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Why Great Images Are the Key to a Better Search Experience

January 16, 2019

At this point, most retail sites are using the same small handful of internal search algorithms. And most search pros are using a lot of the same best practices to optimize their experience, things like making sure your product data has the appropriate synonyms, metadata for facets, NER for type-ahead, and scoring results and relevance. But there’s one thing some search experts overlook that in and of itself can vastly increase engagement: their product image libraries.

After all, for most users, our eyes zero on product images first. We scan for a pair of shoes we’re particularly interested in or the product we intended to search for in the first place. If those images are unmatched, non-uniform (in style or type), bad quality, the wrong color, or really, if your user has any issue with them at all, that’s a lost sale. Conversely, if your images are uniform and high-quality, it sends a positive signal to the searcher that they’ll find something that matches their intent.

Ask yourself: what kind of message are your images sending? Are they pixelated? Are some lifestyle images and others product images? Do color or style searches surface the right colors and styles? Are they exactly what you want them to be?

Chances are, no, they aren’t perfect. But fixing your search images can be an easy win. Not only will they make your search experience more professional and lead to increased conversion, but with a little work on your end properly tagging and labeling those images, they can start surfacing in an important and often overlooked location: Google image search.

Google images boasts the second highest percentage of searchers on the web at nearly 27% (Google itself is at 59%). Alt text and proper keywords attendant to your product catalog can unlock searchers from outside your site, in addition to making your internal search much better.

So what’s the best way to make the images on your internal search experience? At Figure Eight, we’ve seen a bunch of smart approaches. In fact, some of our biggest customers have used our service to tag and annotate images for their search experience. Here are a few things to keep in mind to improve your internal search:

Image type is important

You don’t want a smattering of lifestyle images in with your product shots. The non-uniformity can be jarring and sends the wrong message, not to mention that users likely just want to see the product, not someone using it.

An easy fix is to simply label the images through Figure Eight. Surface the images you need classified and our platform will take care of categorizing them. We can churn through tens–even hundreds of thousands–of images quickly and provide a simple output about what kind of images you really have.

You can categorize everything

Some products might come with metadata that doesn’t match how your search works. For example, a blouse might be tagged as “lilac” but your search needs “purple” to make it easier to find.

Figure Eight lets you get the tags and facets that are right for you. Whether you’re looking for adjectives like “sporty,” style, pattern, brand, fit, or, really, any attribute that will help surface the best products for your searchers, you create the rules and ontology and our platform will classify everything quickly.

Quality matters

Often, you may have multiple images of the same product, differing in the angle or overall quality of the image (this is especially true if your site has any user generated content, of course). Shoring up these quality issues can help your results page immensely.

Figure Eight can help in multiple ways. It’s easy for us to categorize angles based on the ones that are right for your site and we’ve built a few in-house image quality algorithms to help speed up the process for this exact issue.

We were founded by a pair of search experts and know what it takes to make your search best in class. We can help optimize your images, sure, but we can also score for relevance and intent, tag additional metadata, and a whole lot more. If you’re interested in making your search experience the best it can be, get in touch. We’ve been doing it for a decade for companies like eBay and Home Depot. We’d love to help you too.

Justin Tenuto

Justin Tenuto

Justin writes things at Figure Eight. He enjoys books about robots and aliens, baking bread, and is pretty sure he can beat you at pingpong.