Introduction: What is Visual Search?
They say we are visual creatures and that- visual things stay put while sound fades away. That is something we experience on a day-to-day basis.
Visual search is just the use of real images (be it a picture you click off your smartphone, or something you come across when rummaging the Internet), to stimulate your online research.
What visual search essentially does is to suggest related items to buyers making their search not just appealing, but also exact. To understand the context better and make visual these searches accurate, Artificial Intelligence (AI) proves to be most effective.
Why is Visual Search Necessary?
“Visual search is perfect for shoppers who face two dilemmas: I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know when I see it, and I know what I want, but I don’t know what it’s called.”
– Amazon Research
Visual search comes in handy especially in the e-commerce industry, most notably for fashion and home furnishings. Why do most retailers feel visual search might always end up proving to be a rich source for customer insight? Here is a scenario that might explain it better.
Sophie was at a furniture store recently. Strolling down the aisle, a chic sofa caught her eye, and almost naturally, she clicked a picture to show it to her partner. What she wanted him to do was not appreciate it along with her, but to search for better discounts online. However, it turned out to be an uphill task. All they showed was a similar sofa but not the same one- with that same look and feel, that same wow factor. Sounds like what almost all buyers have gone through.
Now how could such a situation change in this time and age? Well, what if instead of scavenging all around the net, Sophie could actually just upload her picture on to an app and that very tool could identify the image and show her what she really wanted. What a wonderful world would that be!
Research suggests that, when shopping online for clothing or furniture, more than 85% of buyers give more importance to visual information than text information. Thus, visual searches more often than not, seem to explain things consumers want in a much better way than a string of text could ever have.
Why AI for Visual Search?
As explained earlier, AI provides a great context when it comes to gaining customer insights. A large number of retailers, the likes of IKEA, ASOS, and Walmart have all built their own visual search tool. And, global brands like Argos, Tommy Hilfiger, Mark & Spencer have started investing in them already.
Many other retail companies have followed suit and are working to build comprehensive solutions of visual search to detect an image and show the same or even similar products to customers. This would not only increase the probability of selling products but also make customers happy and the chance of returning to shop for products will increase manifold.
Image detection has been an area of interest in not only retail but also other industries as well, namely construction and defence. The workings of the AI engine in the backend is simple. Once it has the individual pixels of the image, it then matches it with pixels of other images. The best match is presented to users. With shoppers facing a time crunch of sorts to browse through products of their liking, visual search is perhaps the best way forward. It proves advantageous for retailers to build a relationship with their customers who are able to find what they like almost instantly and without actually investing a lot of time in searching for them.
As a report suggests: 62% millennials would like to be able to do an image search rather than a text search. In addition, Gen Z consumers place a greater emphasis than millennials on turning to social media for inspiration. Nearly 60 percent more say they made a purchase just because they wanted to buy something or because they randomly saw an item they liked.”
Because of the increasing use of social media by Gen Z customers, visual search will surely help retailers make product search easy and connect with their customers better. For example, customers can easily upload a picture of their favourite celebrity and search for the products they use.
It is a visual world after all and visual search is transforming the way we shop.