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This Is Why Visual Search Is Important

Ofer FrymanOfer Fryman | September 12, 2017

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The implementation of visual search technology is popping up all over the place, but what is it exactly? By its name alone, it doesn’t sound like it would be all that different from image search, and reverse image search. But oh yes, it is indeed very different.

  • Image search is a text-based search which leads users to images based on their query. That’s basically typing “Kittens” on Google, and getting back images of kittens.
  • Reverse image search doesn’t require text. You would upload an image, and get back related images. For example, uploading an image of Michael Jackson, and getting back images of him from his music videos.
  • Visual search scans images using artificial intelligence that mimics human thinking down to a micro level, and gives results that would naturally be of interest. That would be like uploading an image of a t-shirt with an image of Mickey Mouse, and getting back images of a bags and watches with images of Mickey Mouse that you can instantly purchase.

But why is visual search technology important?

It all comes down to the fact that interest in the visual element that can be added in business has been going on and strong for over 20 years. That is because of the psychological influence it has on customers. Take eye-tracking technology for example. It has been used for businesses to analyze the eye movement and fixations of customers, which ultimately led to to way items are arranged on supermarket shelves. It also helped manufacturers identify the most suitable shapes, colors, sizes, etc that would be most appealing to their customers.

As visual technologies continued to develop, in came the blending of that with image recognition, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and the Internet of Things. The visual search market was worth $9.65B in 2014, and is expected to jump up to $25.65B by 2019. This is largely due to the most innovative corporations, such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft wanting a piece of the pie by developing their own visual search technologies, or products that support it.

Visual search is also playing a significant role in transforming eCommerce. In fact, it is quickly becoming the new standard in that space. There are now visual search chatbots that act as digital shopping assistants, and there are also innovate visual search cameras that can be added onto mobile websites/applications to enhance the customer journey and serve as a new revenue stream for retailers. Visual search cameras in eCommerce allow users to upload images of a dress, for example, that interests them. Their results will include similar dresses with variations and at different price points to choose from.

Implementation of such technology allows enterprises to have an extra edge over their competitors who are limited to textual search, which serves as a barrier to those looking for styles that are difficult to describe. Customers in general, especially the increasing number of tech-savvy customers, are quick to appreciate advancements that help reduce effort on their ends for a seamless shopping experience. In turn, it also helps attract new customers, who are intrigued by the concept.

In short, visual search technology is a win for all, and has totally changed the face of many industries, especially eCommerce, for good.


Ofer Fryman

Ofer Fryman

Ofer is the CEO and one of the co-founders of Syte. He brings in 22 years of expertise in machine learning and deep learning.

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