Is It the End of the White Background?

A white background has been an e-commerce standard since the launched of Amazon and eBay in 1995. Today, considering the importance of putting emphasis on originality, some brands are breaking with tradition.

It’s a brave new world for beauty marketers, where fortune may favor the bold and the creative.

In the blink of an eye, the smart phone converted marketing audiences into passionate photographers. We love taking pictures and more and more are using our telephones to tell friends what is happening in our lives by using images instead of words. Every day, two billion photographs are uploaded to social media. Because there are so many pictures competing for our attention we discriminate when a photograph is worth our time, or not. In an instant, intuitively, we decide when a photograph has something fresh to offer or is just a copy of something we have already seen. Perhaps, the most important characteristic for creating strong marketing image today is originality.

Breaking with traditional e-commerce standards. Revlon’s black evokes of sophistication. Bright, thin highlights define the product edges creating a strong contrast against the background. The dark background tone makes product colors look richer and brighter.


Despite widespread writings for the many reasons that make the color white to be most aesthetically pleasing and an effective e-commerce solution the motivations that made it become the standard were largely practical. In the early days of the Internet, when connections took place through 28k modems, download times were an important factor to consider when designing a website. Removing backgrounds helped make pictures a lot faster to download.

Givenchy communicates gracefully. The brand chooses background tones similar to the color of a product. Highlights create depth and provide some separation.


White is a fantastic graphic solution; it has been the background of choice since Gutenberg printed his bibles. For aggregate picture platforms like eBay and Amazon asking users to photograph on a uniform white background gives design consistency. For retailers, photographing product using a standardized background makes production more efficient and gives design flexibility.

Over the past twenty-seven years there have been very few who have questioned the branding disadvantages of using the same color background that everybody else uses. Today, 92% of all e-commerce photography is done on white. Dry dog food, oven mitts and matte lipstick are all considered to look the very best when photographed surrounded by white.

However, because the color is so widely used, audiences perceived it as being ordinary and generic. Because it has been used for so long, white is also seen as uninteresting. Social media data seems to suggest that there is value in images that show products using other colors. According to DataPop and Kenshoo “Search and Social Commerce Index”, a study that analyzes over 40 retailers and their related 2.9 million published products, an image of a product using a white background generates 159% less likes and re-pins than when using any other color of the rainbow.

Zara’s uses a mix of neutral tone and brilliant color backgrounds. Color accents are used randomly and changed continually, giving a feeling of freshness and diversity to the website.


When brands shifted marketing strategies toward visual platforms, they discovered that audiences reacted better to innovative images. It is the suggestions of data collected from social media that is making some brands stay clear from homogeny and opt for originality instead. The e-commerce photography being created by some brands has strong editorial feeling with an emphasis on being one of kind.

Lauder adds a tone and a shadow to create the illusion of the product being in a three-dimensional space


At Via U!, we first become aware of our clients need to look more original in 2014 when Instagram supplanted Twitter as the social media platform considered “most important” by U.S. teens. In response, we started offering an option for color backgrounds and in 2016 we added the option to use props, styling and special effects.

It makes sense, if unique pictures help create interest in the congested marketplace of social media why not apply the same concept to the competitive marketplace of online sales?

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