News Feature | April 30, 2014

The Rise Of Visual Search

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Visual Search

The Future Of Online Searching

A recent story in Pointofsalenews predicted that visual search companies will power the future of retail.  The rise of the smartphone has changed the way consumers search and shop by placing the power of connected search in their pockets, immediately available to them at the touch of a button. Virtually the whole of human knowledge is organized, instantly accessible and portable.  

Previously, the only obstacle to achieving your desired search outcome was the ability to verbalize what you could visualize.  But now visual search companies are changing that.  

According to Hubspot, people are visual beings. Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. Visual content drives engagement. In fact, just one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content  photos and videos — saw a 65% increase in engagement.

We are inspired to take action by the things that we see, and this is why recent advancements in the area of visual search are setting the stage for a major shift in how people interact with the world around them. By combining advanced image recognition technology with search algorithms, social network integrations, mobile specific technologies like NFC (near field communication) and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), today’s visual search companies allow users to perform highly intuitive queries based solely on what they see (online and in the world around them).  

Access to information is no longer based on an ability to translate into words what you see with your eyes, and that changes everything. By blending offline interaction with online applications, the way people see and interact with objects is changing on a daily basis.

These developments will have a particular impact on retail.  It is particularly timely, since visual search technology is entering viability just as the industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of upheaval.  Retailers are simultaneously seeking to develop or overhaul omni-channel strategy, mobile commerce functionality and addressing the granddaddy of all retail threats, showrooming. visual search technology could provide a way to unify the disparate components of retailer operations and provide the modern consumer with the incredible shopping experience they’re seeking.  

As Tech Cocktail reports, with Slyce, shoppers simply use their smartphones to take pictures of a product they see and be instantly presented with the item, or a similar item, in a particular retailer’s stock. Unlike the technology created by Amazon, Slyce allows users to take pictures of products in real life and free-form (i.e. not in some kind of packaging) so users can take a picture of an outfit that is currently being worn by a friend and see if a particular retailer can find that same item. Retailers can integrate the technology into their own native mobile apps, giving them the opportunity to match competitor products with something they themselves provide.

Utilizing state-of-the-art visual search technology and processes, Slyce is working with major retailers, brands, e-commerce providers, and several key strategic partners to provide a technology solution that is unifying omni-channel strategy, and a truly viable antidote to showrooming.  

Several leading retailers are set to launch new mobile applications built around visual search functionality. Featuring the retailer’s product catalogue as the sole context for results, shoppers will be able to perform incredible visual search actions in any environment. A few examples of how these integrations will work:

  • One mobile app will allow shoppers to snap a picture of a stranger’s outfit on the street and receive matching results from the current catalogue, purchase it, and have the outfit Shipped-to-Store for pickup or directly to any home address — all while in app.
  • Another retailer will utilize visual search as an in-store checkout portal, allowing their shoppers to snap photographs of the products they’re purchasing. Instead of standing in line at the checkout, the shopper simply walks out of the store and is billed through the app as they leave.  
  • Another app uses contextualized search, allowing their customers to photograph home improvement scenarios (a broken window, a hole in their wall) and receive how-to videos, necessary product information and an in-store mapping tool. 

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