I originally wrote this article for the eCommerceBytes Newsletter.
I read all the time how you need to have good pictures in order to sell online. The higher the quality of the image, the better. As important as the picture is, it's only half the story. What you write under the picture is just as important.
Have you been neglecting your captions? You shouldn't.
Captions are one of the first things, and sometimes the only things, visitors read on a page. Most people just skim Web pages. It's often the short text that will catch their attention and ultimately hold or lose their interest. This is true on both online auction listings and fixed-price storefronts. Here are some ideas to consider as you compose your captions.
People always read this.
Use a "Call to Action." Use your captions to tell your reader what you want them to do. "Click Here," "Place your bid now," "Sign up for our newsletter" or even "Order yours today!" You need to come right out and tell people what they're supposed to do.
Describe your item in a different way. Sellers often take great care in describing every detail of their auction treasures, including precise measurements, marks, colors etc. This is indeed important, but don't merely repeat your description in your caption. Include some fascinating trivia or historical significance about your item, such as, "This is a fine example from Florence Ceramics, a company started by a middle-age housewife in her garage." Make use of your knowledge and peak their interest.
Guide your buyer's imagination. Captions are prime selling space. Get into the mind of your potential buyer. Ask a question, such as, "Wouldn't this vase look impressive on your mantle?" You could also use your caption to personalize your item (and yourself) "I found this treasure in San Francisco. The woman I bought it from told me..."
Include captions in larger pictures. I notice when I click on thumbnails to see larger images, sellers seldom include a caption. This is a wasted opportunity. Can you think of a better time to use the "Buy This Now" call to action? Your customer has your item large on their screen. Use a caption to inspire impulse buying!
As well as adding captions to photos, you should also add small testimonial captions under your banners. "I saved 15% by using this service." Your visitor may just read your caption and ignore the banner. Test different versions and see how it affects your results.
Captions seem like a small detail, but short text is "Read Text." A carefully constructed caption may just be the hook you need to grab your customers' attention and drive their interest.