See it, snap it, buy it: How visual search makes shopping smarter

Magdalena Bornos-Paciorek / February 2021

In a time of remote working and shopping, innovative technology has stepped up to aid with changing consumer needs so shoppers can experience virtually what they previously would do physically. One area that got smarter is Search. In addition to traditional text searches, a visual spin-off is creating new opportunities in the world of shopping.

Spotting new trends

With the pandemic redefining the rules of retail, and the rise of the stay-at-home-consumer, visual search is a game changer. While shopping inspiration previously came from offline sources, such as in-store browsing and events, now we’re shopping online more ⁠— which has increased the appeal of visual browsing through apps such as Instagram and Pinterest — and this extends to visual search. It allows users to upload a picture of a desired item and find it instantly with the click of a button, without ever leaving the house.

Visual search is changing the way people interact with e-commerce, especially considering current consumer behaviour trends

But it’s not only limited to the online world. For example, you see someone walking down the street who is wearing something you like, but it’s difficult to describe in words. Using Google Lens — which has already been used more than a billion times ⁠to identify items and to get styling recommendations from around the web1 — you can snap a quick photo and find relevant results instantly.

Stepping up with visuals

CCC Group is one of the largest footwear retail companies in Central Europe and one of the largest footwear manufacturers in Europe. They believe that staying ahead means strengthening one’s e-commerce presence so the retailer teamed up with the deep-tech company Yoshi.AI, one of the first businesses involved in the Google for Startups program, and implemented visual search.

“Our aim is to empower our retail clients with the most advanced AI technology available on the market including visual search and AI voice assistants. With these innovative solutions, retailers can both offer a more enjoyable and engaging shopping experience for their customers, as well as achieve significantly higher conversion rates,” says Katarzyna Dorsey, Founder and CEO of Yosh.AI.

See it, snap it, buy it: How visual search makes shopping smarter

Visual search allows their customers to upload a photo of a pair of shoes they’re looking for, or link to a photo from another website, and image recognition software narrows down the search to similar styles within their product offering.

“The tool is changing the way people interact with e-commerce,” says Michal Pachnik, head of ecommerce campaigns and mobile apps at CCC Group. “Especially considering current consumer behaviour trends.

Visuals are more important to customers these days than keywords or filters

Brands can track what shoppers click on, the styles they examined and most importantly, if they made a purchase. This means retailers can identify specific products and categories that consumers are eyeing — making it easier to double down on efforts that drive results.

“Visuals are more important to customers these days than keywords or filters,” Pachnik continues. “We found that consumers who use visual search are more likely to add products to their basket and buy them than those using a traditional keyword search.”

See it, snap it, buy it: How visual search makes shopping smarter

Looking toward the future

Since implementing the new tool, CCC has improved its conversion rate by 4X compared to traditional keyword search. This year, the company is aiming for one million searches conducted with the help of visual search.

“We’re always looking to try new things,” Pachnik says. “And ⁠with this tool we’re pleased we’ve been able to engage with today’s online consumers by providing an innovative and personalised shopping experience.”

While it’s impossible to predict the future given the tumultuous time we’re in, it’s a safe bet to say that digitally innovative technology will be sticking around. And the brands that learn how to successfully leverage those capabilities in an increasingly digital landscape stand to win.

Marketer takeaways

  • Digital is accelerating — fast. And brands that keep up by adding digital solutions like visual search to their arsenal, can set themselves apart from the competition.
  • Get innovative. Not only will your customers thank you but you’ll thank yourselves in the long run.
  • Use what works. By keeping track of what your shoppers are doing, brands can identify what efforts provide the best results.
How Coach untangled a complex customer journey by unifying its data