Take a Picture, Find a Product – See How Retailers Such as ASOS & Neiman Marcus are using Visual Search

ASOS Style Match

ASOS Style Match

By Tricia McKinnon

While we are used to conducting Google searches by typing words into our smartphones visual search is planning a takeover. Visual search allows you to take a picture, upload it to a retailer’s app or a search engine such as Google then related items and information are generated similar to a regular internet search.  

Although a recent report by eMarketer found that only a small proportion of internet users (10%) have used visual search at least 48% of survey respondents are somewhat interested in the technology. The usage rates will increase as more retailers provide the technology.  

Furthermore, a survey of millennial internet users found that out of the following new technologies: shoppable content (in videos, articles, blogs, user generated content on social etc.), augmented reality (try before you buy) and live chat/messaging, millennials are most comfortable with having the ability to search by images (visual search) as part of their digital shopping experience.  More and more retailers are offering the technology including ASOS, Neiman Marcus and Target.

  1. ASOS makes shopping easier with a visual search feature on its app called Style Match. Customers using the feature take a picture of an outfit, upload the photo to the app and then similar items sold by ASOS are returned in search results.  The database underlying the visual search feature has more than 85,000 items and more than 5,000 items are added each week.  

  2. Neiman Marcus launched a feature within its mobile app called Snap. Find. Shop. Customers use the feature by taking a picture of an item using their smartphone camera while in the app.  The app then scans its inventory to see if Neiman Marcus carries a similar shoe or handbag. If it does it makes a product recommendation which the customer can then purchase.  The innovative app has increased customer engagement and overall app usage. Scott Emmons, Head of the Innovation Lab at Neiman Marcus calls the functionality the “Shazam for shopping”.

  3. Betting on the future of visual search, Pinterest launched Pinterest Lens in 2017. It uses artificial intelligence to show similar products after a user has taken a photo of an object.  Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest said: “I really believe that the camera will be the next keyboard.  It will be a fundamental tool you use to query the world around you, discover things around you, or visualize how something might fit into your life”. Since launching Pinterest Lens in 2017, there are more than 600 million monthly visual searches.  

    Recognizing the potential of this technology Target became the first retailer to incorporate Pinterest’s Lens technology into its own mobile shopping app.  Initially launched for products within Target’s registry, customers can take a picture of a crib and receive recommendations for similar products that customers can purchase at Target.  Target plans to expand the functionality to its entire product catalogue.  The hope is for customers, while conducting their day-to-day activities, even when they are not shopping, to see an item they like, take a picture of it using Target’s app and then they can find similar items to purchase at Target.


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