Visual Search – The Ecommerce Trend You Need To Know
Perhaps the rise of visual search was inevitable. We should have seen it coming, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The idea of visual search is a simple one: a user uploads a picture of something they’re searching for and is presented with the results that best match. It’s been around a while, but technological advances, especially with regards to smartphone cameras, are persuading more brands that visual search might be worth a closer look (no more puns, I promise).
It may come as no surprise, but it’s retailers that are leading the charge here. And when you think about it, it makes sense. Take Topshop as an example – if I’m looking for a pair of boots and type that in the search bar, I’m given over 150 results. While I can filter these down by colour, size, price, etc, that all takes time. Image search would allow me to upload a picture of a favourite pair of boots (maybe they’re an old pair I need to replace, a pair that I’ve seen on another website or even pictured on a celebrity) and return only the closest matches.
Not only is it a quicker way of searching (if I want short brown boots, it cuts out tall ones right there and then), but for some retailers it creates a customer journey and experience that is more in line with user habits. In particular, millennials and Gen Zers who spend so much of their time using their smartphones and sharing pictures will likely find this a more natural way to search and shop.
That’s not to say there aren’t down sides to this way of shopping. How many of us having been searching for a particular item, and before you know it your basket is filled with half a dozen other items that you didn’t know you wanted, but now you just have to have them? That element of discovery is likely to be lost in the short term.
Yet as visual search evolves, you can bet that retailers will be leveraging the users’ data, purchase habits and behaviours to start deploying unnervingly accurate algorithms. Soon, not only will you be served the perfect pair of boots based on the picture you uploaded, but the perfect handbag and coat to go with it.
And that’s all before we’ve even considered the potential for some kind of virtual reality-image search combination that transforms your online shopping basket into your own personal fitting room. One thing's for sure - it will be fascinating to see what the future holds.