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Image Overload: Consumers With Too Many Choices Buy Nothing

Posted on 12.26.2013

The use of product images is an important consideration for e-commerce merchants. Too many images however could act against you.

A recent study from the University of Miami School of Business Administration (conducted by Claudia Townsend, an assistant marketing professor at the school), found that when larger assortments of products (i.e. many options) are displayed with images rather than text, shoppers are less likely to purchase a product. However, when a smaller selection of products is displayed (e.g. four types of crackers or eight different nail polishes), it makes no difference in the likelihood of purchase whether or not visuals or text are used to share the information.

Essentially, even though consumers prefer to see products visually, when the choice set is large and presented visually, shoppers will spend less time examining individual options as well as the entire choice set, becoming "more haphazard and less systematic" in the examination (compared to when words re used to describe the choices).

“There is a tendency for mobile app designers to use graphics almost exclusively,” said Townsend, who conducted the research with Barbara Kahn of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “This study shows that although images are attractive and fun, when a large product set is shown with images only, there is a tendency among consumers to gloss over them rather than make a purchase.”

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