Th Retail Industry And Visual Search
Have you ever had a hard time describing a piece of clothing with words, but could conjure a clear picture of it in your head?
Fashion is visually driven. That’s why for decades pre-internet and before the social media boom, fashion magazines became so popular and a major source of inspiration. It’s part of the reason why Vogue has the reputation it maintains to this day, even when print magazines are struggling.
The fact is, we as humans process images far better than text. Shutterfly cites studies that say our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and can identify images we have previously viewed for as little as 13 milliseconds.
These reasons are why visual search has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we shop and interact with items we love or are inspired by.
Visual search allows consumers to place an image in the search bar instead of text. The results provide more similar items to the original inspiration than if the consumer searched keywords. This improvement in search results increases consumer satisfaction, lowers customer drop-off and increases the potential of a sale.
With the technology already implemented by companies like ASOS and recent visual search ventures by Google, Pinterest and a collaboration between Amazon and SnapChat, we are provided a glimpse at how visual search will likely become an everyday fixture in inbound marketing and commonplace feature.
To get ahead of what is likely to become the new mode of product discovery and shopping for consumers, brands should consider what major companies have already done to pave the way in visual search.
ASOS Visual Search
Fashion retailer ASOS launched visual search to their U.K. website in 2017 and extended the feature to U.S. users earlier this year. To implement this revolutionary way to search into their repertoire, ASOS utilized the visual search technology. Shoppers are inspired by images they see, which ASOS has recognized and works to encourage.
Recognizing the shopper’s struggle with typographic search, visual search enables customers to search with ease whenever inspiration strikes. Whether they are scrolling through Instagram and fall in love with Meghan Markle’s latest look, or walking down the street and see someone wearing an adorable dress, visual search allows them to capture a picture and use it to search similar options ASOS has to offer. The customer is satisfied because they are receiving specific results and ASOS moves closer to a completed sale.
Google Style Match
One feature of Google Lens, which was launched in May 2017, is Style Match. The impetus behind Lens was to allow Android users to have better access to the world around them through photos. The feature was made available to iOS users in March of this year via the Google Photos app. Still, given the power of Google in the tech space, especially in the arena of search, the fact that they have developed a visual search tool shows the value in it and gives merit to talk of it being the future of search.
Racked did a review of Style Match where the writer seemed to have fun taking pictures of co-workers and finding products similar to what they were wearing. However there are clear indications of the limitations that accompany current iterations of visual search. Specifically, results show similar product matches, but no exact matches. Also, the fact that the search cannot pick up on certain photo angles. The review uses an example of a picture where the model’s arms are raised bringing up the hem of her shirt. While we understand that her pose warps the image, visual search reads it as an asymmetrical cut. As visual search advances with time and tech developments, so too will its capabilities to read images.
Pinterest Lens Your Look
Pinterest launched their visual discovery tools in early 2017. What makes Pinterest’s visual search capabilities different from the rest of the pack is exactly what makes Pinterest such a popular platform. In general, when you search on Pinterest, you are looking at ways to implement things into your life. With Lens Your Look this means looking for inspiration within your wardrobe.
You are able to take a photo of an item of clothing within your already existing wardrobe and search for inspiration on how to style or include it in an outfit. For example, your plain white tee shirt. Lens Your Look will show you ways you can layer it, and items you can pair it with, to create a look you love. The goal of using visual search in this way for Pinterest is so users can turn their phone, and consequently the Pinterest app, into their own personal stylist.
SnapChat and Amazon Partnership
This visual search partnership has yet to roll out en masse, however early reports show it could add a whole new level to visual search and its future in our everyday lives. In order for SnapChat to step into the e-commerce arena, like Facebook has done with their marketplace and Instagram has done with their “shop now” bar, they needed to do something big. And you cannot get much bigger than a partnership with Amazon.
By taking their scanning feature to the next level, users will be able to scan an item or a barcode just like they scan their face to access fun filters. Scanning the item or barcode will cause a card to pop up that shows the item and similar ones on Amazon with the title, price, image, average review score and availability on Prime. Tapping on the card brings the user right to the Amazon page to buy the product.
Visual search is the future of search. These major companies and brands are leaders in the use and implementation of this discovery tool. While implementing visual search can clearly help consumers land more targeted results, it also helps businesses retain more customers and convert traffic to sales. Allowing a customer to find something specific based upon what inspired them allows them to find more items they already love and connect to. We are visually driven creatures, so a shift towards visual search just makes sense as we continue to innovate.
Maddie Davis is co-founder of Enlightened-Digital and tech-obsessed female from the Big Apple. She lives by building and redesigning websites, running marathons and reading anything and everything on the NYT Best Sellers list.