Why visual search should be in your pipeline next quarter
Aug 16, 2018

Prioritizing features and spend for e-commerce sites is difficult, especially because digital trends can be capricious. (Remember the avalanche of “pivot to video?” That was fun.)

But there’s a difference between trends and progressions. Trends come and go because they only offer a different aesthetic and not a better value. Progressions move industries forward because they help consumers get better value out of a product or service.

Visual search is a progression, not a trend. It’s a direct response to the way that we process the world and the way that the internet has developed. And getting in on visual search now means you won’t be scrambling to keep up with your competitors’ new features when the tide rises.

Companies haven’t yet adapted to the visual web

The internet has been shifting to a visuals-based platform for a long time. Digitally stored photos are such a big deal that the New York Times is publishing guides on how to back them up, visual apps are at record highs, and visual tech keeps getting better. In fact, visualized information has increased online by 9900% since 2007.

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This is due to a variety of factors, including faster average internet speeds, more advanced computer processing, and cameras appearing on every smartphone.

Eighty-five percent of online shoppers use visuals like product videos to make purchases. But we are still in the early phases of companies getting on board with the visual-heavy web, especially for e-commerce. Bing just announced a visual search powered by AI in June of 2018. The only e-commerce sites where users can reliably find visual search right now are big sites like Pinterest, Boohoo, and Kohls.

This lull is not going to last forever. Those who adopt visual search for their e-commerce companies now are going to be ahead of the trend — and this window is closing fast.

When sites like Boohoo, Intu, and ASOS all have visual search, their competitors are just around the corner. Alibaba is building visual AI and Amazon is trying to figure out what they want to do in the space. eBay has dabbled, and niche apps are already on board. Who’s next? If it’s not your direct competitor, it will be soon.

Visual search is a serious technology that has been developed in response to the way that consumers use the web. Not getting on the wave now means you’re just watching your competitors get in line before you.

Customers are starting to expect visual search

As more and more companies start to implement visual search, those people are going to come to expect and prefer it. Why? Because it is a driver of good UX.

Pinterest sees 600 million visual searches on their site per month. They saw 140% YoY growth in use in the first two years of the feature, because it provided people with a legitimate utility. Rather than seeing an item they liked on a Pin and trying to trace it back from the original uploader, or worse, describe the item for a text search, they can now immediately see items they like just by searching the image itself.

The market for visual search, including on mobile devices, isn’t going away. And the customers who are interested in visuals and shopping from visuals is growing — take Instagram, which is up 200 million users from December 2016 to 800 million users in 2018. This is a platform where people see, save, like, shop and discover all through images alone.

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Companies that cater to the growing customer expectation early are going to reap the profits. When customers know they want to use a visual search when shopping, they will go to sites that have that feature in order to make their own customer journey easier. Gartner predicts that, “by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.”

But you have to put in the feature as an early adopter — that’s now — or you and your profits fall behind.

You need time to streamline your visual search partnership before your competitors do

Even though companies like Syte can implement visual search on your site lightning fast, that doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it and reap the full reward. Yes, you will absolutely be boosting your value to customers overnight, but if you really want the full benefit of visual search, you need time to work with your partner to craft custom solutions.

Syte has seen our partners realize they need or want a custom solution that involves our visual search tool. This takes:

  • putting in the visual search tool
  • reacting to the way it changes your site
  • figuring out where that extra boost can come from
  • working with us to have that component built
  • implementing the component and going live

While we’re speedy, this type of customization isn’t something that comes with a 24-hour turnaround.

And when the technology is newer, you have more time to beta test and develop, brainstorm and power up on your time. But this is only the case if you adopt this tech now — otherwise you’ll be scrambling to copy features your competitors have that your (former) customers love.

Gartner put it simply in their 2018 predictions: “With visual and voice search rapidly increasing in popularity and on the way to being dominant mobile search modes, enterprises should experiment to identify the best ways to capitalize on this consumer shift. This search type enables marketers to gather more robust information about consumer habits, and early responders will see an increase in conversion rates, revenue, new customers, and customer satisfaction.”

But predictions for the future only last so long before they manifest. Budget in visual search now and your future will be brighter.

Capitalize while you can

Adopting visual search now is a way for your company to stay ahead of the curve, innovating and iterating on what customers will want to see most in the upcoming years. The time to push for this technology at your company is now — not when you realize everyone around you has the feature.

But it’s not too late. Get started on visual search now and reap the benefit tomorrow, and for the rest of our visual-dominated days.

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