What is Image Search?

Image search is a function that allows users to make queries with photos instead of words. The results that surface are in the form of images as well.

Search bar with camera icon

Once a novelty, it is now an important part of the customer experience because it allows shoppers to communicate their needs even when they do not have the vocabulary for it. Image search allows for more seamless and friction-free shopping. Consequently, it can aid in cross-selling opportunities and eventually, increased conversions. This is because shoppers have an easier time connecting with the exact items or finding similar products.

Screenshot of an online image search tool for eCommerce brands
1stopbedrooms’ image search function

Why is It Essential to the Customer Experience?

Image search eliminates the need to convert thoughts and images into words. Instead, customers can simply upload an image onto the search bar and be presented with relevant results. They can augment the search with other attributes, such as colors, size, shape, brand, but these are not necessary for a truly intensive image search and visual AI.

Because there is no need to put searches into words, the shopping experience becomes easier for a customer. It shortens the path they take to purchase, so long as the image search is accurate and instant.

Compared to visual search, text searches are limited in their capability to find a product a customer is after. Moreover, filtering and going through pages of SKUs are also time-consuming. Customers find it easy to drop the purchase if they encounter any roadblocks along the way—something brands do not want ultimately.

The following are some of the advantages of employing the technology on your website:

  • Search results are more accurate. While visual search solutions are not created equally, the best ones can train the algorithm to reach as close to 100% accuracy as possible. Besides identifying items in an image, the tools can also group the results according to categories and recognize certain attributes such as material, shape, and texture. The results can be exact all the way down to the touch and feel of a product.
  • There are more opportunities for cross-selling. Search tools can also identify multiple items in an image, which then allows customers to discover more products. Moreover, if a brand does not have a stock of the desired item, it can still display similar or complementary items that inspire a purchase.
  • The shopping experience becomes more instant and intuitive. Customers get inspiration from many sources such as social media and beyond. Visual search makes it easier for shoppers to immediately connect with items as soon as they find online content that appeals to them. Consequently, as brands seamlessly match customers with products of interest, they gain a competitive edge with the solution.

Here’s another example of a visual search tool on Castorama’s site:

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