Have you heard that Amazon is testing waters with 360 product photos as we have recently spotted in a couple of product listings by Bosh and Ashley Furniture (example, example)? How about this recent announcement by Shopify?

If you are still on the fence whether to implement 360 product views into your eCommerce strategy, consider this study by Tibert Verhagen, Charlotte Vonkeman, and Willemijn van Dolen that was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Vol 19, No 7. 

The study looks into these three product presentation categories to see how they affect buyer's ability to evaluate products online and their impact on buyer's purchase decision:

  • Still images
  • 360 product spins
  • Virtual mirror

Almost four hundred undergraduate students participated in this study in Netherlands in 2016 where they rated various forms of perceived product tangibility and their purchase intentions using product pages on Ray-Ban.com.

Ray-Ban offers all three presentation options for some of their glasses which is rare. This is mainly because "virtual mirror" is specific to fashion (we couldn't recall a successful commercial implementation that didn't involve eyeware) and the technology is still complex and finicky.

While we encourage you to browse through the entire paper, the results on page 3 is what we're after and they make perfect sense: virtual mirror is a winner followed by 360 product photography. Interestingly, the difference between the virtual mirror and 360 product spins seems very close to the gap between the spins and still product photos.

As a take away from this study consider this: buyers who interact with 360 product images are 14% more likely to purchase a product than when there are still photos alone.

With "virtual mirror" there's an extra 15% improvement. And that's not all as we have to also consider that the improved experience ("perceived diagnosticity" which is 17% better with 360 product spins as per the study) can reduce product returns and improve the overall shopping satisfaction.

Another interesting research by folks at University of Hong Kong and Stanford (published in the Journal of Consumer Research) looked into the affect of having multiple additional images of the same product on buyer's ability to compare and decide while shopping online. Surprisingly, participants who saw extra photos were "both less confident about their decision and liked and valued the product less than those who saw only one photo for each product".

Considering the results from the first study, we think that some products such as shoes used in the last research can benefit from having a single 360 product view and forgo still images altogether.