Panoptic Search is Blurring Lines Between Online and Offline Shopping
Sep 24, 2017

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In the past 10 years, eCommerce has experienced a series of major shifts in technologies, features, and processes- all of which help explain its accelerated growth. The savviest online retailers know that in order to stay ahead of the game and have competitive advantage, they must stay on top of what’s up-and-coming in eCommerce. Digital transformations tend to take place relatively frequently for online retailers.

Technological Advancements in eCommerce

The advancements in eCommerce started with the simpler things, such as the implementation of customer reviews and responsive design. As the Internet industry itself matured, so did the process of design, and UX/UI transformed mundane eCommerce transactions into delightful shopping experiences. That quickly led to improved payment options, precise tracking of deliveries/returns, and social media integrations.

It was at that point in time that power began to shift towards the hands of the consumers. They were getting accustomed to high-speed Internet connections, and increasingly relying on Internet-connected mobile devices. That slowly fed into the need for more innovations, more instant gratification, and a more meaningful online shopping experience. It was time, once again, for online retailers to step up.

Innovations in search and navigation began to sprout, starting from suggested search items, leading up to voice and visual search across all devices. eCommerce simultaneously began to go mobile, with excellent results on a global level. It’s safe to say that it won’t be long till mobile commerce, or mCommerce, becomes its own entity. Yet interestingly enough, even with enhanced mobile shopping experiences, there was still a missing link. The link between spotting desirable items in real life, and instantly shopping for them online. This is where panoptic search and chatbots came in, and this is where we are today.

Panoptic Search and Chatbots
Panoptic search (also known as visual search) allows users to conduct searches using images that interest them, thereby eliminating irrelevant results. The results that do come up would consist of the exact items they desire, in addition to similar options with slight differences (such as color/design, materials or price point.)

This technology combined with chatbots creates a new kind of beast. Chatbots in general have exponentially grown since 2016, largely due to the popularity of messaging apps on mobile devices. There are currently over 100K chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone, and big names from Google, to Microsoft, to Amazon have launched chatbots, or tools to support chatbots.

The World as a Muse
The missing link between online and offline shopping has now been created in the form of a panoptic search chatbot: the Syte Inspire chatbot. This “shopbot” by Syte.ai originally made headlines in mid-2017 for using AI to serve as a “personal fashion assistant” to help users shop from photos/images of objects that interest them. The photos uploaded could have been grabbed from the Internet, social networks, or even by each individual user- and results were instantaneous. This grabbed the fashion and publishing world by storm.

Syte Inspire recently unveiled a new update, which allows users to expand beyond fashion, and shop for home decor items straight from the app. This means you can snap photos of that interesting bench at the coffee shop, or the sofa in your favorite lounge, and upload it to Syte Inspire to instantly see where you can purchase that exact item (if available) or something similar. Results will be presented from any image- the world is your muse.

Room for More Innovation
Considering the rapid demand from online retailers across multiple industries for such technology to cater to their fields, it would be interesting to see how much further such a shopbot could expand. It would be interesting to see visual shopbots capable of instantly identifying other items, such food items and tech gadgets. It would also be interesting to see how this technology could potentially tie in with augmented reality.

We’re in the midst of exciting times in the world of eCommerce. In addition to all that stems from panoptic search (and considering the rapid deployment of innovations,) it will be fascinating to see how much further the lines between online and offline shopping will be blurred throughout 2018.

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