Visual search is one of the latest breakthroughs that is truly making a mark, especially in the eCommerce arena.
2017 marked the beginning of a boom in visual search, which became particularly mainstream when Pinterest launched a visual discovery tool that quickly became a hit amongst users.
The consistent activity from there made online retailers notice a surge in visits to their own websites. Those numbers made them realize that adding a visual element to their own websites would create a more natural shopping experience for their users, who were embracing the visual trend.
In a matter of weeks, Amazon launched Spark for Prime members, which looks like an Instagram feed at first glance, only with shoppable images that take people back to Amazon's main website.
Soonafter, Ebay launched image search capabilities for mobile devices that combine AI and machine learning for improved results. Even Google released an update to their image search on mobile devices, which features badges on image results to let viewers know upon first glance whether the item featured is available for sale, amongst other options.
So, why do eCommerce websites need visual search? In a nutshell, it amplifies the eCommerce experience in numerous ways.
It Saves Time and Closes Sales
Our brains process visual images far more quickly than textual images. Visual images carry the most importance for visitors that are shopping online, and are quickly transforming the way products are searched for both on the web and mobile.
Visual search instantly presents consumers with desired products, in addition to similar products of interest at different price points, as seen on the Erdbeerlounge website. It also serves as a time-saver, as it spares consumers from having to scroll through pages of products that moderately fall within the parameters of interest, or from having to figure out how to verbalize an item that is difficult to describe.
It quickly leads consumers down the sales funnel, and encourages them to purchase more items that they normally might have missed, as seen on the Boohoo website.
It is worth noting that Boohoo is all about the customer journey, and they are achieving seniority in the visual search and customer journey arena very quickly. Their commitment shows through their visual merchandising, navigation, and product recommendations.
With visual search on the site as well, customers will no longer be stuck if the looks they desire are out of stock - they can instantly see everything that is very similar to their original inquiry. Previously latent stock also surfaces in a flash across all price-points, enabling shoppers on a budget to get the look.
This is product discovery on a new level, and Boohoo truly set the bar of how visual search should look and function on an eCommerce site for both their US and UK websites.
It Blurs Lines Between Online and Offline Using Chatbots
Thanks to the marriage of mobile commerce and chatbots, visual search serves as the link between spotting desirable items in real life, and instantly shopping for them online.
This is especially the case with visual search chatbots that help users shop for items in images that interest them. These images include those grabbed from the Internet, social networks, or even photos that were taken offline by the user from any public space, such as an interesting couch from a coffee shop, or unique outfit worn by someone at a gathering.
Visual search chatbots are also special for providing customers a personalized experience at a larger scale with great efficiency. Countless brands compete for the attention of customers using the same old methods on social media. This leads to each consumer being bombarded with promotions, special offers, and exclusive deals at all times. As a result, the consumer tunes it all out in an effort to ignore the marketing noise.
On the other hand, visual search chatbots provide a more natural communication experience to these customers who heavily rely on their mobile devices and messaging apps to satisfy their need for instant gratification anyway.
It Transforms the Retail Experience
Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers can benefit from a digital transformation that incorporates eCommerce with visual search.
Implementing the right user-friendly tech on all touchpoints would ensure a seamless customer experience across mobile and desktop, in addition to the actual store, all with increased reach.
It Discreetly Helps Upsell
A consumer can go on a website with the intention to purchase a specific pair of pants. Once they get on the product page, it can feature a model wearing those pants with a matching shirt, shoes, watch, hat, and sunglasses- all of which are also available on the website.
The visual search AI will let the visitor know that they can easily shop the whole look instead of that one item, and will show them similar options as they hover over the rest of the items the model is wearing.
This increases the likelihood of the consumer impulsively placing additional items into their cart before finalizing their purchase.
It Turns "Out of Stock" into an Opportunity
It's not uncommon for consumers to experience frustration on eCommerce websites when the item they desire is out of stock. That is oftentimes the point in which they will close the tab, or simply navigate to another website that features something similar.
Meanwhile, they may not have been aware that the original website had something similar all along. Visual search technology helps keep shoppers on websites, even if the item they originally wanted is out of stock- by presenting them with similar options at different price points, each of which are indeed in stock.
This opportunity gives consumers the chance to purchase items they may not have spotted on their own without the gentle nudge from visual search.
eCommerce customers shop with their eyes, and visual search technology is a natural fit for them. On a global scale, online retailers are picking up on the benefits of adding this technology to further enhance the shopping experience for their customers.
In exchange, they end up reaping greater buyer engagement, improved conversion rates, and higher revenues. It's not for nothing that implementation of visual search is quickly becoming the standard in eCommerce.