First of all, images are not only important for e-commerce sites, but for all websites.
Humans are visual creatures. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a human too, so you know what I’m talking about. While we have the ability to construct a mental image of something or someone based on a verbal description, we always prefer to see the real thing, especially when we’re thinking about buying a product. Imagination is great for entertainment and diversion, but not when our scarce, hard-earned money is concerned.
This article at KISSmetrics gives us some reasons why people love looking at product images so much, and why the right image is so important.
Context is one of those things that’s difficult to notice unless it’s absent. Post-it note.
Now think in terms of images: what do you think of when you think of a car? Do you think of it as a cut-away, showing all the pieces and components inside? Do you think of it as a whole, on a white background, seemingly suspended in mid-air?
If so, know that you’re in the minority. Most of us think about objects (and people, for that matter) in context. A car sitting or driving down a road. A pencil in a hand, writing on a page. Our grandmother’s house sitting in its surrounding neighborhood, smelling of Christmas dinner.
Based on this line of thought, it would make little sense to try to sell a product without a picture and/or a context.
The goal of many products and services is ultimately the experience of the user. One example used in the above article is Netflix. Some of the images that Netflix uses for its main landing page are of a family sitting on a couch in the glow of a TV, visibly enjoying themselves. Since Netflix can’t easily illustrate its service, they opt to illustrate the ideal end result of that service: entertainment, happiness, and togetherness.
The next time you consider how to visualize your product or service, thinking about the experience of that product or service is a helpful exercise. Presenting this side of your product can be the difference between a prospect connecting with it and a prospect ignoring it.
Again, these rules don’t only apply to e-commerce. Any web page with an image is going to grab and hold a user’s attention much more effectively than a block of text.
Remember: since they are still human, even the people that love to read love to see, feel, and experience even more.