friends. A skillful media strategy company can help you figure out which of your products to highlight and how to showcase them in a 15-second shoppable video. 

The psychology behind selling products with videos

It’s pretty simple. People tend to trust things they can perceive with multiple senses more than a single sense. Humans are sensory creatures. We rely on all our senses to corroborate information, decide what to believe, and figure out who to trust. For instance, if you only had someone’s written description of an event, you might not believe them. But if you had an audio recording, then you could hear the emotion in their voice. You could even hear audio cues in the background noises that could verify what they’re saying. 

Videos are the ultimate proof. Of course, videos can be doctored, and deep-fakes made with artificial intelligence are now popping up. But these videos are so convincing precisely because they use sound, text, and visuals to craft a message. Layer on the social proof of having a trusted friend share the video with you, and you are way more likely to believe what you see with a video.

Businesses can use this psychology to their advantage by putting videos at the heart of their eCommerce strategy. 

Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons to use videos instead of photos for an eCommerce website. 

If you want to see gains in conversion rates, then try embedding videos in your product listings. If you want to see an increase in customer confidence, create a Meet the Team video so that customers feel like they know you before they click ‘Buy Now’. And if you want to stay competitive with outstanding content, then get started on a shoppable video strategy. It’s no longer enough to have great photos on your eCommerce website. 

The best time to get started on a video strategy for your eCommerce business was yesterday, but the second-best time is now. Drop us a line and let’s get your first project in the pipeline. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help with that too. Our team of dedicated strategists not only produce top-notch videos, but we help you with WHAT to produce.