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Swiping right on product images

Category: Blog & News

In an e-commerce store, are you better to present your product facing right or left? That was the subject of some recent research that considered whether “swiping right” had a bearing on the degree to which customers liked a product.

What’s the “right” product orientation?

Noting the adoption of “swiping” in apps like Tinder and Stylect, researchers Van Kerckhove and Pandelaere were curious about how gestures to signal like or dislike were impacted by the orientation of a product image.

Let’s say you sell shoes. You have a choice whether the first image of the shoe(s) faces left (left orientation) or right (right orientation) (figure 1 below).  This is particularly important on mobile, when there may only be space for one product and one image at a time.

Shoes left and right oriented

Across five experiments, the researchers had participants view products that were either facing left or right, and then swipe either left or right to signal whether they liked them.

The studies tested not only the orientation or the product, but the impact of whether the “like” gesture was on the right or left, and whether the same impacts were evident if customers used a button rather than swipe.

Right for right action, left for left action

The researchers found that product orientation did impact the direction of the action, which therefore impacted the product evaluation.

In other words, a right oriented image influenced people to swipe right. If this swipe meant “like” then the evaluations were more positive. However, if the swipe meant “dislike”, evaluations were negatively impacted.

The reverse was also true, where if the image was left-oriented, people were more likely to swipe left. The impact on product evaluations was the same (i.e. impacted according to what gesturing left or right were programmed to mean).

Swiping vs. clicking impacts product evaluations

The researchers also found that the strength of evaluations was impacted by orientation. People liked shoes oriented to the right more than those to the left when the “like” swipe action was on the right, but they also liked shoes oriented to the right less if the “dislike” swipe was on the right. In other words, people tended to swipe in the direction the product was facing regardless of whether this was a like or dislike swipe! 

Importantly, these same findings were not found for button clicks which seem to add more friction into the execution and encourage people to contemplate their decision more.

What this means for you

Responsive design has meant that most websites can be easily adapted for tablet and mobile customers. However, with gestures like swiping becoming more embedded in apps, we need to more deeply consider how our customers will engage with specific elements on each page. This research signals the importance of product orientation and the need for congruence between message and desired action.

This article also appeared in Smartcompany.

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