What Retailers Need To Know About Visual Search Engines

Ancient piece of wisdom that an image speaks for at least 1000 words may be truthful, but it can become a misguided truism when applied to the world of ecommerce. Online retailers have approached this age-old adage by focusing only on making their shopping websites visually appealing as a perceived means to get to the buyers’ credit cards faster. Today, shoppers have seen through this intent and they demand an upgraded customer experience in addition to pretty pixels and eye candy. That’s why customer experience is seen as the new retail battlefield. The answer to the riddle came in the shape of visual search engines that currently seem unstoppable in their conquest of the retail sector. Resistance is indeed futile, which makes it obligatory for you to set aside five minutes to learn why this technology wins the hearts and minds of customers and retailers alike.

Requiem for Keyword Shopping

First of all, you need to remember that the sayings about supremacy of visual perception over words need to be combined with another recent, but equally truthful statement which applies to retail. Information architect and UX pro Steve Krug’s classi “Do Not Make Me Think” recommendation regarding understanding how the users interact with websites applies to your retail site as well. This means that your users visit them with a specific intent that you should help them put it in practice as easily and as directly as possible. So, is there a better sort of assistance than helping them get rid of textual “chains” which they are bound to, when looking for the products to buy?

Therefore, the first and foremost task of visual search in retail is to speak the language of visuals, not textual keywords. Visual search engines see images by their sizes, colors and shapes and do not depend on the ability of the user to supply textual description of an item they are looking for. They play a key role in facilitating interaction between the customers and the retailers’ online offer, which is confirmed by the research showing that 74 percent of customers claim that they find textual keyword performance lacking when they are looking for products online.

Instead, visual search makes browsing an e-commerce site easier, as the users can paste their photos into search fields, as well as send images via social media or phones and instantly receive a list of products. At the same time, visual search engines are helped with AI technology that makes it possible for buyers to receive personal recommendations based on the image they uploaded or are viewing.

Intelligent Shopping with Visual Search

In an age when customers frequently shop for the look and not necessarily for a particular piece of clothing or even a brand, you must find a way to inspire buyers by going beyond mere words. When a buyer decides to purchase a dress, for example, he/she will do it because it is eye-catching not because it was described as being the second best thing since the invention of wheel. Using a dress as an example is hardly accidental, as 39 percent of all visual searches today are related to apparel which encompasses clothing, shoes and other accessories. If you want to get to the top of apparel retailing food chain, you must find a way to visualize your customer’s desire by offering a user friendly and hands-on visual shopping experience.

Customer experience doesn’t end once the consumer places the order, either. In fact, it continues when the purchased item arrives. Rocking cool packaging has been proven as an effective way of boosting user experience and consequently, sales. If you’re lacking ideas on how to improve in that field, you can see how these brands are rocking their ecommerce packaging to get inspired.

Turning images into actionable shopping proposition is made easier with the visual search technology offered by Syte. This solution is soundly in line with the above recommendations regarding focusing on the power of visuals and making shopping experience intent-based and simplified (remember Steve Krug’s recommendation?).

Consider an example of boohoo.com. Boohoo successfully established a visual retail offer by providing the customers with an opportunity to look for items similar to the one they are currently looking at. Through the use of Syte’s technology which is based on deep learning and artificial intelligence, shoppers can simply hover over an image of an item and be presented with items similar in color, design, fabric or pricing.

All of these suggestions are computer generated, which means there is no dedicated squad of employers sitting behind computers and adding related items to each and every piece of apparel in the store. It is fast on the backend, seamless on the front end, and best of all, a significant improvement in the user experience of online apparel shopping.

This is how it works in practice:

providing the customers with an opportunity to look for items similar to the one they are currently looking atThere is no reason why the customers shopping for trousers should not be offered visually compatible shoes on the same occasion [Credit: Screenshot]

As it can be seen here, the model in question is wearing trousers. However, the AI recognized the shoes on the photograph, and when visitors hover over the part of the image where the shoes are, they are given suggestions on similar items.

The user came for the trousers, but likes the way they put the whole outfit together. Visual search allows the user to buy all outfit items easily. As an outcome, users can search seamlessly from one product to another.

While shopping for a certain look, visitors are sometimes met with annoyances like out of stock items on particular sizes. With the help of a visual search engine, consumers are instantly offered the best alternatives to the currently missing items, which guarantees higher conversion rates and sale revenues. Once again, by simply hovering their mouse over such items, they are presented with other similar items that they can browse and ultimately find something they would like. As the next step in shopping personalization, this technology allows visitors to do online what they have always done in physical stores – ask the store assistant if they have anything similar to the item they are currently looking at.

Consequently, using visual search capabilities for apparel retailing offers clear benefits in terms of achieved business results. As reported here, visitors who used visual search view 37% more products on average, spend 36% more time on the retailer’s website and account for 68% more return visits. Finally, their average order value is 11% higher, compared to the shoppers who are not offered visual search option. Finally, whatever you may think of using visual search technology in retail, its figures are rock solid and forged in the foundries of success.


Global retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of visual search technology as a means to offer stellar shopping experience and buyer engagement, in exchange for improved conversion and higher revenues. Visual search tech has found its natural ally in the world of apparel retail, as this sector traditionally depends on the customers who shop with their eyes. As the pair of eyes is virtually useless without a brain to get the visuals right, you will do best by pairing your visually attractive retail offer with intelligent solutions.