Is Your Hero Image Working For You or Against You?

In all of the WEVO landing page analyses we have run for our clients, no one website element gets more attention and focus than the hero image and headline. Truth be told, our tests have proven that the headline is a critical driver of engagement and action, but the image associated with that headline is equally as important. As it turns out, your hero image says so much more to your audience than what you may have thought when you selected it.

The Image Selection Process

So, how are these prominent images selected and tested? We’ve seen that most often direction comes from marketing and then is handed off to design, along the lines of the following process:

  1. Marketing gives the designer a goal for what the image should communicate based on messaging, campaign and audience demographics
  2. Designer selects several images as part of the overall design, either from stock imagery or a company owned library – looking for designs that complement the site’s palette and where open space on the image can hold text.
  3. Marketing team chooses the final image from the designer’s selection
  4. Designer creates the page variation with the selected hero and headline
  5. Marketing pushes the page live in an A/B split test

This process is inherently flawed, not because of the steps listed, but because of the one missing: getting audience input. Each audience comes to a website with a set of beliefs, aspirations and their own perspective. How visitors process your imagery is a reflection of what they bring with them, which marketers and designers can rarely, if ever, predict with complete accuracy.

Because of this, getting input from your target audience before spending the resources to test live can save time and money. Furthermore, understanding exactly what your audience likes and dislikes about the imagery steers you in the right direction.

Our Findings

WEVO recently ran a test that revealed key differences in the way an audience reacted to two images, despite the fact that both images had a person of the same gender, ethnicity and age. While the headline was superior in the second version – which had a big impact on conversion, the image itself was seen to get in the way of the message.

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Image 1: The dark background color and unidentifiable location detracted from the site’s appeal. The audience also didn’t think the person was dressed for success, which conjured up the image of where people felt that they were today, and not on the path to success where they’d like to be. Ultimately, the image didn’t help visitors visualize their “future self.”

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Image 2:  While the ethnicity and gender of the person in this image is similar to the previous one, this image was much more appealing to the audience. The background image of a “nice home,” the smile of the hero subject, noted as “genuinely happy” and “confident,” allowed the visitors to envision their future at this school. The home signified both future success and that people who attend this school can study from home. The image itself made them believe that the person was successful because of her decision to attend this school.

We know that people respond better to aspirational images and messages (provided they are within the realm of “I can be this”): Where the person is situated, how happy the person looks, what she is wearing, and what is around the person are all subtle indicators of both who your service is targeting, and appeals to the emotional and aspirational subtext of their response.

What Our Customers Have Learned

A marketing team or agency is rarely a proxy for a site’s target visitor. Further, most marketers and designers frame their selections with their functional versus emotional know-how.

Designers tend to focus on how well an image works with the rest of the site, as in how the image jives with the site’s color palette and how it fits on the page. Marketers often provide the persona or context to their agency, but will often accept the images that the agency recommends. When that doesn’t happen, it is more often the HPPO (highest paid person in the room) who selects the image that that they like best.

Our customers have found that by using WEVO to decode their target audience’s emotional and rational response to imagery, they have been able to increase engagement and conversion on their websites and landing pages.

Skeptics may say that A/B testing can provide the same improvement, and that is correct. But live A/B testing doesn’t equip marketers and their agencies with an understanding of why their audience responded the way they did, and therefore, doesn’t improve future efforts, but just the specific image.

Are you ready to better understand your visitors and understand why they do or do not convert? Contact us here.

Janet Muto is President of WEVO. WEVO’s unique platform combines crowdsourcing and AI to allow digital marketers to test web pages before launch.

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