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Poor image quality often means losing current and future sales for a marketplace

liked a photo

When shopping online, customers don’t have the chance to look at the item they want to buy up-close.

For many people, this is the main factor for not buying things on an online marketplace. Product images are designed to remove this barrier as much as possible. In most cases, the product image plays a key role when making a purchasing decision.

As soon as customers see the product image, the item makes the impression. «A team of neuroscientists from MIT has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds».

What happens if a marketplace uses a poor-quality image? Let’s imagine a customer shopping for pants. The buyer goes to the marketplace and finds a pair they like, but the photo of the pants is poor quality. In this case, the following can happen:

  • The customer will not buy the product. A buyer does not like the image; therefore, they also don’t like the product in general and don’t buy it in the end. Poor image quality implies that the pants are also poor quality, perhaps made with cheap fabric, or maybe they're actually counterfeit: an expensive brand wouldn't post a picture like this. Oh, and look at those terrible stains! This is the first loss.
  • Customers might end up buying something they didn't want initially because the wrong image was shown. This leads to more returns. It's hard to get a clear idea of a product from a bad image. In this case, people often make assumptions about the product, expecting things that aren't there. When their expectations aren't met, they get upset and return the items they bought, leaving them with a negative shopping experience on the platform.
  • Such situations might affect customers’ opinion about the marketplace in general. Firstly, the buyer wasted their time and didn't get what they wanted. Secondly, the custom experiences transfer and generalize, as people tend to project the impression of viewing the picture onto the store (instead of the supplier). This is how a poor-quality image can turn into an idea that “the marketplace sells low-quality goods”: “A good marketplace won’t sell counterfeit or stained products, so this is definitely not a legitimate business”. This thought might then develop into the idea that even the other products with good pictures are probably fake, too. “Perhaps the pictures were stolen from real brands’ websites”. In the future, this customer will most likely choose to shop in another online store. This is how you might lose potential future sales.
  • After that, the customers might share their experience and opinion of the marketplace with other people. They won’t just say that the image was bad, but they will probably share their opinion that “the marketplace is sketchy, broken items are sold there”, “they probably try to pass second-hand items off as new”, and “you never know what to expect, so it's better to shop elsewhere”. That's how you might lose a few more potential customers.

Image moderation

To prevent all of this from happening, most marketplaces don't let suppliers upload any image they want. They moderate images first. Some of the moderation rules are aimed at preventing a negative customer experience. This greatly reduces the chances of an image causing a negative reaction to the marketplace as a whole and immediately eliminates two of the three loss areas. It is the absolute minimum for earning and maintaining a customer's basic trust.

These measures are usually enough if a customer wants to buy an expensive gadget with quantifiable characteristics, like an iPhone. The basic selection and research of the product takes place on other sites and the client already knows exactly what they needed. This doesn't apply toall tech, though. For example, if we talk about laptops, the number and types of ports or the lack of a number pad can come as a nasty surprise for the customer. Just a few photos from the right angle would help avoid this situation.

Things can be a lot more complicated for other product categories. Take fashion, for example. An image can't just be "okay". It has to be good; it has to be evocative. Let's get back to the example with shopping for pants. In one case, the main image of the product card just shows a high-quality photo of pants on a hanger. In another, the first picture shows a model wearing the pants, and you can see just how cool these pants make the person wearing them look, while the photo focuses on design solutions. You couldn't ask for higher emotional audience engagement here.

This is why another aspect of the moderation rules is aimed at finding the best shots to maximize your chances of selling a product. Moderation can be more than just deciding whether to post an image or not. Suppose you have multiple options for the first image in the product card, how do you choose which one to use? You can use moderation rules to evaluate the image. Our experience shows that with an established process, moderation recognizes about 11% of the images on the platform as poor-quality. The peak percentage in our experience was about 40% — almost half of the pictures were poor-quality!

Moderation rules

What can you check with moderation?

Image quality

Image resolution, amateur photography, rotated photos, blurry and overexposed images, and images with glare or broken pixels. Why do we check this? Image quality directly affects the likelihood of a purchase. At launch, Airbnb doubled sales (and more) by replacing low-quality images with professional ones. "67% of consumers say that the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing the product". Shading may make the product look heavier, distorted, or sloppy.

Product perception


Background check. A light, transparent, or white background usually creates a better impression, while dark and multicolor backgrounds might not be as good (though there may be exceptions for specific categories). Why do we check this? The background affects the overall perception of the image and the product. Take these examples from background guidelines on these two platforms:

  • Amazon: Pure white
  • Ebay: white

Product appearance

The product looks messy or wrinkled or it isn't in the photo at all. Why do we check this? Messy looking products are a put off for customers. The negative reaction can transfer to the entire marketplace. It turns out that not everyone can easily tell the difference between wrinkles and folds in clothing, but when choosing between two photos, they prefer the ones without any wrinkles.

Product proportions

Checking that product proportions aren't distorted

Why do we check this? The photo angle, lens, and editing may distort product proportions. Customers end up with the wrong idea of what the product looks like. Worst of all are those tiny distortions that are hard to identify but give the impression that “something is off”. That's what stops the customer from buying the product.

Special checks

Market requirements for high-quality photos may change or become more precise, and there may be different moderation rules for different product categories. Here are some examples of the specific checks that we perform:

  • Clothes are photographed on a model, not a mannequin.
  • Jewelry isn't photographed on a model.
  • Pictures of shoes show certain angles and the sides of the product.
  • Photo angles for determining the main card.
  • The key characteristics of the product are clearly visible.
  • High-quality images are important for customers, which is why they increase sales and reduce returns.
  • Poor-quality images can ruin a customer's perception of the entire marketplace.
  • Image moderation allows you to solve a number of issues:
  1. Image quality check.  
  2. Product appearance check.    
  3. Background check.
  4. Special checks that you deem necessary, such as the angle or presence of a model.
26 Aug
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