Visual Search Is Disrupting The Online Retail Industry
Jan 28, 2018

Online retail is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. According to emarketer, “Worldwide retail ecommerce sales will reach $1.915 trillion this year. Double-digit growth will continue through 2020, when sales will top $4 trillion.” In order for online retailers to keep up with this growth they must implement new technologies that both simplify the shopping experience as well as engage their target audience in both a relevant and intuitive way.

What Is Visual Search?

Visual search has been around for some time now, but hasn’t been effective until recently due to strong improvements in accuracy. With these improvements, retailers who have implemented visual search are noticing an increase in their ROI. Visual search is being implemented as an alternate method of querying retailer’s databases. In a nutshell, the technology turns images of interest (from real life, the Internet, or social media screenshots) into shopping opportunities from the retailers’ collection. With the rise of social media amongst generation Z and millennials, our world is becoming more and more ‘visual’. Visual search capitalizes on this visual trend, enhancing the shopping experience by simplifying the search process. It utilizes the latest in artificial intelligence to imitate human neural processes and return accurate results that match consumer’s desires.

How Will Visual Search Affect The Retailer?

Visual Search can be used in many ways. For retailers this may mean having a camera button, similar to a text-search button whereby consumers can either take a photo or upload a photo of an item they want to shop for. Consumers may see items of interest on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook or in person. Visual Search then offers an intuitive pathway to locate and shop for these products. The technology has the ability to transform an image, such as a shirt seen on Instagram into a shopping opportunity. Retailers that offer a camera button for visual search have noted a 8-13% higher conversion to purchase rate than with text-searches. Additionally, the retailer can then up-sell to the consumer by offering them to ‘shop the look’, displaying the shirt with pants and accessories, enticing consumers to buy more than initially intended.

What Does Visual Search Mean For The Online Retail Industry?

Visual Search has reinvented the way in which consumers shop for products online. It offers consumers a direct pathway to the items they desire as well as opens new sales opportunities for retailers. Major online retailers such as eBay and Amazon have already begun implementing Visual Search into their eCommerce platforms. In doing so, they could benefit from being early adopters of this emerging technology by drawing in customers from competitors that are not yet offering these services. Young generations are spending on average 6-10 hours daily on their mobile phones, with most of that time on social media platforms. Retailers are then able to benefit from this new sales opportunity, connecting what is seen visually on social media with their online stores.

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