Is Visual Search the new platform for retail?
Many dismiss visual search as innovation for the sake of innovation.
“How is that 10x better for the consumer?”
Typing your questions into a search bar doesn’t seem to be all that difficult so how will visual search really be all that different? Well, let’s take a look at what we have now.
The Search Bar
The web search engine has dominated the way we search for information for the past couple of decades but there are some shortcomings when it comes to shopping. The accuracy of searches heavily depends on two things:
- The “searcher” being able to articulate the exact features of the product
- The actual result indexed in the appropriate manner
Search engines have done an amazing job on the latter using meta tags and descriptions put forth by sellers of such products but that doesn’t help address the first.
Say you were at a friend’s dinner party and a coffee table caught your eye. You were in the market looking for something exactly like that! Great! Now all you have to do this look online to see which store is selling it.
Here is the problem. If that is the exact table you want and didn’t want to browse for anything else, how do you describe it?
- Modern? Classic?
- Teak? Oak?
- Black/ White?
- Dining table/ Coffee table?
I’m not an expert on tables and you can see how ridiculous my search queries would be.
What if a visual search could tell me what I was looking at and where to get it?
Wouldn’t that be a huge fundamental shift?
Whether it is to capture videos of our cats or pictures of the kids, these days, we all carry a camera in our pockets. The camera is the first enabler. With all the advancements in computer vision technology done by startup and large technology corporations everywhere, only one piece of the puzzle is left. An app to rule them all.
Killer App/ Feature
Visual search will soon have it’s “Angry Birds” moment to drive the early majority to adopt it as the dominant means of shopping. Alibaba has had this feature on its mobile app for a year now and Amazon has recently partnered with Snap to add this of the puzzle.
It isn’t all that interesting to assume that the large retail incumbents will eventually dominate this space. Who knows, maybe a company outside of the retail industry might be able to come up with a new unique insight into this trend.
- Snap with its augmented reality technology
- Instagram and Pinterest with its data incumbency
- Google or Alphabet with data, algorithmic and computation advantage
- To tie up partnerships with large existing retailers who are worried about disruption
It has never been a better time to be a consumer.