Searching goes visual

Robert Hazeleger
Visual search, the new hype

As part of our series on digital hype and trends, we’re taking a look at Visual search.

What is visual search? Quite simply put, visual search means using a picture to search instead of typing out a search term. By using an app, you can take a picture of something you see or use an existing picture in your camera roll to search for information on that item. The app identifies the item through a multitude of algorithms and proceeds to supply a list of related information. This way of searching is fast becoming incredibly popular. There are a few big names already making the most of this relatively new feature. A few notable examples are:

HCL Commerce: Our primary platform partner recently implemented an element of visual search to their storefront portfolio. With Emerald Storefront a barcode scanning tool is used to bring up a thumbnail of the product you scanned and adds it to your shopping cart. This makes shopping a much faster and easier experience as there is no need for entering text of typos. Check it out. HCL has also entered into a Google Cloud partnership which (amongst many other benefits) supports the use of Google API for Visual search. For more information on the HCL Commerce and Google Cloud Platform synergies, click here.

Pinterest Lens (the visual search feature) is extremely popular at the moment with hundreds of millions of visual searches taking place every month. It allows users to search for items they’ve taken a picture of and users can also upload existing photos from their camera roll. The app then identifies pins similar or related to the item and indicates where those items can be bought. In some instances, it links the user directly with the shoppable page of the retailer. From research conducted by Pinterest, they’ve identified that the vast majority of people shopping for clothing or furniture place more value on visual information than text. Consumers enjoy the feature when shopping in-store as it creates a more immersive experience.

Snapchat camera search – Retail giant Amazon has partnered with Snapchat to create a visual search opportunity. Users can use Snapchat’s camera to scan an object or a barcode, which brings up information showing that, and similar items, along with their title, price, image, review score and Prime availability. When they select one, they’ll be sent to Amazon’s app or site to buy it. Snapchat figures out if you’re scanning a song, QR Snap code or object, and then Amazon’s machine vision tech recognizes package covers, logos, artwork or other unique identifiers to find the product.

Google Lens enables the user to simplify a multitude of actions. It allows you to point your camera at an object to find out what it is e.g. a plant. It will then tell you what kind of plant it is, but also supply additional information based on the object, such as nearby garden centres. Another handy feature is finding a great restaurant or bar. It will recognise places and provide details such as menu items, opening times and review in a pop-up window. It can translate, shop and search around you, making shopping or travelling a more fun and engaging experience. Google Lens operates as a stand-alone app, but can also be accessed in other ways such as Google Assistant or Google photos.

The capabilities of visual search are expanding and growing. More and more retailers are likely to jump on the bandwagon since shoppers prefer easy and fun new ways to find items they desire.

If you’d like to find out more about what visual search could mean for your business, please get in touch!