Better Images Reduce Product Returns for Online Retailers

The flood of retail returns happening now is partly a tale of imagery gone wrong — and one that online merchants need to address to optimize satisfaction and minimize chargebacks. According to one 2021 study, nearly half (49%) of consumers who returned an eCommerce purchase did so because “the item didn’t match the description,” and that starts with images.

In a conversation with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster, Liz Giorgi, CEO of retail content creation platform soona, said she sees this as a two-sided question.

“How do we inspire action? How do we get people to imagine that they need to have this now and that there’s urgency in that transaction?” she said, adding that eCommerce done right “is so much about being able to deliver on the promise of what’s going to show up on someone’s front step when the package finally does arrive.”

Increasingly, that involves not static images but video.

“Part of that is because of how we’re all changing our behaviors on our mobile devices,” she said. “We’re spending time on TikTok. We’re spending time on Instagram stories. YouTube is still the second-largest search engine in the world. Being able to really move people towards that moving media is a really important thing for brands to prioritize in 2022 and beyond.”

See also: Creative Content Platform soona Says ‘Nothing Gets Sold Online Without an Image’

Try This on for Size

Physical stores give shoppers a chance to see, touch and even try on or try out goods before buying. Online, those tactile and visual confirmations are absent. Digital merchants must compensate.

Webster mentioned disconnects about item scale in eCommerce sales that can end in returns.

“Scale is one of those things that we as an industry have not done the best job of really prioritizing,” Giorgi said.

Digital renderings of mannequins don’t cut it because they’re inaccurate.

“Do your customer a favor,” she said. “Show them a photo of a real person … [and] give them the context that allows them to truly understand.”

This all falls under “making the abstract clear for our merchants,” she said.

The quest for clarity in eCommerce touches everything from refrigerators to designer apparel.

“I don’t think it’s so much for me about what’s hard to photograph as it is about what’s hard to show and inspire,” she told Webster. “Sometimes it can feel like ‘How in the world are we going to inspire someone to purchase garbage bags?’ which is a real thing that will happen all the time on our platform. I cannot say enough about the importance of clarity.”

That’s where “lifestyle visuals” are trending in eCommerce merchandising, Giorgi said.

“What kind of lifestyle might this person have?” she said. “What kind of home might your customer have? When we see ourselves online, it just becomes easier to make a purchase decision. Integrating lifestyle images into your strategy really does help connect those dots in a meaningful way.”

See also: Visual Search Drives New Online Sales for Merchants

3 Steps to Better Sales Visuals

Platform data is informing the imaging and video decisions around different products and categories, with the pandemic again exposing some intriguing truths.

Trawling for trends in soona’s data, Giorgi said, “A massive surprise for us last year is that bathrooms were the most commonly used type of lifestyle images across a variety of categories, not just the categories of health and wellness like you’d expect, but in categories like fashion, in categories like home goods. We’re seeing a huge explosion in bathroom images in eCommerce.”

She added, “Our hypothesis is we’re all spending a heck of a lot more time at home in our own bathrooms, so we’re getting more aware of what our own product usage is in these places.”

Building on those insights to improve eCommerce image-based marketing and merchandising outcomes, she said she sees 2022 as a crucial time for eCommerce sellers of any size to rethink visuals.

Giorgi said soona is recommending merchants focus on three key areas this year.

First, make sure imagery matches for consistency.

“For example, maybe you’re selling on your own eCommerce store, but you’re also selling as a third-party seller at,” she said. “Make sure those images match. Make sure you have some basic matching between those two things. This is really the year to start investing across that.”

Step two for 2022 is to invest in video and moving media.

“Your best-selling products should be the place to start,” she said. “Put video investments there because what you’re going to see is how much more lift, how much more latitude you have for growth in those products.”

The third prong is getting active with social selling on image-based platforms.

“Have you invested in TikTok media?” she said. “Have you invested in creating your first Instagram ad? What we know from looking at our customer stories is that customers that invest in having both the balance of the basics and the fun stuff see the best return on investment across the entire library of their media.”

See also: Visual Integrations Could Open Wider Adoption of Voice Commerce