Report • 21.01.2019

Visual search: a picture says more than a thousand words

The new product search using images

Showing a photo of a product is often easier than describing it in words. This also applies to e-commerce. That's why customers can now simply upload and find a picture of a desired product online.

Google and Bing are perhaps the most popular engines for online image searches. The function that allows you to find similar looking images to the one you uploaded has been around for several years. With the help of artificial intelligence, the search engines search the web and subsequently display the image that is most similar. Zalando, Otto, and ASOS are among the retailers who have taken advantage of this feature last year. Their goal is to make it easier for customers to search for and find products.

The road from photo to product

People like to be inspired by other people's outfits on social media or in real life. If they search for the outfit by using text, the search often doesn’t come up with the desired product. Usually, there is not enough pertinent information like the brand or product name to launch a more targeted search. That's why the online stores concluded that "a picture is worth a thousand words" and implemented visual search technology. Instead of entering keywords into the search bar, customers can simply upload an image of the product they are looking for. This actually works well most of the time, allowing consumers to instantly find a similar looking or the exact product.

Examples of a visual search

A progression of product recommendations

Product recommendations on websites like Zalando use machine learning, a subcategory of artificial intelligence and so does visual search. Software scans the structure of the images and the data is stored as vectors in the system. The vectors in the database are then compared and the images with the best match are displayed as product recommendations on the webpage. Visual search is the logical progression in this case. It allows customers to take advantage of data that was previously only used by the company.

Who benefits from visual search?

E-commerce retailers that offer a large selection of different products can benefit from visual search and should look into it. Visual search is especially worthwhile for industries like fashion, interior design, and art because the respective products tend to be more difficult to describe using words. That's one reason why Zalando and ASOS have decided to implement this technology. Having said that, visual search can also assist customers in more complex settings like finding special machine parts for example.

clothes on a rack
Large online shops for fashion already have a visual search to make it easier for customers to search in their assortments.
Source: Lauren Fleischmann on Unsplash

That sounds like a lot of work

By now, it is relatively easy and cost-effective for businesses to implement this tool thanks to the integration of an API (application programming interface) or an app development using an SDK (software development kit) from visual search engine providers. There are companies on the market like syte.ai that focus on fashion products, Slyce which specializes in app integration or all-in-one solution providers like ViSenze. The best and smartest way to embrace the tool is by adding visual search to an already existing shopping app since smartphone users use their camera already to take pictures or screenshots of things they would like to have. Taking the next step and snapping a photo or uploading it with the smartphone is an easier endeavor versus users doing this on their laptop for example.

Visual search competes with voice search

Visual search is not the first evolution of search engines that uses artificial intelligence. In recent years, voice assistant technologies like Siri (Apple), Cortana (Microsoft), and Alexa (Amazon) have helped consumers to find products in online stores. The problem with voice assistant technology? It is more difficult for computers to recognize and understand speech than images. That’s why most searches end up going nowhere.

Users embrace visual search

The image site Pinterest is one of the earliest users of visual search. This social network is designed to discover new ideas and interests through images uploaded by users and retailers. Thanks to visual search, an interesting object is selected via a so-called "pin", which starts a search in the network for similar images that end up on buy buttons. This search is also an option with images that are uploaded by users. According to a study by Pinterest, searches with images that were uploaded by users increased from 250 million in February 2017 to 600 million in February 2018, proving that there is an ever-growing interest in using pictures for product searches.

Author: Maxim Abramov, iXtenso - Magazine for Retailers

related articles:

popular articles:

Thumbnail-Photo: The new connection: Mobile payment via electronic shelf labels...
03.01.2019   #mobile payment #brick and mortar retail

The new connection: Mobile payment via electronic shelf labels

Interview with Alexander Hahn from digital payment service provider Wirecard

It’s a customer’s dream: no more waiting in line at the checkout counter. At this point, consumers can already scan their purchases with their smartphones, pay and leave the store. Wirecard collaborates with SES-imagotag and makes this ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Self-service sells
08.02.2019   #touch screens #kiosk terminals

Self-service sells

Kiosks represent an important part of retail’s future

Self-service is growing exponentially in all areas of retail, hotels, restaurants, healthcare and banking environments. Customers increasingly expect self-service technology options and traditional brick-and-mortar stores are no exception. Retailers ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Plantorama grows
04.04.2019   #brick and mortar retail #electronic shelf labels (ESL)

Plantorama grows

And so does the customer experience

The largest garden and animal center chain in Denmark invests in a new and large inspiring garden center in the city Egå near Aarhus.  An extra effort is made for the customer experience with initiatives such as a coffee shop, a ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Worry-free legal compliance: tips for newcomers to online retail...
18.02.2019   #online trading #e-commerce

Worry-free legal compliance: tips for newcomers to online retail

Interview with Johannes Drijkoningen, Händlerbund e.V. (German online trade association)

It is imperative for all online retailers to be legally compliant. We talked to Johannes Drijkoningen, Association Advisor at the Händlerbund e.V. about support, relevant information and unfounded fear of digitization. ...

Thumbnail-Photo: retail trends: focus Retail Technology
12.02.2019   #mobile shopping #digital marketing

retail trends: focus "Retail Technology"

Omnichannel commerce, mobile shopping, seamless checkout – technology trends 2019

Would you like to find out about the latest retail technologies and hold something tangible in your hands at the same time?We'll be happy to send you a copy of our print edition retail trends: with the focus on "Retail Technology" ...

Thumbnail-Photo: The right payment options for online stores
11.02.2019   #online trading #security

The right payment options for online stores

How you can combat shopping cart abandonment with the right methods

One of the main reasons why shoppers will abandon a purchase is when popular online payment methods are not an option. That’s why online retailers must know what these payment options are. We give you an overview of the pros and cons for ...

Thumbnail-Photo: LANCOM Systems expands its solution portfolio with a range of powerful...
19.03.2019   #security #software developement

LANCOM Systems expands its solution portfolio with a range of powerful firewalls

Machine learning protects against viruses and malware

German network infrastructure supplier LANCOM is expanding its range of solutions with a full lineup of firewalls for small and medium-sized enterprises. The LANCOM R&S®Unified Firewalls are powerful solutions for effective cybersecurity: ...

Thumbnail-Photo: 3D shop and customer analysis with artificial intelligence...
04.02.2019   #customer analysis #Trade fair special EuroCIS 2019

3D shop and customer analysis with artificial intelligence

Product innovation at EuroCIS: Intenta S1000 people counter

Intenta presents the new Intenta S1000 people counter at this year’s EuroCIS – a new 3D vision sensor for fully automatic intelligent scene interpretations. This retail specialist tracks precise data for customer statistics thus giving ...

Thumbnail-Photo: Cameras, comfort and Artificial Intelligence...
09.04.2019   #security #cashpoints, cash register, cash desk

Cameras, comfort and Artificial Intelligence

Video: What self-checkout systems can already offer today

Self-checkout systems are enjoying ever greater acceptance and are regarded as an important future topic for retailers and customers. ...

Supplier

Elo Touch Solutions NV
Elo Touch Solutions NV
Kolonel Begaultlaan 1C11
3012 Leuven
Permaplay Media Solutions GmbH
Permaplay Media Solutions GmbH
Aschmattstr. 8
76532 Baden-Baden
EUROEXPO Messe- und Kongress-GmbH
EUROEXPO Messe- und Kongress-GmbH
Joseph-Dollinger-Bogen 9
80807 München
SES-imagotag Deutschland GmbH
SES-imagotag Deutschland GmbH
Bundesstraße 16
77955 Ettenheim
Intenta GmbH
Intenta GmbH
Ahornstraße 55
09112 Chemnitz
CCV Deutschland GmbH
CCV Deutschland GmbH
Gewerbering 1
84072 Au i.d.Hallertau
Casio Europe GmbH
Casio Europe GmbH
CASIO-Platz 1
22848 Norderstedt
Allgeier Enterprise Services
Allgeier Enterprise Services
Westerbachstr. 32
61476 Kronberg im Taunus
iXtenso - Magazin für den Einzelhandel
iXtenso - Magazin für den Einzelhandel
Celsiusstraße 43
53125 Bonn
Axis Communications GmbH
Axis Communications GmbH
Adalperostraße 86
85737 Ismaning