The e-commerce landscape is changing rapidly and this is a lot due to the development of search. It was not a long time ago that we put a tremendous amount of effort into coming up with keywords in an attempt of finding the product we so desperately wanted.
The problem with visual search is that it is an extremely complex technology with a lot of different factors that need to be taken into account. The technology needs to be combined with psychological research in order to understand how we will actually use this technology. Also, there are other complexities related to the different fields of use. Visual search is not only being used for product search, but also for natural language processing which basically means that you can take photos of for example written ingredients and the search engine will then show you recipes related to those ingredients. Google has also announced that they will add features such as automatically logging into your wifi when taking a photo of the password.
I was a frequent user of Google Image Search during my years at University. Mainly, we used it as a way of finding photos with similar shapes and color scheme when we developed new concepts but it could also be used in a much better manner.
Quite often it happened that we collected a lot of photos, artworks, and products that we forgot to attach the sources to. Then it was an easy task to simply put them into Google Image Search and get the sources needed for our source lists. In other words, the basic technology behind visual search has been available for years.
Needless to say, Google Lens has developed over the years and today it is a very sophisticated search tool. Today it's available straight in the camera on Google phones and a few other phones with Android operating system, so there is no need to open up a separate app to find out where to buy a garment, or what ratings a certain restaurant has.
Another company on the forefront of visual search and social commerce is Alibaba's visual search engine Pailitao that was launched in 2014. Last year the platform had approximately ten million daily unique visitors. The platform enables their customers to search with images to find similar products at Taobao, the world's biggest e-commerce website. The website has billions of items and the search function is often used to find clothing or accessories worn by celebrities. Pailitao is also being used on their international e-commerce website AliExpress. The technology is especially suitable for AliExpress since it takes away the barriers of translating product descriptions. This is a great example of what amazing impact visual search will have on cross-border commerce.
We are expecting to see many more partnerships to enable visual search and social commerce. The latest partnership is between Amazon and Snapchat. The product enables Snapchat users to scan an object or barcode which is then being matched with products on Amazon. The product is currently only available to a small number of US users but as people are spending more and more time on social media we believe this will be a natural next step for the rest of the world.
Major retailers like Asos, H&M and Forever 21 either already have or are planning on integrating this technology on their websites. This truly proves that the way we shop is about to change.
So how can companies best prepare?
Due to the complexity of this technology, it may take years for it to become mainstream and available on most e-commerce platforms. So businesses need to keep an eye on what is happening in the industry to make sure their products are searchable. If possible, e-commerce businesses should try to collaborate with companies in the visual search field.
Apart from making sure that your products are searchable, an increased effort should be put into influencer marketing. It will get your brand out on photos and increase the likeability of being searched. Also, as social commerce is expected to increase, influencer marketing will most likely bring sales from tags on social platforms.
Once you have attracted people to your website, make sure that you have a straightforward website that will convert the visitors into customers. You can find tips and tricks in our article about how to improve the customer experience.
Would you like to talk to us about how our payment method can create a more seamless shopping experience for your customers?