Imagine, you are on the train, and you see the person opposite you wearing the jacket you never knew you wanted. You turn to your phone to see if you can find it online, but what to type? How to describe this jacket? Blue, with white stripes? White with blue stripes? Mid-to-short length? Funky patterned cuffs? So many questions and so many vague search terms come to mind when trying to guess the exact search terms to find this coat. After what seems ages, an irrelevant selection of products appears on your screen, and the person beside you gets off the train. The jacket is lost forever. What if there was another way?
Enter visual search.
Why Visual Search Matters
Humans are incredibly visual creatures. We identify images within 13 milliseconds, and 90% of all the information received by the brain is visual.
Visual search is “the ability to use an image to search for identical or related visual assets.” If, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, visual search can undoubtedly save thousands of minutes on inaccurate search queries. While the online purchasing journey of a customer should be a simple process, in many cases the journey from ‘seeing’ a product to buying a product is a friction-filled path that often leads to no-purchase at all — just one in three Google searches results in a click. Visual search will be able to shorten the path to action as consumers search for products.
Instead of asking humans to think like computers (as textual search does), visual search interprets the image using visual clues as well as the image’s metadata. With the help of AI, visual search returns the most relevant results possible based on similarities, such as color or a particular style. This certainly helps deliver a more frictionless retail experience allowing customers to find what they want, faster.
According to recent studies, the global visual search market is estimated to surpass $14,727m by 2023 forecasted to grow at CAGR +9% between 2018–2023. That’s all very well and good, but what does this mean to businesses today? Currently, only 8% of retailers have built-in image search into their e-commerce sites; however, recent studies in both the US and the UK have shown that 62% of millennials want visual search capabilities more than any other new technology. These statistics, coupled with the increased use of social media for product discovery, is an indicator that retailers and brands must optimize image content to ensure they future-proof themselves for visual search. Uncluttered imagery, as well as up-to-date metadata, will organically boost SEO.
As such, it is estimated that by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search (think Google Home and Amazon Alexa) will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. Will your organization be an early adopter to grow E-commerce revenue? Take RocketSpace's recently launched Innovation Benchmarking Brief to receive customized recommendations for your innovation initiatives.
5 Innovative Companies Leading Visual Search
Pinterest launched its visual search functionality back in 2015, which is now used to complete 600 million visual searches every month, up 140% year-on-year. This has enabled Pinterest to build a very healthy ad-based business with an 8.5% conversion rate, allowing brands to target over 5,000 categories — a powerful tool to enable personalized marketing.
Companies such as Ikea have been fast to adopt this technology by integrating its catalog with Pinterest’s visual search capability, meaning customers can now directly buy products hot off Ikea’s production floor.
2. Google Lens
Source: Google Lens
It is not surprising that with its wealth of data and search history, Google is a major player in visual search. Google can detect over 1 billion objects and within its text-based search functionality, has begun to start showing more images in web search results. This is a real nudge for all brands to optimize image content!
Google is also working hard to launch a new feature that will allow Android Google Chrome users to use visual search through the browser – again lowering the barrier of use for visual search.
StyleSnap, available on the Alexa or Amazon app, is Amazon’s move into the visual search market. As a forerunner in the e-commerce industry, Amazon is building several unique partnerships with existing brands, such as Snapchat, to improve the customer experience.
Jeff Wilke, Amazon’s Consumer Worldwide CEO, announced StyleSnap in June 2019 saying “When a customer uploads an image, we use deep learning for object detection to identify the various apparel items in the image and categorize them into classes like dresses or shirts. We then find the most similar items that are available on Amazon.”
Source: PR Newswire
Based out of Singapore, Visenze is a scale-up that is disrupting the visual commerce industry. Visenze provides a white-labeled product that can easily be integrated into retailers' and publishers’ websites, allowing images to create product search and engagement opportunities.
Israeli “super hyper-growth” startup Syte, are fresh off the back of a successful $21 million funding round led by Viola Ventures, with participation from Storm Ventures, Commerce Ventures, Axess Ventures, and Remagine Ventures. With partnerships with the likes of Farfetch, Tommy Hilfiger, Marks and Spencer’s, Samsung and Snapchat, Syte is well-positioned to capitalize on its growth. Syte has created a search tool for both large fashion brands as well as for shoppers. Its API for shoppers allows people to upload saved photos to find similar products for sale.
What’s next for Visual Search?
Visual search has the potential to change the way we interact with the world around us. The biggest challenge in the mass adoption of visual search is changing customer habits. As Charles Duhigg sets out in his book, The Power of Habit, habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, and reward. These can change by influencing just one part of the loop, the routine. And, currently, consumers' search begins at the Google textual search bar.
Shifting societies to visual search will not happen overnight. It will take time for users to trust that the underlying technology can find them the relevant products faster than they can think of the words to describe their desired item. There are currently about one billion visual searches each month (according to Google), but this is just a small slither compared to the hundreds of billions of textual searches. However, once customers’ routines shift to snapping a picture rather than typing words, they’ll never look back.
- Increased product discovery accuracy as well as conversion to purchase by combining text-based and visual search
- Increased partnership opportunities between brands, tech companies, and retailers
- Marketers will be able to gain better insights into customer motivations and, more importantly, habits to provide a more tailored experience