Boost conversions with more white space
Ad clicks were 3x higher when items were placed close together in the center, with plenty of white space around the edges
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A great ad creative can be the difference between a $10 and a $4 return on each $1 you spend on advertising.
There are many ways you can optimize your ad to be high performing. For example, show multiple copies of your product together to make it seem more effective, or show photos of people holding your product - which can boost purchase intentions by up to 70%.
Now, here’s another simple tweak to boost your conversions - and profits.
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Group products close together and leave plenty of empty space around them in your images
Channels: Image Ads | Ads | Website | Ecommerce | Marketing Communications
Research date: February 2023
In your ads or product images, place multiple objects close together and keep plenty of white or empty space around the edges.
You can do this with multiple copies of the same item, or a group of related items. People will like the ad more, and be more likely to buy.
People like ads more, are more likely to click them, and say they are more likely to buy the product when items in the ad are grouped close together, with empty space around the borders.
As part of a series of 4 experiments, researchers found that:
Ads with a more compressed layout had a higher click rate (CTR 2.5%) than ads with more spacing between products (1.1%). Having no empty space around and between products was statistically the same (0.8%) as having more space between products
People also liked the ad more (4.02/7 for a more compressed layout vs. 3.24/7 for a less compressed layout) and said they were more willing to buy the product (3.05/7 for a more compressed layout vs. 2.48/7 for a less compressed layout)
🧠 Why it works
White space, or the empty space in an ad, helps our minds arrange and group the items in an image. This makes the image easier to understand and process.
When objects are closer together, we assume they are linked or affiliated. Just as we assume people who are physically close together have closer social relationships.
When items are closer together and we perceive them as linked, we consider the whole as greater than the sum of individual parts. Because of this, we think of the products as more effective or beneficial than we would individually.
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The compressed layout works for identical items as well as for different items if they’re related to one another (e.g. travel pillow, passport holder, and small pack of toiletries). If people can’t link the items in their minds, (like a travel pillow, throw cushion, and bed pillow), placing them close together won’t be as effective.
The study only tested digital ads, which usually have much less space than print ads or in-store displays, so it’s unclear if the effect would work on these larger spaces.
Researchers tested the spacing between products, but not how many items were in the image. More or fewer objects in the image could affect how easily they are viewed as a unified whole.
🏢 Companies using this
Cosmetics and beauty companies commonly use this to highlight complementary products, bundles, and products that are meant to be used together, such as a moisturizer with accompanying face wash and eye cream.
On Amazon and other online marketplaces, grouping items close together is common in product photos, especially for food and beverage products.
Body Shop’s product images group items close together towards the center of the image, while leaving plenty of empty space at the top and bottom.
⚡ Steps to implement
Test updated versions of your product images and ads that have closer together items and more empty space around them.
Use this with multiple copies of the same item or with a group of items that are related to one another.
Be careful if you are using responsive ad sizing in your digital ads. A lot of the white space around the edges may be cut, and you might need to leave more than expected.
The technique is especially useful if:
You’re showcasing similar or complementary products
You’re introducing a new product as an extension or add-on on an existing product, and showing them together
🔍 Study type
Lab experiments and field experiment (test of three Facebook ads with different layouts for a fictional cosmetic brand)
How to Allocate White Space in Ad Design? The Impact of Product Layouts on Perceived Entitativity and Advertising Performance. Journal of Advertising (February 2023)
Zhihao Yu. College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Veronika Ponomarenko. Muma College of Business, University of South Florida.
Luke Ingalls Liska. Davis College of Business and Administration, Radford University.
Remember: This is a new scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.
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