How to pick and use images that will dramatically increase your conversion rates

November 15, 2019
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This blog post is based on the digital marketing webinar hosted by the Co-founder & COO at JumpStory, Jonathan Low and Head of Email Marketing at Sleeknote, Rikke Thomsen.

Throughout this post, we will provide 5 concrete examples of how to use images the right way, and you will also learn about

  • How to pick and use the right images and videos for your content
  • Hhe science behind image performance
  • How to avoid copyright issues when choosing images
  • How to use images and visual elements on-site messages

# Introduction

Jonathan: Hello, my name is Jonathan. I’m the co-founder of JumpStory. We are a visual platform similar to what you might know like Sierra stock Getty Images, but we are a Danish Start-up, now in 45 countries and still growing. I’ve been working with digital marketing for 20 years and I’ve started four companies. Hopefully I can share some insights with you guys about visuals and how they can dramatically increase your results and conversion rates online and what to look out for.

Rikke: Yeah and I’m a Rikke Thompson. I work at Sleeknote as head of email marketing, so I do all email marketing related stuff. I also write for a blog on commission rate optimization and work a lot with our product which is pop-ups. And you will be able to see some examples of that today. I think we should just get started with the agenda today and talking a bit about:

  • The science behind image performance.
  • How to pick the right images and videos for your content.
  • Examples how to use images and visual elements in your pop-ups or on-site messages to increase conversion rates there.

# The science behind image performance

J: Great, so starting off with the science behind image performance, so as you can see, speaking of monkey and monkey images, it just makes us thirsty. It says well basically we don’t think about it in our daily lives but we are visual animals.

We are wired to take in images this much faster and much stronger than text and it’s actually a paradox because I remember when I founded my first tech company in 1999, so that makes me old and that’s 20 years ago, back then it would take 20 seconds to load a banner advert so the Internet was born as a text media and it was not until the late zeroes that people starting actually streaming live content.

So, I think it still shows the way in which people communicate, and despite that all research tells us that we are visual animals. We are still whether it’s newsletters or whether it’s websites we’re still very text heavy.

Even Google has just started in the last couple of years really rating images higher. Also, Google search has exploded in the last two years from being a very small percentage, to more than 20% of all searches on Google are now image related searches.

All of you out there working with e-commerce or marketing, you probably know this, but I think we’re going to see a dramatic shift in the use of visual content and we’re going to be much more data-driven in the future. And speaking of the data again, we actually know quite a lot it’s within this research and science of data.

This is a big topic, and we know a lot about what works, but I think for the average market here and out there it’s hard to have all this knowledge present every day. So, we kind of get to pick based on either some brand guidelines or just our gut feeling. Also, I will hopefully give you some insights on that.

We actually know to a large extent what will work and that’s what we work with at JumpStory. That is sort of putting science into something that is more alike in this field. This is just an example of you know the difference between sexes and what colours appeal to us:

Talking about the next slide, you know this and I think you were presented with this even back in high school. We were told blue is a cold colour and red is warm and in many cultures red represents love. We know these things, but when we sit and pick images during the day when we have limited time, we kind of don’t reflect about this.

# How to pick the right images and videos for your content

J: I also hope that after you’ve seen this webinar and you have access to these slides, have them present when you are picking images so it doesn’t just become a matter of: “oh this one looks nice” but ”just need to pick this one” because it can matter, as you’ll see later on percentages on your conversion rate.

If you have spent a lot of time writing text for a Sleeknote pop-up or for a newsletter for a blog article, it’s really a shame if you’ve spent 90% on your text content and then you’re thinking ‘’whoa I actually needed some photos’’, because, well, I know I ought to have some and then you just like go to a random side and pick some. So instead, try to realize that you know what affects people’s purchases and actions the most, that is the visual part. It’s a paradox that we don’t spend more time on it.

R: You’re right because you know just from personal experience. You spend so much time figuring out what to write, like what are the right triggers or what should the contraction be and then at the end you say ‘’oh by the way I might need a visual or something’’ and then you just google something, or ask your colleague who works with that but it’s really based on science.

It is like you are basing on gut feeling, which I mean, we should spend more time actually picking images that work because we already spend the time on the content like writing the text and everything, so why not spend that little extra time finding the right image.

J: Yeah, and the UX people might be sitting and discussing whether the button should be right or left, and then, you end up with that you actually do heat mapping, and finding out that it was really the colour of the button that influenced people’s action at the end of the day.

If we move on to the next slide, this is just a short summary difference between words and visuals. We actually only read 62 words on a page and we’re not aware of this but when you read a text we don’t read the full text, and you don’t read all the words.

You sort of jump through the text and your brain creates meaning. It takes us much longer time than looking at images. Like three days later which is the main thing when you do marketing, we remember very little maybe only 10%, whereas if you put on an image it’s 80% increase in your willingness.

Also, your willingness to spend time on it, so those of you who work with sales, will know that it’s really important how long-time people stay on your blog post or see your articles, so if you can make them stay 15 seconds more just by having some nice rich visuals, then the 1,500 words that you have been told were so important for your SEO article, it will actually be read.

They will recall it as well and I think maybe in your gut you will think ‘’yeah, I already know this’’, but despite that, we already know these sort of actions and behaviour as marketing people, but we don’t really reflect what we know.

We tend to get stuck in our joy of writing or like ”this is a nice headline”, and then we forget that we are really primitive animals, and our brains work almost the same way as chimpanzees, even though of course we have more words and we think that we, of course, are a bit more intelligent. But at the end of the day our decisions are not that much more intelligent.

As an example, within medicine for instance, the colour of a pill can increase the effect of the pill with up to 20% just by taking an antidepressant pill and changing the colour from blue – red. That would be a bad decision by the way, because red is also a warning colour, but just the idea if it can make it work 20% more on the body, which sort of underlines that we are very primitive animals, and as marketers we need to take advantage of this.

So to speak, in choosing the right colours and choosing the right images, there are some rules to go by. And those are the ones that we’re going to share on this webinar.

R: I have recently read a fun fact actually, that humans have the same attention span as goldfish, which also says why we need images to capture people’s attention, because as you said, they’re not going to read your content if you don’t keep their visual mind stimulated. That was just a fun fact.

# How to  use visual elements in your pop-ups or on-site messages

J: When you’re building landing pages, you know bounce rate is so important and just having an image can prevent people from bouncing. If the image appeals to them rather than thinking, you need to sort of hook them with your text, because you cannot really hook people with text for more than one to two seconds, because after these then they’re gone again.

Maybe also for the e-commerce people out there, always think about this paradox of checkout processes. I know it’s not exactly the Sleeknote business, but still you know that we think we should have it. If you’re a web shop with clothes, you want to inspire people with nice photos of your clothes. And that’s similar to being in a shop.

So, as a customer, you pick and you get inspired and then, when you are in a shop and you go to the checkout phase, it’s like very fast, and you still have that clothes in your hand. So, you still have the feeling of ownership. And then you pay for it, and you make a transaction.

Afterwards, you go to a web shop, you have been inspired so that’s one half of your brain and then when you need to pay for it, all of the images disappear so you jump away from your emotional brain and then you just get prices so it would be the same as waiting in a store in line, and the staff member would then take away your clothes and show you like a long list of prices, and ask you to give all your personal details.

Then say oh you’ll get the products back by the way in two to three days from now, yes, but still people show up online so there’s potential for improvement.

R: Yeah, well there’s always potential for improvement and especially in checkouts I think, that’s a whole another conversation.. let’s go on here.

J: So, as we have emphasized a couple of times, it applies to social media, it applies to website, applies to Sleeknote pop-ups, it applies everywhere and explains why we do digital marketing. We understand it so much faster, and this is again like the timespan that people are willing to invest on your campaigns and on your website. We understand text slow so you cannot hook people on your site with text.

I think it’s one of the biggest misunderstandings when we send out newsletters or when we do landing pages, we try to write headlines and catchphrases sort of to hook people, even though science tells us that you cannot do this with text. You can maybe get a person to click if the headline is aggressive enough on your subject line, in your newsletter, but when they open the newsletter their brain will just switch off unless you have visual content to hook them.

R: I bet you guys have been working in marketing for a while now and you know we have assumptions based on our experiences. But those assumptions you can just throw them out of the window. They might now help you make those gut feeling decisions, but you know science should always be part of that decision-making, at least make sure that we’re in line with everything.

I want to show you a bit about how you can use images in your pop-ups on your on-site messages for different purposes.

The first thing I’m going to show you here is the data from our customers. When you use images in your desktop pop-ups, you increase conversion rates by 50% on average, which is quite a lot. The reason I’m saying desktop pop-ups here is that you need to be careful with mobile pop-ups that’s a whole another discussion, but you have limited space so be more careful when you use images in mobile pop-ups. So that’s why I’m going to talk about desktop pop-ups today.

# Example 1

J: I brought an example here from one of our customers “Living shop”, and you can see they use the exact same campaign but the difference was that they included an image in one of them.

They saw a 64.5% increase in conversions just by adding an image, this is one of my assumptions. But the reason this increase happens is because you get people to visualize the product that they can potentially get. I mean they’re promoting a gift certificate and that’s not visually appealing so instead show some of the images of the products that they can use the gift card to buy.

strong> J: Also, it’s really basic what happens with neuroscience and neuromarketing, in the second you show this table, your brain, your neural networks will jump from now. It’s a very simple way of explaining it but it will jump from one half of the brain to the other. So, it’s a rational brain looking at the example on your right and it’s the emotional looking on the side of your left. It’s the basic, very simple science behind why you will increase with 50%.

R: It also helps capture their attention and I mean we also say that you should never use pop-ups in an intrusive way. So never just shove them in people’s face and block the entire screen. We want to show them in a subtle way that it might be sliding in from the bottom, but when you want to grab people’s attention, that’s where images can be really helpful.

Yeah so next thing I’m going to talk about is how you can use images that support your message.

# Example 2

R: Here is once again competition. We know that competitions work really well for lead generation and this example from “Eva Solo”, is how people can win a product from their new product line.

It’s just about juicing the images of that specific product that they can win just makes a huge difference, because again, when you show people a product, you help them visualize what they can win. They already start a process “to get ownership” of this product.

When I’m seeing this jug or whatever it is, I’m already starting to feel “oh that would be nice”. I’m visualizing having this in my home using it, and once you get people to have that sense of ownership of a product, it is so much more likely to you know follow up with any action, and even when they enter the competition and don’t win, you send out an email afterwards with a special promo code or something, these people are as well more likely to go ahead and buy the product, because now it was suddenly a loss for them that they didn’t get the product that they really wanted.

J: The same thing would be, if you change the colour on that button from white and orange to green, you would increase conversion rate with 20%.

# Example 3

R: The next one involves the same principle. It’s a range of products being promoted by “MunkStore”. One of their products is raincoats and rain-trousers. They use this campaign on one of their size guides for these kinds of jackets, and they want people to then go to view the products after reading size guide.

Again, they just use an image of the products they’re linking to and they’re setting the surroundings for the type of day that you might need to use this jacket. You can see the weather is kind of dark and you know it’s raining, helping people visualize the situation that they’ll need this product which is really smart.

J: Yeah that’s a really good point. I was just thinking about what happens with my brain when I watch this image, like I almost imagine myself sitting there. It looks to me like he or she is looking out on the water at the endless ocean, suddenly has starting to rain.

And this image just lets us understand the context that the brain puts on what is basically just pixels. It’s actually quite amazing how our brain is able to tell stories just by looking at a combination of pixels.

R: And you know we get so much rain here in Denmark, so that everyone watching this would want to buy a raincoat.

#Example 4

The next thing is again choosing images that fit your message. This is especially good with contact forms when you want your visitors to get in contact, use images of real people.

We also have our support team using the images of our actual employees because you know, if you can put a face on the people that are going to talk to you, is more likely to follow through with the action that you’re asking people.

It makes it so much more personal, having an understanding of the person that you’re communicating with on the phone. In this example they have multiple faces, but you still know who has the name Steven, so you know: “oh okay if Peter picks up the phone, then Peter is the one I’m talking to”. You know him, so you already feel way more comfortable in that conversation. So yeah, don’t be afraid to use images of yourself and your employees whenever you want people to get in touch with you. It will definitely increase conversion rates and it also makes the experience so much more personal.

We also know that visitors are expecting so much more personalization from websites these days, so that’s just a simple way to create a better user experience for your website visitors.

J: I mean, in general with people and images even if we are talking about what is called stock photos, which I think is kind of strange description of photos, because basically just means like a stock of photos but it sorts of become synonymous with people with toothpaste smiles, that don’t look like you and me.

So, on JumpStory, we’ve been very focused on our gallery. When you look for images, they’re not often like how you presume American platforms are, because the companies such as American with perfect toothpaste smiles, you would try to stay away from these cliché images.

The goldfish jumping from one bowl to the another to show the “thinking new” attitude, yeah no it’s not “thinking new” if you still use that photo also in your selection. Try to be creative, and that can sometimes be the problem on the so-called stock photo sites. We don’t really consider ourselves a stock photo site but like an image universe or image gallery.

R: Don’t be afraid to use odd images or you know, faces of people that don’t look like supermodels, it works better.

J: Not so much in the high-end fashion industry, but everywhere else yes.

R: They’re starting removing Photoshop and all of that, but again that’s for another discussion.

# Example 5

R: Lastly, I just want to show you how you can get a bit creative with your photos. I’m not personally very good with technical things, you know editing images all of these things, but I found a few examples of people who really you know taking a simple image and just made it a bit more fun to look at. This example is from the “Vissevasse”.

They’ve used this see-through image for one of their campaign. So, this is an image of one of the photos they have and yeah, they’ve just used a see-through image and added that as a floating image to their pop-up. It should have included that, but what you don’t see on the image, is once you scroll through the website that text you can see this still see the text, like the content of the website through the balloons. The image itself doesn’t take up more space than it would without the image, but the image just adds that extra dimension just by caching these features to it. So, try experimenting with that.

And the next one is from a car rental company.

They’ve used their image to define the shape of their pop-up which I also find really interesting because we’re so used to seeing like just this square box popping up on sites all over. When you do what everyone else is doing, people who are custom to it, they just ignore it. They don’t see it we, as soon as they get used to seeing the same things. Our brain doesn’t even register that.

It’s there, that’s one way of catching people’s attention with something that’s a bit different than what everyone else is doing. It’s super simple like this example, it is a square pop-up but they’ve just added this image as a background and then you use the transparent container background, it just creates the illusion that it has this this fun shape to it.

J: It’s a good point what the brain is actually best at, is what you call pattern recognition. We are amazing at looking, understanding that something is like a cat for instance, and then every time we see a cat, the brain thinks: “oh it’s a cat”, it will not even notice it and it’s the same way when you build online design and marketing.

If you want a seamless experience where people just feel relaxed like a checkout flow that should be as much looking as all other, check out flows as possible because when others have spilled millions on checkout floats that work, why not try to copy them because the brain will relax but as you say the second that we want people attention. Then we really need to think about this pattern recognition in the brain. I think it has to look different then a pattern, because if it looks like a pattern people will not react to it, no.

R: Also, just a small thing, you don’t want to do what your competitors are doing, because what if the one thing you do differently is what sets you apart and is that’s the one thing that you do better than everyone else. So, you know don’t be afraid to take a few chances and try something new.

The last one it’s kind of the same principle when sometimes we really want to showcase as most as possible in our pop-ups, for example from “WoodUpp”.

Put product images so they stay simple from would’ve they wanted to showcase. If you add 10 images to 10 square images to one pop up its going to look busy and awful. So they did something really smart, and they just used they inserted their images into these funny shapes and added it as like a short frame floating frame on their pop-up which again is a really clever way to showcase more products without taking you know the attention off the optical traction in the pop-up.

We really hope that with this article, you have got insights and ideas about how to pick the perfect images for your content, and how to use visual elements in general in your on-site messages. If you apply these, you will experiment a huge increase in your conversions.