Attractive photos and compelling product descriptions are critical components of your shopping cart module, and can make a drastic difference to your conversion rate. When putting your content together, a shopping cart owner's aim should be to use words and images in their various modules which provide a customer experience as close as possible to buying in a physical store-a successful physical store that is. If your ecommerce site has tiny images which don't show the item off to its best advantage, or descriptions that don't match the image, leaving doubt about whether the product solves their problem, the customer could soon be clicking away empty-handed.

The combination of the shopping cart module's words and images is essentially an automated salesperson for that product. So it's worth taking the time to make sure the "cyber sales team" is trained to be as effective as possible. Here are some things to keep in mind when developing the content for your shopping cart module.

Effective photos and well matched copy can make your products seem almost as tangible as they would be in a bricks-and-mortar store - and a well-written description can have SEO benefits for your shopping cart module too.

Using Images Provided by Your Supplier

If you're an authorized retailer for a particular product range, or you're purchasing from a wholesaler or dropshipper, your supplier should be able to provide you with good quality, recent and relevant product images to slot into your shopping cart module. If you do decide to use images which have been given to you, make sure the product in the photo exactly matches the description you've entered in your shopping cart module. It's important to know that an ecommerce merchant can't just "swipe" product pictures from other sites or from image search engines like Google Images – it could constitute a breach of copyright. If your supplier can't provide images, the only alternative is to create photographs from your own resources (in-house or perhaps a hired photographer). This might seem like a hassle, but could be beneficial by making your site stand out from the competition, and more importantly creating shopping cart modules that sell even better than that look and work exactly the same as others visitors may see.

Photographing Products To Create Your Own Images

When selling products which you stock or manufacture in-house, you have the advantage of access to the actual product. If you're not knowledgeable about photography, you could enlist the help of a professional photographer. You might think that it's another outlay you can ill-afford, but if it increases your conversion rate it could be the best money you'll spend. Smashing Magazine gives some examples of websites with excellent product photography, and provide their own tips for taking effective product shots. Some important points to consider are:
  • If possible, create a constant type of look and feel through a set of effects, lighting, camera angles, poses, model age/look, etc. (This will help establish and extend your brand and help the visitor to remember your site versus others they may have accessed.)
  • Prepare the product carefully – For example, if you're photographing garments, tiny details like a collar being straight will make a big difference (they might need a lot of ironing to remove all creases)
  • Using professional lighting, including a reflector, can have a huge impact on views and experimenting with different angles, densities and brightness levels can produce commanding results
  • Set your camera carefully – the white balance and ISO numbers are the most important things to watch out for
  • Apply the finishing touches in a photo editing program, including ‘masking' the image to separate it from the background, applying filters to establish an interesting and consistent look (as noted above), using specialty borders or techniques like drop shadows to embellish the images

Once the images are ready, make sure you upload them to your shopping cart module at high enough quality that when the user zooms in, they can see all the details of the product in really sharp detail. This of course will have to be balanced for fast downloading which tends to reward smaller images. Most image editing programs will have a "save for web" or similar feature which optimizes the quality versus size of an image for posting on the web. (A fully featured shopping cart program like UltraCart will feature modules which automatically generate a smaller "thumbnail" from this larger image, eliminating the need to create and upload two versions of the same image.)

Depending on the number and variety of images, production efficiency can be achieved by using standard "stages" or setups for photography. For instance, creating a set that includes the appropriate lighting, backgrounds and other effects and reusing this many times can lower costs and increase the number of images available. In this case, establishing a file naming system that helps to not only link the correct product image to its stock number, but also can assist in gaining search engine recogintiion (search engine optimization) is possible. For example, creation of a "box-car" type of file name that includes both an identifying number and search engine term is possible:


These combinations can be kept track of in a spreadsheet which can link the identification and keyword. (Also, make sure there's an ability to bulk upload product images from your shopping cart since larger catalogs will require this ability.)

Protect The Images You Created For Your Own Shopping Cart Modules

You may also wish to "protect" your images a bit from other's potential piracy. While there is no total solution for this, here are some concepts that can help gain a bit more of an upper hand:

1. Place the name and/or website of your store over the photo in a watermark (see through image) or more boldly in a less important part of the photograph (be careful not to obscure important portions of the photograph, or place the identification in an area which an be easily cropped or edited out)

2. Do the same website indentification in the file name if it doesn't hinder your posting efforts, for example:

3. Place a copyright claim on the photo in a small but visible area

4. Specify your terms for reproduction or reuse on your website (if you wish to allow this) including specific crediting of your name, specific backlinks to your website including anchor text, not using a "nofollow" tag and the actual landing page for your site

General Images For Your Shopping Cart Module

Chances are as well as having pictures of your products, you'll want some general images for your shopping cart module to make it more eye-catching and reflect what you're saying in the text. These could include custom icons or pictures of customer service personnel.

Again, it would be a breach of copyright to just take these images from someone else's website. Instead, you should use a service like iStockPhoto which provides royalty-free stock images for commercial use. You can search their collection of millions of images, then pay a small one-time fee to use it in your shopping cart module as many times as you want.

A free alternative would be to use Flickr, which is the world's biggest collection of user-submitted images and photographs. You can't just use any image from Flickr, but by using the advanced search you can find images for which the artist has assigned a ‘creative commons' license for commercial usage.