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A Product Manager’s Guide to Consistent eCommerce User-Generated Images

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You know that feeling deep inside your gut that tells you something is off when you see a sketchy product on an online marketplace? Those are honed instincts for spotting bad products online, even without seeing the products physically.

And this is why if you ask any online marketer or successful vendor, they’ll tell you presentation is everything when it comes to eCommerce. And one of the most important elements of presentation is visual consistency.

In this guide, we’ll be going into the technical side of things, to see what exactly makes visual consistency so effective and how it can help your eCommerce marketplace grow

Takeaways

  • Visual consistency is very easy to spot by using two very popular eCommerce platforms as an example;
  • There are 3 general implementation methods for consistent visual guidelines and ensuring vendors are using them;
  • 5 aspects of consistent product photos can act as guidelines for consistent visual content;
  • Claid.ai is a powerful tool that helps eCommerce platforms achieve visual consistency easily and efficiently.

What is consistent product imagery?

Ever visit an off-brand eCommerce website and notice the product photos are all over the place? This comes as a result of looser image requirements and while this doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is of low quality or the vendor is untrustworthy, it does say a lot about the platform itself.

Nothing will give you a better idea of what qualifies as consistent product imagery than seeing a comparison between two very different approaches to eCommerce photos. 

Left and right visuals demonstrate consistency and inconsistency in user-generated content respectively.

But before we get into the details of optimizing the consistency of your product imagery, how does one implement visual consistency into their product images?

How to Implement Image Consistency Onto a Marketplace

There are 3 general approaches to creating and maintaining visual consistency throughout online marketplaces: 

  1. Enforce image requirements 
  2. Moderation
  3. Automation

Approach #1: Setting minimal image requirements

By implementing image requirements onto your platform, user-generated all visual content uploaded to your platform follows the guidelines. The platform will not allow images to be uploaded if they do not adhere to the guidelines, thus enforcing consistent visual content throughout the marketplace.

Advantages

  • As the platform administrator, this means you have more control over user-generated visual content without directly having to deal with it;
  • Saves time for the moderation team, as they won’t have to worry about looking through every product image on the platform.

Disadvantages

  • Image requirements leave the responsibility of optimizing and editing the photo to suit the platform’s standards onto the vendors, who may not have the software or skills to do so;
  • Some vendors’ lack of knowledge or skills in relevant photo editing software means that onboarding new vendors will take longer;
  • With a longer onboarding process, there is a chance that some vendors may be put off by your eCommerce platform and may avoid it.

Marketplaces that use this approach

  • Amazon
  • AirBnB
  • Etsy

Approach #2: Hire people to moderate and edit pictures

Alternatively, you can hire a moderation team who will be tasked with sifting through the product images and finding ones that do not adhere to your platform’s guidelines. Upon finding an image that does not fit the guidelines, the moderation team will ask the vendor to remove the image and guide them through the editing process, or may even remove the image themselves.

Advantages

  • A more hands-on approach to image guidelines can offer some assistance to the vendors, instead of leaving the responsibility of optimizing images entirely to them;
  • Faster and easier vendor onboarding process.

Disadvantages

  • This method requires moderators to go through every image uploaded onto the platform, which can be a hefty amount of work, thus will require you to expand the moderation team with every influx of vendors;
  • Human error is very common in just about any aspect of moderation and while there is no doubt that professional moderators do their best to avoid making mistakes, a few slip-ups are bound to occur, especially if there is a small team of moderators.

Marketplaces that use this approach

  • AliExpress 
  • Alibaba

Approach #3: Use automated image editing software

Instead of enforcing guidelines and asking either the moderators or the vendors to optimize product images for the platform, there’s also the method of editing the images to suit the platform’s requirements on the platform itself. 

Instead of simply asking vendors to optimize the images to suit the requirements and leaving them to it, APIs like Claid.ai can automatically edit the photos uploaded to your platform and optimize them to your image guidelines.

An example of Claid.ai’s clear and easy-to-use interface, which allows you to see the results of your image enhancements on the spot.

All the vendors have to do is simply upload the image and regardless of how inaccurate it is to your platform’s guidelines, Claid.ai will automatically edit them by improving their resolution, centering the product image, adjusting the padding, and removing backgrounds before they are uploaded to the platform.
Advantages

  • Very fast onboarding process, as images are automatically edited by the Claid API;
  • Thanks to the power of AI-based software, images will look far more consistent than if they were to be edited by vendors or moderation teams.

Disadvantages

  • Certain user-generated content is almost impossible to optimize to modern eCommerce standards even with AI-based software, in which case the platform moderation team would still need to ask the vendor to retake the photo.

Marketplaces that use this approach

  • DoorDash

Combining Approaches 

It’s very hard to find a one-size-fits-all solution to user-generated content, especially if your platform hosts hundreds of thousands of product photos. Even with the laser accuracy of Claid.ai’s powerful photo editing software, some errors are bound to happen. 

In some cases, a combination of several implementation methods would work. For example, if a vendor submits an image that is optimized by Claid.ai to suit the resolution requirements of the platform, but the original image had a portion of the product outside of the frame, a moderator would still need to ask the vendor to retake the photo to have the full product inside the frame.

So, in very specific use cases, you’d need to adapt to the kind of vendors and products on your platform and ensure that all vendors are on the same page. 

Key aspects of product image consistency

In case you still haven’t caught on to what makes product photos visually consistent and inconsistent, here are just several ideas to keep in mind:

  • Resolution
  • Framing 
  • Background
  • Padding (Canvas-to-image ratio)
  • Text and graphics

Here are some basic aspects that together make up a consent visual presentation of products on your marketplace. 

Resolution

Examining the product in great detail is a crucial part of buying anything online. That's why product images need to be crisp and high-resolution so that every minor detail is visible.

Left is a product image with low resolution, right is the same product image upscaled with Claid.ai.

If you were to purchase the shoes above, it would be very difficult to check the quality of the product by looking at the product image to the left. The right product image, however, which is significantly higher resolution, would give you a much better idea of what the shoes look like, allowing you to see exactly what you’re buying.

How Claid.ai helps:

Unlike traditional image editing software, Claid.ai can upscale or increase the resolution of an image without losing quality. This is made possible with a combination of Claid.ai’s powerful neural nets that replace missing pixels, adding extra detail to the image and sharpening it as well.

Caption: Left image is the original product photo, with a lower resolution. The right image is the same after it was upscaled with Claid.ai to a higher resolution, making the product photo clearer.

By implementing these standards on an eCommerce platform, you can successfully create a more consistent product presentation. 

Framing

If you wish to keep product images consistent, consider the framing of the product itself. Framing refers to how the product is displayed in the image. Ideally, you want the product to be vertically or horizontally placed on some sort of surface that will not distract from the product itself. In some cases, however, vendors choose to advertise products in hand, put them on a cluttered surface, or even stack the product.

The image on the left shows inadequate framing prevents seeing the full product. The framing in the right image clearly shows everything a buyer needs to see when making the purchase.

The example above illustrates the difference between good and bad framing of two similar products. The image on the left shows phone cases stacked on top of each other and in hand, which results in less visibility of the product itself. The image on the right frames the front and back of the product, giving potential buyers a better view of the product.

By keeping product image framing consistent in your marketplace, buyers will have a much easier time browsing through them.

How Claid.ai help: 

Claid.ai’s fit option allows you to automatically adjust the framing of your product image to determine how it will be cropped and fitted onto the canvas.

Background

Keep backgrounds a single color all across the board. This serves to not only keep competition fair, as vendors won’t rely on flashy backgrounds to sell their products, but it will also put the products themselves front and center of the frame. 

Left demonstrates the original image with a background, whereas right demonstrates how Claid.ai was able to remove the background.

The example above demonstrates how even a simple canvas texture takes away from the image of the food itself. And while stylistically, the canvas bag does make for an attractive background, not all of your vendors will have access to such surfaces and materials when doing their product photography. It’s best to avoid backgrounds for your product images overall to keep things simple and fair. 

How Claid.ai helps:

Claid can remove the background and replace it with any color or make it transparent. 

Left is the original image of the spice bottle with the background. Right image is after Claid.ai removed the background.

Claid.ai has 3 specialized background removal neural nets covering general, product, and automotive categories. This ensures high accuracy of the operation for different types of images. Additionally, Claid.ai also gives the option of replacing the background with a color or blurring out the background to varying intensities. 

Padding

Padding is the measurement of the product image relative to the canvas. The bigger the product on the image canvas, the less padding there is. This helps control how much of the product is visible in the photo. 

Left and right images demonstrate a low and high padding-to-image ratio respectively.

Implementing padding guidelines helps eCommerce platforms control how much of the product image is visible, as well as how much space in the user interface the image will use up.

Pro tip: Different platforms have different padding-to-image ratio requirements. But as a rule of thumb, you want the product to take up most of the canvas. This means ideally you want a lower padding-to-image ratio.

How Claid.ai helps: 

Claid.ai's Smart Frame feature that works together with background removal allows you to set a fixed amount of space around products, adapting it to any padding ratio of eCommerce platforms. This way, all images across all the listings on your marketplace look consistent.  

In the illustration above, you can see the various product photos on the left, which are taken from different angles, with different lighting setups, and with arbitrary alignment into product photos with consistent parameters. 

Text and Graphics

Part of making consistent product images across the entire platform is by avoiding any texts or graphics that would create too much visual clutter. Keep product images on your platform simple and clear, without any extra text boxes or graphics clogging up the frame.

Pro tip: Allowing for texts and graphics on your eCommerce platform would create far too much visual variety to keep the content consistent. For example, if the text were allowed on product images, you’d have to control the font, the number of characters that must be used, the size of the letters, and how much of the frame the text box can take up. All of these overcomplicate the process of creating product images and only serve to distract from the product itself.

The product image to the left is cluttered with text and graphics, whereas the right image is solely dedicated to showing the product itself through visual clarity.

It’s also important to note that by allowing graphics and text on product images, you create unfair competition between vendors. Certain vendors could use the product images to further advertise their store with graphics about coupons, and announcements, or even advertise other items in their line of products. 

Why use Claid.ai to standardize photos

Your marketplace can ensure a uniform look across your website with Claid's Smart Frame features:

  • background removal
  • transparent, white, or custom color background support
  • centering and aligning products 
  • making objects fill a fixed percentage of the canvas
  • transforming aspect ratio to 16:9, 4:3, 1:1 or any custom dimensions

👉 Check out how Smart Frameworks with this interactive demo.

This begs the question: why use Claid.ai among all that photo editing software that’s circulating the internet? Here are 3 reasons why Claid.ai is the perfect solution for achieving consistent visual content on your eCommerce website.

Automated Process

Automation via API and AI that enhances images better than traditional software are two separate advantages: consistency and speed. Claid.ai enhances and optimizes all product photos to the same setting, which makes them visually consistent. It can also perform these actions much faster than if they were done without AI technology, saving vendors and eCommerce platforms a lot of time.

Bulk Editing

Having to edit each image one by one if you need to upload hundreds of product photos at once is a chore. But with Claid.ai, vendors can edit thousands of images to the same parameters. This way, all the product photos are consistent and retain the same high quality across the board.

Accessibility

Claid.ai was built to be easy to use. Vendors can learn how to use the API within minutes and can easily tweak the photo enhancement settings to suit their needs. This makes Claid.ai more accessible than most professional photo editing software out there, which may take hours of practice to learn.

Achieve Consistent Product Photos with Claid.ai

Schedule a live demo on Claid.ai and see how Claid can create consistent visual content for your marketplace. Also, feel free to reach out with any questions: hello@claid.ai.

👉 To learn more about image requirements best practices check out these in-depth steps many eCommerce platforms take to ensure consistent visual content on their websites.

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Claid.ai

December 12, 2022