Author: Brett Butterfield ~ Source: See It, Search It, Shop It: How AI is Powering Visual Search
To use SIA, customers simply upload an image — a red carpet shot of a gorgeous dress, an ad from a magazine, or even a random picture of a friend’s jacket from your phone’s photos. From there, Adobe Sensei’s Auto Tag service extracts attributes from the image based on everything from color, to style, to cut, to patterns. At the same time, SIA’s custom machine-learning model correlates those tags with a massive catalog of products.
SIA then displays visually similar search results as well as relevant recommendations — items with similar styles, cuts, colors, or patterns, for example. SIA also uses these visual searches to build a rich profile for that customer’s preferences and tastes — a much deeper profile than what could be built from text-based searches alone.
“This is where visual search goes beyond just search and becomes a true shopping consultant,” Gina says, “and a superior, more sophisticated way to search for what you want and what you didn’t know you wanted.”
Eliminating the friction between seeing and buying
In delivering such a simple, seamless experience, AI-powered visual search removes the friction from traditional search-and-shop experiences. No longer do customers have to visit multiple retailers or sites and strike out. They can now find virtually anything, anywhere, even without knowing exactly where to find it.
With some visual search tools, people can snap a photo to call up a series of similar products across multiple sites and retailers. Google Lens, for example, pulls similar product examples from Google Shopping.
Other retailers use visual search to make the distance between seeing and buying virtually nonexistent — within their own brand experience. Macy’s, for example, offers visual search capabilities on its mobile app, which allows customers to snap a photo, and find similar products on Macys.com. It’s “taking impulse buying to new heights,” one source says.
Frictionless image search is just the beginning. “The value of visual search technology grows as the customer returns to the site,” Gina says. “On that next visit, it’s a more personalized, powerful targeted search. Just being able to pick up where I left off and get to that product that much faster helps reduce friction, and has been shown to increase conversions and order rate.”
Visenze, which builds shopping experiences using AI, is already seeing these benefits. In one example, the company saw a 50 percent increase in conversion among clients such as Nike and Pinterest that implemented visual search technology.
“In the United States, Amazon and Macy’s have been offering this feature for some time,” says Visenze CEO Oliver Tan. “Consumers are crying out for a simpler search process. If you do not, they will move on to somebody else.”
Rising to customers’ visual search expectations
Though the benefits of visual search are clear, as with any new technology, there’s still a gap in both adoption and customer expectations versus delivery. “Our current iteration of visual search gets us maybe 70 percent of the way there,” Gina says. However, even with visual search still in its initial stages, Gartner predicts that early adopters of the technology will experience a 30 percent increase in e-commerce revenue by 2021.
“Keep in mind, as more data and content become available the algorithms will get smarter, and the visual search experience will only continue to get better,” she says.
Given this accelerated growth and customers’ growing demand for personalized, frictionless retail experiences, now is the time to start evaluating and integrating visual search technology. To get started, focus on solving customer problems and getting your own visual assets in order — and don’t try to make your visual search workflows all about advertising.
Instead, aim to have solid metadata on products so that searching is easier and more natural. From there, work toward visual search processes that are real time and increasingly intuitive, creating a positive customer experience that keeps people coming back.
Learn more about the power of artificial intelligence, visual search, and other emerging technologies in retail in the Brick and Click Collection, now on the Adobe Blog.