Imagine this: you’re redecorating your kitchen, and need something to fill up that empty space on the countertop. You remember your friend has an amazing vase, and can picture it sitting there in your kitchen. The only issue is, your friend was gifted the vase and can’t remember where it was from. Enter visual search.
Visual search uses images as the input for searches, rather than text. A user takes a picture and clicks search, and AI and machine learning (ML) work to find similar images on the web. This means you wouldn’t have to search up: ‘green and blue vase 30cm tall’ and go trawling through the endless results. Instead, visual search will bring up items that are similar, or if you’re lucky, the item you’re looking for.
It is not a new technology whatsoever, but technology developments mean that bigger volumes of images can be processed, making it more easily accessible for marketers and consumers alike.
Here are five brands who are using visual search in a way other brands could harness:
In 2017, eBay launched their ‘Find it on eBay’ which allows users to use photos taken from social media to scour eBay for their desired product. They also debuted their visual search tool, which enables real-world photographs, taken by users, to be used in the same way.
With more than one billion product listings, it is of utmost importance, if eBay is to work, for buyers to be successfully connected with their desired products. Using text search could pose a problem here, and visual search helps solve that.
Brands with a large amount of inventory could definitely take advantage of visual search in this way. A clothing company may have hundreds of red t-shirts, meaning a consumer searching for the perfect tee could become overwhelmed by choice and decide not to purchase. Visual search could help them find the perfect item.
2019 saw the release of Argos’ visual search tool, which allows users to snap pictures of homeware pieces and search for similar items on the Argos catalogue. With a range of items across the price spectrum, this feature allows users to find smaller budget products as well as more highly-priced items.
If a business with an inventory of competitively priced items from various brands adopted visual search as a technique, they could really increase the visibility of brands with price points both low and high, depending on what a customer is looking for.
Google Lens doesn’t only bring up products when a user searches with an image; it also brings up any relevant information that can be found. For example, you’re walking in a park and you see a flower you really like the look of. Snapping a quick picture with Google Lens can bring up the name of the flower, information about it, and where you can buy them online.
Having the ability to search for more information, as well as just shopping, meant Google Lens had 50 million installs in just 16 months. Brands could use this idea to their advantage, by enabling users to search for helpful information as well as for products to purchase. This could help improve customer relationships as well as boost up sales.
Being an entirely visual and picture-based platform, Instagram technically fits into this list.
It is the platform of the influencer. When sourcing the right influencer to partner with to sell products, visual search could aid marketers. Influencers are usually chosen based on their follower count or area of work, and although this can be effective, they aren’t always the right choice for a brand.
Using Instagram to search for images similar to what you would like to promote – for instance kitchenware, or beauty products, would most likely bring up posts from influencers. This way, marketers will be able to find affiliates who post content about similar products and are reaching audiences suited to the brand.
Salesforce: Einstein Vision
Einstein Vision is a B2B product which helps brands navigate their social media better by searching for logos on social images. This means that if customers are not tagging or mentioning a brand on their social media posts, Einstein Vision can be used to search for a company or brand logo, so it can be determined how many people are using a product.
This can aid in determining engagement and strategising according to this, as well as by sourcing influencers to advertise products.
By harnessing or developing technology such as this, brands will be able to establish relationships with their customers which are sometimes difficult to make through social media.
These are just a few examples of brands who are harnessing the power of visual search. It can be a simple process that can be put in place in order to unlock a whole new realm of discovery for your brand. With developments in AI and ML, it will be interesting to see further developments in this area in the future, and the benefits that these developments will bring to brands.