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What You Need To Know About Visual Search

I pay close attention to how different forms of technology are used in the home furnishings industry, & one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Visual search is going to change the way shopping is done.

Visual search uses artificial intelligence (AI) to allow users to plug in a photo of a piece of furniture & find the exact product or related products. & while you may have used Google Image Search before, it’s extremely broad. Retailers can use this visual search more efficiently by installing the feature on their website & catering it to the products they carry. This kind of built-in visual search tool not only helps shoppers find the exact product they’re looking for on a retailer’s website, but it can help the customer find everything they’re looking for in one place.

ViSenze, an artificial intelligence company that offers visual search capabilities, found that 62% of Millennials want visual search over any other new technology. This same company also recently raised $20 million in capital funding.

According to Gartner, by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual & voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.

Visual search is coming, & the world is taking note. While most retailers in the furniture industry don’t yet use visual search, Houseology, a furniture retailer based in the UK, worked with visual search provider Syte to bring a visual search feature to Houseology’s website.

Nathan Thompson, organic acquisition manager at Houseology, says they selected their visual search tool due to Syte’s impressive proprietary AI, & stringently tested the tool against even the trickiest of furniture items (i.e. small table lamps on vibrant lifestyle imagery).

“Of paramount importance to us was how a visual search tool would perform when faced with often cluttered & sometimes low resolution photos screenshot from Instagram & Pinterest,” Thompson says. “We continue to be impressed with the results.”

What Houseology found to be unique about Syte’s visual search tool is its large retail lexicon due to partnerships with other e-commerce heavy hitters with large product databases. The machine learning element of the tool means that it’s constantly improving its results based on the selections of the store’s customers & the results don’t lie. Usage of the visual search tool on Houseology’s site has grown every month since implementation. In January 2019, usage of the visual search tool was 5% of the overall searches conducted on their site. “This is pretty impressive for a tool that we only implemented in Q4 of 2018,” Thompson says. “I would expect usage of the tool to grow to around 10-12% of the overall searches performed on the site by Q3 of 2019. 93% of users consider images to be a deciding factor in making a purchasing decision,” Thomson explains. “At Houseology, we offer premium, designer furniture & home furnishings. Furniture is an emotive, visual purchase since homes are our sanctuaries & a place where we want to feel comfortable and take pride in our surroundings.”

Visual search is still in its early stages, & there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But not too long from now, major social networks are likely to get involved, allowing consumers to upload images directly from social networks to visual search tools.

In fact, Pinterest already does this with Lens, their browser extension & the visual search tool inside Pins. There are over 600 million visual searches on Pinterest every month. Pair that with the fact that Pinterest now offers tools that turn pins into purchases, & it’s easy to see how powerful visual search can be through social media alone.

Visual search may not have picked up steam yet, but the general consensus seems to be that soon, visual search will become intrinsic to the online shopping experience & when it does, will you be ready?


Authors: Alex Milstein & Nathan Thompson

Outlet: Casual Living, April 2019

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