Why More Retail Brands Are Launching Visual Search Tools
Author: Kaleigh Moore
The way online shoppers look for products online is changing—especially for younger consumers.
Visual search, which is search based on images rather than text, is on the rise.
The reason: It helps consumers address questions that are hard to put into text-based searches, such as, “What item pairs best with these shoes?” or “Where can I find a similar jacket?”
It’s growing in popularity: Data shows that 62% of Millennials want the ability to use visual search over any other technology, while Gartner research predicts that 30% of all searches will be “queryless” by as soon as 2020.
As consumer habits shift around online product discovery, retailers are taking note. The visual search market is expected to exceed $25 billion this year—and by 2021, data indicates retailers that are early adopters of visual search are projected to increase their digital commerce revenue by 30%.
While visual search has been popular in the clothing vertical for several years now, brands in other industries are hopping on board with the trend as well. Glasses USA, for example, an online prescription eyewear company, recently announced its mobile visual search tool called “Pic & Pair.”
The tool works by allowing customers to upload or take an image of a product, and based on that information, it will then showcase similar-looking products available on the company’s website.
The digital optimization team at Glasses USA started developing this resource soon after they discovered that customers who used the brand’s search function spent six times longer on the site and were five times more likely to buy (in comparison to those who didn’t use the search tool at all.)
In short—giving visitors using their product search tool an easier, more frictionless experience meant a much higher likelihood of sales.
The functionality of the resource is rooted in artificial intelligence that assigns detailed textual tags to the brand’s inventory (which includes more than 10,000 items.) When a customer uploads an image, the AI-powered image recognition software then quickly finds identical and similar products and spotlights them for the mobile searcher.
This speeds up the process when customers are looking for a specific product, but don’t want to invest time looking at hundreds of search results.
“Customers often they have a clear idea of what they want, but have no clue how to look for it or describe it,” said Glasses USA CEO and co-founder, Daniel Rothman.
“With this tool we’ve simplified the process by working bottom-up and having customers show us what they want—and we’re offering customers the retail experience of a sales clerk’s assistance without having to leave their homes.”
Again, Glasses USA isn’t the only brand investing in visual search tools. Along with tech giants like Amazon, Pinterest, and Google, large fashion retailers like Alibaba, Neiman Marcus, ASOS, and Nordstrom have already been finding success with visual search tools as well. Some use on-site tools, while others have built this functionality into their branded mobile apps.
John Xiao, Vice President of Technology at Nordstrom, shared that Nordstrom’s visual search tool is not only effective when it comes to aiding customers with product discovery and efficiently sifting through the brand’s extensive catalog, but it’s also been extremely accurate when it comes to helping customers spot the exact products they’re searching for.
“Fashion is all about the visual,” Xiao said in a BizTech interview. “If the customer has a product in front of them, the best way to help them find it in your catalog is visual search.”
Others working in the online sales environment believe that visual search will continue to rise in popularity, but that in order for it to achieve its full potential, brands will need to educate their customers on how it use it to their benefit.
“Visual search has been around a long time, but I think the technology is only just catching up with the ambition,” said Joey Moore, a product marketing expert.