Selling on Amazon is kind of a game of “Survivor,” with the show’s motto, “outwit, outplay, outlast” being appropriate for sellers too.

You’re hoping to not only stay on the island, but win the game, and you’re relying on the “votes” of buyers on Amazon to do so. This means you’ve got to take every advantage you can get.

Visual listing optimization is one of those potential advantages and is a great way to make your listings stand out. What can you do to optimize better than your competitors? Let’s take a look:

Visual listing optimization definition

First of all, what do we mean by visual listing optimization? You might take this to mean the images and graphics that you use on your listing and you’re right – those are definitely part of it. However, there are other things to consider as well.

Visual listing optimization takes into account the entire appearance of your listing at various critical stages for the customer. So, this might include how it appears in search results and what they see when they click on the listing.

Your use of text, such as for your headline descriptions also has an important part to play in the overall look of your listing, especially when you start to look at things like how it renders on mobile devices.

Going DIY for product photos? Get our tips here

Amazon image criteria

Amazon has a fairly strict set of criteria for images which we all have to follow. If you try to use an image that doesn’t meet their guidelines, you can fairly quickly find your product sidelined. To give a brief recap of the requirements:

Main product image (the one that shows in search results):

  • It must be a professional photo. You can’t use drawings or graphics.
  • There can be no text with the image.
  • It must have a white background.
  • It must not contain “gratuitous or confusing” additional objects.
  • The product must be professionally lit, in focus, with realistic color representation and smooth edges.
  • The full product should be in the frame, filling 85% of it.
  • 1000×1000 pixels is recommended for best quality.

In addition to that main product image, you are permitted a few extras in your listing. To optimize, we recommend that you use them! In addition to that primary image, you can have:

  • Images showing the product in-use.
  • Lifestyle shots which show the product in context or being used.
  • Packaging shots.
  • Images showing written features.
  • Images showing product information or warranties.
  • Unique selling point images.

You’ve got a lot available to you that you can use, but the point is that many sellers aren’t doing a great job of optimizing visually. Let’s look at some common mistakes:

Common visual listing mistakes

There is a real opportunity on Amazon to grab a competitive advantage by simply doing better with how your listings appear visually. We all have to follow the guidelines Amazon has set out, however, that doesn’t mean we should all look the same! Visual marketing statistics compiled by Crowdriff tell us:

  • 90% of information sent to the brain is visual
  • 65% of people are visual learners
  • 63% of consumers say good product images are more important than descriptions
  • 67% of product users say images are very important for the purchasing decision.

Your written descriptions are still important on Amazon – they help with search results and can also help the customer to make a purchasing decision. However, this is probably after they have been drawn to the visual aspects of the listing.

Here are some common mistakes sellers make:

Main image looks like all the rest

The main image is what comes up first when a potential customer types a search into Amazon. How many times have you done so yourself, only to be greeted by a list of very similar-looking results?

A good example is with products that have been private-labeled, but are sourced from manufacturers who all create a similar-looking finish. The time to start thinking about visuals is when you are sourcing the product. Is there a way to make it stand out? For example, if every other barbecue tool set features stainless steel tools with black or stainless handles or cases, can you source them with red, or any other color?

Visual listing optimization

You’re looking for ways to make your main product image jump out among the search results. If you’re in a competitive product category, your main image just may make all the difference when it comes to getting ahead.

What else might you try? Amazon states that you can’t have “gratuitous” or “confusing” additional objects in the main image, but this is not especially well defined. One tactic we’ve seen more sellers using to stand out is to include their packaging behind the product in the main image. This is particularly good if you have distinctive, clearly branded packaging. It’s unclear as to whether Amazon considers this to be “gratuitous” or not, but in the meantime, many sellers seem to be getting away with it. (Check out the example below, taken from a presentation given by Erick Rodriguez at the Prosper Show).

Visual listing optimization

Listings aren’t visually optimized for mobile

We already know that the majority of Amazon shoppers are using a mobile device, rather than a computer to do their shopping. This means that if you’re not catering to them by ensuring that your listing is optimized for mobile, then you’re probably missing out on sales.

Examples of visual mistakes include things like using product images where the product appears too small on screen. For example, perhaps the image has a large white space around it, which renders the product itself as tiny on a mobile screen.

What can you do to optimize? Here are a couple of tips:

  • Ensure that your image is a minimum of 1000 pixels on the longest side.
  • Crop the image as tightly as possible, removing that dead space. This will mean that the image appears as large as possible on screen.

There is evidence to suggest a link between larger images and better sales conversions, which makes sense. Picture yourself scrolling through product search results on your mobile device – what makes you pause? Probably something that catches your eye, an image that shows more detail than the rest.

Another consideration for the visual appeal of your listing on mobile is the appearance of your title. Yes, everyone tries to squeeze in a lot of words to optimize for search, however, on mobile, that long title is cut off, in some cases with the most vital part missing! A tip here is to consider the length of your title and put the words which will be most important to the buyer near the front. (Hat tip once again to Erick Rodriguez for his presentation at the Prosper Show, and the slide depicting this idea shown below).

Visual listing optimization

Poor use of secondary images

Your main image grabs initial attention, but the customer is then investigating whether your product really will do the job they are looking to fill. This is where those secondary images become very important, so make sure you use them!

Peep Laja wrote a piece on how images impact conversion rate on the ConversionXL blog. Many of his points relate to how you can effectively use those secondary images on Amazon listings. For example:

  • Use a good lifestyle image to provide context. Help the customer imagine themselves using the product.
  • Use alternate views. Let the customer see as much detail as you can possibly convey in an image.

Another tip here is to include written details along with your images. For example, have a picture of the image with small blurbs pointing out the features. For many people, this will make more sense than reading a block of text in your product description. In fact, remembering that statistic about 65% of people being visual learners – you’re helping their retention of information by breaking down the features on the image. If they’re clear in their mind about how it works, this will definitely help the buying decision!

Get 6 tips for quality DIY product photos here

Final thoughts

It’s not easy getting ahead on Amazon, but you can get a competitive advantage if your listings are visually optimized better than your competitors. At this stage, take a look – many of your competitor listings will be easy to beat in terms of overall look.

Focus on what shoppers are looking for and what captures their attention when they browse. Remember the legions of mobile shoppers and ensure that your listings cater to them as well.

We all have to play within Amazon’s rules for images, but the idea is that you maximize that opportunity and optimize where you can. Use the image allowance you have available to make your mark.

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