Forward-thinking retailers are leveraging visual search to personalise customer engagement and ensure that customers get to desired products as quickly as possible.

E-commerce has revolutionised the retail industry providing a convenient way to search and buy products. Using text to search for items is still common practice, however, new forms of search have emerged. Namely, voice and visual search have taken the retail world by the storm and we see more shoppers using images to find a desired item. The cutting-edge technologies behind the visual search are machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). They are used to identify objects in the photo and find images related to searched objects. And while voice search is no less popular, visual search is far more practical. Instead of describing a product we’d like to buy, it’s much easier to show a picture of a product.

The popularity of this tech is on the rise. Estimates show that the global image recognition market is projected to reach $79.8 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 19.7 per cent. It’s worth noting that as much as 62 per cent of millennials and Gen Z consumers would want visual search capabilities as part of their digital shopping experience. This should signal retailers to start offering the possibility to use visual search tools and gain much needed competitive advantage.

Visual search helps Amazon stay one of the major players in social commerce

Social media have become a powerful tool for both retailers and consumers. Instagram, for instance, is a great place where you can follow either fashion-oriented influencers and brand ambassadors, or brands themselves. Finding, however, an outfit that’s similar to those you see posted on Instagram can be a challenge, and describing it in words and expecting Google to ‘know’ what you mean is a little bit too much even for smart algorithms at times. But, Amazon has come up with a great solution that might help you purchase items you love. Namely, Amazon’s StyleSnap is an AI-powered feature added to the existing Amazon app, helping you find looks you’d want to purchase as easy as it can be. First you take a photo of an item you like “ or screenshot of an outfit, upload it onto the Amazon app, and you’ll be presented with items that look just like the ones in the picture”.

Lush provides personal shopper service

British Poole-based cosmetics company, Lush, launched an app dubbed LushLabs. The app relies on image recognition to allow consumers to easily find out key information about any product they like. The company has suffered a major financial blow by lockdown, reporting that its “revenues had fallen by 55 per cent in the three months to the end of May, but the company is hoping business to improve. Chief executive Mark Consantine is rather optimistic and states that the company has a plan that might yield positive results.  “Just in the same way that many of our customers have a lot more money than they thought as they haven’t been able to spend, so we intend to pull our horns in, build our cash reserves, open very few shops and lose the parts of the business that are not performing.” And the app can be useful especially during the pandemic when it’s not advised to use samples. Instead, the app that’s available for both iOS- and Android-powered phones enables shoppers to simply scan unpacked products and get information they may need. Besides ingredient information and price, consumers can also view “how to use” demonstrations.

“The most unique thing about the Lush Labs App is the development process. We don’t invest a huge amount in market research and advance planning like other companies. This is because we feel we can create products that perfectly suit the needs of users by quickly trying creative ideas that customers can test, and then listening to their feedback before iterating and perfecting as we go,” reads the company’s website.

Syte’s visual search technology helps enhance product discovery on e-commerce sites

Since consumers nowadays are provided with endless choices, finding the right product is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Clearly, boosting profit and turning visitors into regular shoppers in a competitive landscape such as the retail sector is a lot easier with visual search technology. This inspired the Tel-Aviv-based AI tech startup Syte to develop “visual search technology for major brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Forever 21, and Marks and Spencer”. The tool, designed to enhance the shopping experience, allows shoppers to navigate and filter products through visual content. Lihi Pinto Fryman, the CMO of Syte explains that  “If a user uploads an image of a full outfit looking for the earrings and gets results only of the pants, trust in the technology is lost. By powering visual search that exceeds expectations for accuracy, speed, and user experience, our goal is to instil that trust in users that there is technology out there that can help you discover any product that inspires you.”

Syte’s suite of solutions includes “Camera Search, Deep Tagging, Next Generation Textual Search, Recommendation Engines, In-Store Smart Mirrors and Tablets”. Visual Search Navigation is powered by Syte’s Deep Tagging technology that uses smart algorithms to assign textual tags on the retailer’s online platform. Consumers use animated icons to filter products, which eliminates the need to explain what kind of product the shopper is looking for. Instead, the new tool will allow shoppers to show what they want. Another useful tool is Camera Search, “a Visual AI solution that makes every picture, screenshot, or real-world image instantly shoppable from within a retailer’s inventory. Shoppers can simply upload an image onto a retailer’s website or app to immediately browse and buy the most visually similar items available. Camera Search simplifies product discovery, bridges the gap from inspiration to purchase, and eliminates the barriers of textual search,” explained Lihi.

Syte’s innovations could help various online retailers to simplify product discovery. Ever since 2014, when the company was founded, it has been helping retailers to enhance product discovery. The company has experience under its belt, and in the past it worked with big names such as Nike and Marks & Spencer.

The future of  retail: think visual search technology

AI-powered visual search technology allows brands to engage with their customers in a more interactive way. Visual search powered by image recognition technology could help retailers improve their customer experience which, in return, can result in increased revenue. Not only does visual search help shoppers find items they like, but it also saves consumers’ time and makes the process of finding the right product smooth and hassle-free. With further advancements in cutting-edge tech such as intelligent algorithms, visual search engines will be able to process data at a much quicker rate, which presents a great opportunity for e-retailers to drive their revenues even in the post-COVID world.