How Images Affect Buying Behavior

20.10.2017 |

Episode #8 of the course Psychological factors that influence purchase decisions by James Scherer


We’ve all heard that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There are few phrases more cliché. And yet, it’s true. Images are far more eye-catching than words. They communicate ideas more quickly and effectively, keep our interest, help us remember, and—this is the important part for online marketers—are extremely effective in improving your website conversion rates:

• Adding an image of a smiling girl to a landing page from 37Signals (now Basecamp) increased signup conversions by 102.5%.

• When gaming publication IGN changed one of their section thumbnails to an image of a person, interaction with that section increased by 11%.

• When Dell tested a person-centric background image against their control (simple, solid white), conversions on the page increased by 36%.

Before we go much further, let me be super clear here: While adding an abstract image to your website or landing pages is all well and good and might improve your conversion rates a bit, the real psychological impact is in pictures of people.

This makes sense when you think about it. A person behind a product is a subtle testimonial to that product’s legitimacy and value. A product by itself is simply that, a material with no story and deserving of no trust.

There are three aspects of people, though, that are the most psychologically impactful:

1. eye contact

2. point of view

3. a smile


Eye Contact

The primary factor in nonverbal communication, the eyes make up a significant portion of the meaning in what we say.

Eye contact communicates trust, friendliness, and openness. Lack of eye contact communicates the exact opposite. There’s a reason that we call people we don’t trust “shifty.”

Consider the “I want you” poster from the US Army. I’ve subtly adjusted the image on the right. Now, which do you find more compelling?

Note: Remember the lesson from a few days ago about eye-direction, of course. If you want to drive attention to something on the left side of the page, having your model look that way is still best practice. But if you’re not looking to drive focus, keep your models looking at the visitor.


Point of View

Point of view is one of those psychological factors that is often overlooked. After all, how impactful can the camera angle really be?

You’d be surprised, then, to learn that a downward-looking shot (like the girl on the left below) communicates a need for pity and elicits a desire to help the subject.

Equally, an upward-looking camera angle communicates power, status, and superiority.

If you’re using a headshot for your webinar or conference page, consider taking a photo from a slightly upward angle—to show yourself in the most confident, professional light.


A Smile

This one should almost go without saying, but let’s prove it.

A smile can sell your product or service.

When Dutch marketing consultant Alwin Hoogerdijk A/B tested himself smiling vs. not smiling within his website’s hero image (the image at the top of his homepage), his conversion rate increased by 10.7%.

Which of the two Facebook ad images do you feel is more appealing?

Actionable takeaways for this psychological factor:

• A/B test the effect of a smile vs. a sincere face, particularly within a webinar or “about us” page, as these are the pages where you’re trying to develop a relationship with visitors.

• Test the eye contact of your product’s models. Does a “straight-into-the-camera” image convert better than an “off-to-the-side” eye direction?

• If you’re trying to elicit pity for your subject (charities or nonprofits may consider this), use a downward camera angle. If you’re communicating your expertise or looking to elicit confidence, use an upward camera angle (be subtle with this, of course).

Tomorrow’s lesson will get into the value of trust in purchase behavior and how you can create and develop to drive sales.


Recommended book

Expert Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Finding Your Message, Building a Tribe, and Changing the World by Russell Brunson


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