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WSDM, 2014

Is a picture really worth a thousand words?: - on the role of images in e-commerce

Wei Di, Neel Sundaresan, Anurag Bhardwaj, Robinson Piramuthu

In online peer-to-peer commerce places where physical examination of the goods is infeasible, textual descriptions, images of the products, reputation of the participants, play key roles. Visual image is a powerful channel to convey crucial information towards e-shoppers and influence their choice.

In this paper, we investigate a well-known online marketplace where over millions of products change hands and most are described with the help of one or more images. We present a systematic data mining and knowledge discovery approach that aims to quantitatively dissect the role of images in e-commerce in great detail. Our goal is two-fold.

First, we aim to get a thorough understanding of impact of images across various dimensions: product categories, user segments, conversion rate. We present quantitative evaluation of the influence of images and show how to leverage different image aspects, such as quantity and quality, to effectively raise sale. Second, we study interaction of image data with other selling dimensions by jointly modeling them with user behavior data.

Results suggest that "watch" behavior encodes complex signals combining both attention and hesitation from buyer, in which image still holds an important role when compared to other selling variables, especially for products for which appearance is important. We conclude on how these findings can benefit sellers in a high competitive online e-commerce market.

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