Imagine that you’re looking to put together a fashionable new outfit. What would be more beneficial for your search — a lengthy text description of each article of clothing or pictures of the clothing that you’re looking for? The answer is obvious.
When it comes to the fashion industry, image-based search is arguably a better fit than text because a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, the human brain can identify images within 13 milliseconds, and 90% of all information received by the brain is visual.
According to Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, “The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords,” which is why so many fashion retailers and companies are moving into the realm of visual search.
What is Visual Search?
Visual search is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that uses real-world images (screenshots, internet images, or photographs) to understand the content and context of these images and return a list of related results.
This is hugely beneficial in the eCommerce industry — especially for fashion and home decor retailers. Using visual search, retailers can suggest thematically or stylistically related items to shoppers in a way that text has never been able to capture.
Visual search is more than a trend. It’s predicted that the image recognition market will reach more than $25.65 billion by the end of 2019, and that early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30% in 2021. When it comes to shopping online for clothing or furniture, more than 85% of people put more importance on visual information than text information.
How Visual Search Works
Given how visual the human brain is, it’s only natural that visual search would evolve into a viable technological enhancement, yet a human brain is very different from AI. When humans look at a picture, we can identify patterns and shapes immediately; we don’t see a set of points and dotted lines like a machine does. Visual search teaches machines to see the same things as a human brain.
When presented with an image, visual search identifies objects within it. From there, it searches for images related to whatever that object was. For example, based on an image of a patterned shirt, a visual search would enable you to shop for an identical or similar shirt. The focus is on making sense of images and doing something useful with that information which is precisely what large platforms are successfully doing.
Popular Visual Search Platforms
Just about every big brand has developed its own visual search engines. For example, fashion giant Asos has implemented proprietary technology into their web properties that lets shoppers snap a photo of an item they like in a shop and find closely matched items on Asos.com.
And that’s just the beginning.
Pinterest Lens — There are over 600 million visual searches on Pinterest every month, and the company launched a first-of-its-kind camera search that “lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.” Pinterest also released “Shop the look” pins for advertisers to list fashion and home décor Pins, allowing users to select specific parts of an image and “shop the look.”
Google Lens — This turns your phone into a visual search engine. Because Google has an enormous amount of data from which to improve its search functionality, Lens can not only identify objects in an image, but also match them to local retailers, provide customers reviews, and sort listings. It can identify more than a billion products and works in real time.
Amazon StyleSnap — As the name indicates, this recently-launched platform focuses on fashion. Consumers upload images in the Amazon app, and it considers factors like brand, price, and reviews to recommend similar items. If you see something you like in a store, just snap a picture with the Camera Search functionality inside the Amazon app, and you’ll see related products on the site.
Bing — The company has integrated its visual search in an innovative mobile app for the large platforms, and they also have a dedicated web platform just for visual search. What makes them different from the others is that it allows users to select portions of images and focus in on specific items to further refine their search. According to the company, “by leveraging our computer vision recognition and knowledge we provide, you can build visual skills that provide new knowledge and actions.”
How eSellers Can Optimize Visual Search
No matter the size of your brand or what kind of clothing you sell, you can leverage the current visual search technology to your advantage.
Include Original Images
Your photos can help sell your merchandise. Simply pulling images of products from manufacturer destinations will do nothing for you in the increasingly personalized world of eCommerce and SEO. Whereas unoriginal images could wind up on multiple sites with no differentiation, using unique, high-quality product photos helps separate you from the rest by making your images stand out.
Advertise on Pinterest
Remember those 600 million visual searches each month on the platform? Add to that the fact that half of Pinners have made a purchase after seeing a Promoted Pin, and it’s safe to say that eSellers need to get in on the action. With Pinterest’s core visual search technology and advanced image recognition, brands can advertise their products alongside similar items for maximum impact.
Use Unique Descriptions, Titles, & Tags
Just as in-depth keyword research is vital to SEO in the text-based SERPs, the same can be said for visual search. Conduct keyword research, and then integrate these words and phrases into the image’s title and description. Don’t forget about alt tags, which serve to provide context to search engines and help them to rank pictures accordingly.
Visual search is still relatively new in the tech sphere, and will explode in popularity in the coming years, proving to be a valuable tool for fashion eSellers. With just a click of their camera phone and an upload to an app, shoppers will be able to get the clothing they want almost instantaneously.
Are you ready?