7 ways visual search improves the ecommerce experience
Sep 27, 2018

Visual search for ecommerce is a tool that is changing the way consumers shop. We know that customers love visuals — they just haven’t been able to immerse themselves in a fully visuals-driven experience until now.

Visual search is powered by AI that can recognize and match images and can identify objects in an image. When you use visual search, you’re actually getting a suite of options to upgrade your ecommerce experience. Here are seven improvements that create better UX, boost conversions, and make shopping a breeze for any customer.

1. Harness inspiration

Purchases are not made in a vacuum. People are paying attention to trends, influencers, magazines, and their friends. When they shop, all of these factors influence what they’re looking for. With social media, this is even more pronounced — “43% of consumers are influenced to purchase by the photos they see on Instagram.”

With visual search, you can render any customer images shoppable. All of that inspiration, all of those saved photos and social posts become a way to instantly find items that match a customer’s style. Take this bedroom photo that might be used for inspiration — the bench or any other object can immediately be matched and shopped:

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With over 60% of Gen Zers wishing social content was shoppable, allowing them to make their own personal saved images shoppable is a no-brainer. Image search allows consumers to go straight to exactly what they’re looking for, which is a game changer not only for consumers with big inspiration folders but also for anyone who is shopping for a specific occasion or costume, trying to find the perfect item for a friend, or hoping to surprise a picky partner.

2. Personalization at every turn

Providing a personal shopping experience online can be hard. You don’t want to ask visitors to your website to input a bunch of information right off the bat, but you want to give them a welcoming, individual experience.

That makes visual search a no-brainer. If a customer wants to match a certain design aesthetic, they can just upload a picture that is their perfect living room to immediately find similar items, just as if a personal shopper had pulled out a selection of lamps and rugs during an in-store visit.

With the same technology that drives visual search for ecommerce, you can add a “similar items” feature to your website. When a user sees something they like, they will automatically see similar items. So if they find a floral dress and think, “Yeah, something like that, but not quite . . .,” they can instantly see more suggestions that meet their criteria:

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This is a feature that shoppers want: More than one-third of millennials say that using a photo to generate product recommendations would be appealing. With the “similar items” feature, you are giving them the chance to generate product recommendations for themselves off of any item they fancy on your website. That’s about as individualized as you can get.

3. Upgrade text search

If you’re thinking, “Wait a second — I thought this was an article about visual search,” don’t panic. There’s plenty more of that to come.

But think for a second — visual search is hugely appealing to millennials and Gen Z. They make up a big chunk of the market, but they are not the only consumers. There are a lot of people out there who are not as comfortable with novel technology and might not use visual search on your website.

Why bring this up? Because visual search can actually make things better for them, even if they’re not using visual search itself. With AI generating visual search results, companies can automatically tag and sort images, meaning that text searches become way more accurate.

When you rely on this AI, you are standardizing your tagging process with highly accurate information. Length, pattern, type of metal, heel height — the AI can figure out all of that. So when you search for “short pink dress,” you don’t get this:

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You get this:

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4. Interactive elements

Let’s say you visit a website, and there’s no animation. Nothing happens when you move your mouse — it’s all static elements that you can click on to go to other web pages.

Now let’s say you visit a website, and there’s little animations that show up when you scroll and pop-ups that you can click through.

Which one do you think you’ll be sucked deeper into? Of course: the interactive one.

With visual search, you can make any image on your site an interactive feature. This “shop the look” feature turns every photo into an opportunity to pull browsers into a shopping interface. Take this shoppable photo — if you hover on any element (shirt, shoes, bag, etc.) you get information about the item:

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Click, and shopping options appear:

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Rather than just passively scrolling through your site, a shopper can now interact with pretty much every image on your page, pulling people deeper into the site and investing them in finding the perfect piece.

5. Convenience

You were wearing your favorite plaid shirt when the unfathomable happened — you spilled coffee all over yourself. The stain won’t come out, and you just want to replace the shirt with something similar.

Now, would you rather spend a bunch of time scrolling through dozens of plaid shirts and trying to filter on box-store websites for color and pattern, or would you rather upload a picture of yourself in the shirt and instantly find a duplicate for your favorite fall threads?

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176 shirts, endless colors, and not a single option to filter by pattern . . .

It’s not rocket science; you want visual search in a case like this. Visual search is up to 5x faster than text search when a customer is looking for a specific item, and the results are more accurate.

Sometimes people are just browsing, but when a consumer comes in ready to go with what they need or want, they will bounce from your site if they can’t find it. If that item is buried in your inventory, you just lost a sale.

6. Go mobile

Mobile optimization is critical — but it has to be more than just a mobile site. Customers want an easy mobile experience. If they’re going to a mobile site for shopping, they don’t want the flashy banners, the pop-ups, the hamburger menus, the endless filter options for searching.

They want to find what they’re looking for, and fast.

Adding a camera option to your app that consumers can use live makes searching for things instant, circumventing many UX problems for mobile ecommerce. Take popular German ecommerce site otto.de. When you want to navigate on mobile, you’re inundated with drop-down menus that eat your screen. Even when you get to a specific category, it’s hard to tell how many items there are or to get through them, and the filters only give you more drop-down options:

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Adding a camera button to your website makes this a worry of the past for consumers. Getting visual search up and running on mobile makes the mobile discovery process a no-brainer, especially when you consider that people who shop on their phones say images are the most important feature for purchase.

7. Capture missed opportunities

How many sales do you think your company has lost to out-of-stock or back-ordered items? And how many times have you been frustrated as a consumer when you find the perfect item but it’s no longer available, and you have to start your search all over?

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But what if, on an out-of-stock or back-ordered page, customers can also see similar items that are in stock? That redirects their efforts and keeps them shopping on your site rather than frustrating them into abandoning their search:

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With the same visual search tech that brought you all the features before this, you can turn a missed opportunity into a chance to discover a new product. Not only that, but taking care of out-of-stock or redirection pages in a way that prioritizes the customer’s objective sends a strong signal that you care about their experience.

Try it for yourself

If you want any of these features on your ecommerce site, they can be at your fingertips in just 24 hours with Syte. Contact us for more information.

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