“See. Tap. Find” A Look at The Future of Visual Search and Social Media

meghendriks    December 5, 2018

You’ve found the perfect boots. The problem is they are on a photo on Instagram that isn’t shoppable nor does it have a tag or mention. So, you pull up google and start describing keywords “winter boots, no-heel, brown, tall” and hope something similar comes up. Wouldn’t it be easier to take a screenshot and be directed to the same pair of boots in the photo or a similar pair?

This is exactly what visual search can do. Users can upload an image and conduct a search to get more specific results. With visual searches, the image is the query, and rather than just identifying the image, search engines understand it. According to a study done by Slyce, 74% of consumers they asked in the study replied that text-based keyword searches are inefficient in helping to find the right product online.

Taking photos with our phones is so ingrained in our lives and posting photos on social media is part of our daily lives. With visual search, every image becomes an opportunity to engage and convert consumers into customers. Images and video content on social media outperform written content and so it seems natural that we would want to search by using an image.

Pinterest has taken a lead with  Pinterest Lens, an in-app visual search tool launched in 2017. By pointing a phone camera at an item (from say a household item, plants, a pair of boots, etc) or selecting a photo from your camera roll, Pinterest can then identify the object and suggest ideas. There are currently 600 million Pinterest Lens searches every month. Pinterest’s CEO Ben Silbermann has said back in 2017 on Closing bell that “the future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords” and that “Computer vision technology is going to be a big deal.”

93% of active pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases. Since Pinterest users are in planning mode, they have a high buying mentality as they bring ‘inspiration into action’. Pinterest is also building on the experience by having ‘Shop the look’ and ‘Instant Ideas’ features that ultimately points pinners to similar pins. With Pinterest Lens, a single image has so many possibilities for businesses. Placing an image in Pinterest Lens/visual search, removes the challenge of not knowing how to look for a desired product that you cannot easily describe. Online shopping becomes much simpler.

ASOS, a leading online retail space, has recently launched a visual search tool available for its shoppers called Style Watch.  It lets the consumer upload a photo (screenshot, magazine photo or a photo they have taken) and then search ASOS’ products for a match.  Unlike Pinterest which matches all similar products no matter the brand, Style Watch only matches consumers with their in-house products. With the implementation of their visual search feature, ASOS expects sales to grow by 30 to 35%.

With visual search, average order size increases by an average of 20%. According to Gartner, by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their digital channels to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. With these statistics we will be sure to see a lot of other companies getting on board with their own visual search tools.

Visual search is taking the user experience to the next level.  It offers great potential for brands especially ecommerce. As technology increases, we will be seeing much more visual search capabilities and companies utilizing visual search in the near future.

Lessons for Others

As technology advances, we will be seeing more and more visual search in the future. We can start preparing now with some methods to optimize and brand our images listed below.

  • Think about establishing yourself and being active on Pinterest. Pinterest Lens only returns Pinterest Pins so without a presence you will not be recognized.
  • Follow the traditional image search best practices (learn more here: https://searchengineland.com/images-easiest-page-speed-win-269742)
  • Make it easy to isolate and identify items within your pictures with clear and high-quality images
  • Think about collaborating with influences to get more images out on visual platforms.
  • In any case, aim to be more visual; producing images as content and making your brand more visually appealing

Organization: Pinterest
Industry: Social Media
Name of Organization Contact: Ben Silbermann, CEO

Authored by: M Hendriks

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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Boyd, Clark. (June 26). The Past, Present, and the future of Visual Search. Retrieved from https://medium.com/swlh/the-past-present-and-future-of-visual-search-9178f006a985

Canales, Katie.  (2018, March 10). This incredible useful new ASOS app feature uses a photo to save you money – and help you look your most stylish. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/asos-style-match-app-review-how-to-use-tips-tricks-2018-3

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