Research shows that early adopters are predicted to benefit significantly from the new technology.

Visual search, the new tool which gives shoppers the ability to find items based on images, is rising in popularity. Data published by ViSense has shown that 62% of millennials are seeking the power to use visual search over other searching methods. Other research by Gartner makes the prediction that all searches will be ‘query less’ by 2020. This may be because visual search allows shoppers to find items that are hard to put into text-based questions, for example, “What color t-shirt looks good with these jeans?”, or “What jumpers look similar to this one?”.

Retailers are starting to pick up on the trend, ‘Markets and Markets’ have published a report mentioning that the image recognition market will grow from $15.9 Billion in 2016 to $38.9 Billion by 2023. And it’s not just clothing retailers that are jumping on the trend, for instance, Glasses USA has announced they are launching a visual search tool called “Pic & Pair”. Similar to clothing versions, it allows their shoppers to take a photo of a product, which will generate search results that look similar to the uploaded image. The project was a great success for Glasses USA, as they found that shoppers who took advantage of the search tool spent six times longer on the website and were five times more likely to make a purchase, compared to those who didn’t use the tool. For the company, making it easier and faster for customers to find similar products to ones they already liked, increasing the likelihood of sales and conversion, proving the potential this technology has across the eCommerce space.

The technology depends heavily on artificial intelligence, which is able to allocate textual tags to an inventory, which includes thousands of already recognized tags. Then, when a new image is uploaded, the AI image recognition software searches through the product list, matching tags in the inventory with ones found on the new image.

Customers, often have a clear idea of what they want, but have no clue how to look for it or describe it,” said Glasses USA CEO and co-founder, Daniel Rothman. “With this tool, we’ve simplified the process by working bottom-up and having customers show us what they want – and we’re offering customers the retail experience of a sales clerk’s assistance without having to leave their homes.”

Glasses USA is certainly a success story for the technology, however many of the retail giants are investing in the area too – customers of Amazon, Alibaba, Neiman Marcus, ASOS and Nordstrom are all enjoying the benefits of visual search too.

Forever 21 were big winners on the visual search front. After they reportedly partnered with Donde Search, the two firms created a visual search tool on forever 21’s mobile app, and let users test it for a month. The results were very positive – after just a month the retailer saw a 20 percent jump in average purchase value, and higher conversions too.

Specialists in the field are also benefiting from the increasing interest from both customers and retailers in the technology. Visual AI firm ‘Syte’, has just raised $21.5 million in a Series B round of funding. The company has offices in Tel Aviv, Geneva and New York, while also boasting big-name clients like Marks & Spencer, Boohoo and Tommy Hilfiger. “For us, the validation of our technology and product development has come from our clients, who have selected Syte to help them stay competitive in the fast-evolving retail industry.”, said CEO and Co-Founder, Ofer Fryman.

The company is planning to take on 70 new employees, who will be based in New York and Tel Aviv, to support their increasingly large client base, and help with their expected revenue growth of 300 percent in the next year.

The technology is especially popular with the 18 to 34-year-old demographic, who are 30% more likely to use it than other groups. However it is likely that soon, all age groups will embrace the innovation, as LaToya Christian, Managing Partner for GroupM’s Marketing Strategy & Analytics department, talked about in a recent Forbes article. 

“We can’t overlook that 50% of those 35-54 and 41% of those 55+ are interested in learning more and trying it out. These numbers indicate that there may be an opportunity for this technology to be embraced across age groups as it becomes more mainstream,” said LaToya. “Once consumers – especially those who may be a bit older – understand the relevant everyday use cases, that may make searching or purchasing more seamless. There will be no need to convince them. The benefits will be clear”.

With the rise in influencer marketing through social media, the addition of visual search will add an interesting component to this growing marketing medium. Should an influencer post a picture wearing a dress that a fan particularly liked, the fan could use that image to quickly find that item of clothing or similar versions.

An example of this came in March 2019, where a simple item became an instant hit with fans. After multiple influencers were seen wearing the same hair clips in pictures, fans scoured the internet, trying to find the original source of these suddenly must-have hair clips. Eventually, the seller was located – it turned out to be a small, no-name account on Amazon charging only $2.65 for a three-pack of the clips. However, this took fans quite a while, given the seller turned out to be so obscure. Now, imagine the same scenario with the added advantage of a visual search tool – fans could have found the item in seconds, using the photos posted by the original influencers.

Many sources agree that Visual Search is an important item for savvy, cutting edge marketers to not just be aware of – but knowledgeable on. LaToya Christian had this advice for her colleagues. “Get in the game now. While the adoption of visual search is still in its infancy phase, there’s an advantage to being ahead of the mainstream adoption curve. Curating image libraries, refining algorithms for better accuracy, and collecting data and insights based on consumers’ behavior will take time.