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Forum Moderators: buckworks
Seriously, I suppose it would depend on the product, I'm sure there's a few niches that images won't be of any help. I can think of very few that would not benefit by images - good images that nicely present the product (clothing thrown on the floor and shot with a flash cell phone camera don't count, see eBay.) Even when I'm searching for electronic parts, it helps to see it to know if it's small enough to fit my needs.
Thumbnails are great because you can get fast-loading category pages, but you should also have a full details page with a larger image. What works for us: Just the title, thumbnail, add to cart button, with the image and the text "more>>" linked to full product details. No pop-up windows.
I seriously doubt you even read the original question, take a look again and the question was pertaining to the shopping cart, not the product pages.
Personally, I do prefer images in the cart. I don't have any stats to back this up but I think it helps the customer confirm that they added the correct product to their cart. I would make sure that the exact same image that appears on the product page is the image displayed in the cart. If not, it would cause some confusion.
If the names of your products are descriptive of the product;
Blue Med. T Shirt
Then the customer can look at their cart and easily remember what each item is without a picture. But if your items are more like;
It's likely that the customer isn't going to remember what each item is and small pictures in the cart would be a tremendous help.
It's simple to implement as there is no need to make new pictures. Use one of the pictures you already used on the product page, it will be in the browser cache and you can just use the height and width attributes to display it smaller in the cart.
1) Use them in cart if customers tend to order the wrong item as demonstrated by a high level of follow up phone calls and emails and especially product returns and even chargebacks.
2) Use thumbs when text description is inadequate and photo is more appropriate (ie. apparel, wall paper)
3) The big boys use cart thumbs and little sites often don't. Makes your operation look professional.
4) May be helpful when customers often order a long shopping list of products, not just one or two.
Some arguments against cart thumbs:
1) If a product comes in many colors (ie. tee shirt), will thumb in different color just add to confusion? Do you have the ability to serve up picture of every variation?
2) Avoid using thumbs that can't show key product details. (ie. lookalike computer chips)
3) If your cart is already cluttered as many are, don't add thumbs just to have the latest fad bell/whistle.
4) I've never seen a study suggesting that adding cart thumbs increases a site's Bottom Line.
So which way to go?
We almost never have a customer complain that what he received was different than what he thought he ordered. Our excellent product graphics and text description BEFORE the cart seem sufficient. No thumbs for us... so far.