AI-powered Visual Search is the Next Generation of Shopping

August 26, 2018

This week marks just the beginning of an exciting future for AI-powered visual search. It is the next wave in searching and how consumers shop. I believe that we will begin to see much greater adoption in visual search as the technology will drive conversions, and will drive connections across multiple platforms.

This week, Donde Search announced the full launch of its AI-powered, visual search technology with retailer, Forever 21 on its mobile app. Using visual search technology, consumers are able to quickly search for new styles, using visuals instead of using words in the search bar. Consumers search for items by simply clicking on icons that represent the features they want in an outfit, including the length and fit of a skirt, neckline style, and color of a shirt, and the search technology matches items most similar to the featured parameters.

Forever 21 launched “Discover Your Style” feature on its iOS app in May 2018, and within one month the company saw an increase in sales conversions and a 20 percent increase in average purchase value for the two test categories, dresses and tops. The case for visual search technology was so compelling that Forever 21 executives made a decision to “fast-track” the wide scale technology rollout to feature more style categories including shorts, jeans, and pants.

Alex Ok, President of Forever 21 said, “Early data shows that this is one of the most important innovations in the e-commerce space in recent years. We’re excited to partner with Donde Search and look forward to building on our early success to develop the world’s most intuitive omnichannel shopping experience.”

Visual Search Changing the Retail Shopping Experience: Pictures are the Path to Purchase

As evidenced by Forever 21 and Donde Search, AI-powered visual search technology is helping to change the consumer shopping experience into a more natural, fun, and intuitive way – which is closer to how consumers actually look for products today. And consumers are responding favorably to this experience with an increase in sales and AOV up 20%.

The consumer experience is based on pictures. Everyone takes pictures on their phone and searches on social media for products that they like. Pictures and images are how we discover new products, styles and trends – through friends, influencers, social media, and the web. By using the pictures and images as the starting point for the consumer retail journey, AI-powered visual search provides the bridge to enable consumers to efficiently search for similar styles on retail apps.

AI-powered visual search simplifies the customer experience because all that the consumer needs is an image. Consumers no longer need to know product details, nor do they need to describe it. Using AI, visual search will help to become an efficient matchmaker, providing a bridge to connect the consumers search query with a retailer’s inventory with a similar product match.

What Pain Points is Visual Search Solving? 

There are multiple components of visual search that make it a compelling retail technology solution.

First, language. Consumers are able to search online for products easily, quickly, and without using words, so the solution is language-agnostic. By using visuals instead of words, the technology can help to improve the consumer online experience and make it more seamless and easier to navigate through fashion styles. Visual search is particularly helpful since it is a universal language, and many consumers do not share the same spoken language to describe fashion silhouettes, styles, colors, and patterns.

Second, curation. Visual search uses AI algorithms and computer vision which identifies, locates, and recommends styles to the consumer based on the visual search technology cues that he or she has selected and shared. The technology uses an algorithm to predict future selections and styles, based on past consumer selections. This helps to personalize the selections and adds an element of styling and curation. The visual search technology acts as an efficient online stylist and retail matchmaker, and helps to bridge the consumer’s wants and needs with the retailer’s current assortment.

Third, efficiency. Visual search technology aims to make the consumer’s retail online experience more efficient by helping consumers to find what they are looking for quicker. AI is helping to make the process more direct and personalized, by providing recommendations based on past selections. The ultimate goal is to reduce e-commerce site abandonment time for consumers who allegedly leave sites if they cannot find what they are looking for within three clicks.

Visual search platforms will continue to grow as image recognition will help to fuel significant retail conversions online, and will help to drive digitalization and monetization across all platforms.

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