Visual Search: The Next Big Marketing Trend?

The possibilities of search have evolved greatly over the last decade, thanks to the introduction of new search engines, but also the introduction of various technologies. 

Among the marketing trends that provide the user with a ‘unique’ experience and control, are the likes of interactive content, personalisation and voice search. One trend that has come into the fold recently is the use of visual search. 

The online world is where the information is at, and visual search is providing users with a wealth of information – through a lens. 

What is Visual Search? 

Visual search consists of searches that use real-world photos or screenshots as a starting point. So when someone takes a picture of an item through Google Lens, for example, the software will identify they object in the picture and provide search results based on that item, to the user. 

According to businesswire, 62% of millenials prefer to use visual search over all other search types. 

Visual search could be particularly beneficial to retail stored and Ecommerce. Brands could stand the chance of being the search result for a user, should their content be well-optimised. If a business appears as one of the top visual search results, they could make a lot of money. 

Is there a difference between image search and visual search? 

Visual search is like image search, but differs slightly. Image search is when you use words to search for an image; for example, conducting a search under “Google Images”; whereas, visual search is when you use an image to conduct a search. 

To provide such a unique user experience, visual search is a combination of both computer vision and machine learning technology. 

Computer vision allows the machines to see, and it also helps them to interpret what they are seeing, before coming to a decision about what to do with the information. Computer vision is by no means a new technology; but with the integration and advancement of machine learning technology, it can be used for visual search. 

Who is using visual search? 

There are various visual search platforms that offer different search functionalities based on what the users’ needs are; however Google and Bing are used regularly to retrieve information, as well as shopping. 

Pinterest Lens 

Pinterest Lens was launched back in 2017, and in 2018 stated that is has over 600 million searches every month. 61% of consumers say visual search elevates their experience while in-store browsing. Users can take a picture of any item and they will be able to find and shop for the items relating to that picture.  

Snapchat Camera Search 

Snapchat has emerged as a popular social media platform in recent years; and so has their Camera Search function! Arriving in 2018, it’s main purpose was for users to search for products on Amazon using the Snapchat app. 

When Snapchat recognises a barcode, an Amazon card is presented to the user, offering them a link for that product or a selection of similar items from the Amazon store.

Google Lens 

Now one of the most popular visual search engines, Google visual search has some of the most advanced visual search capabilities. Google Lens was announced in 2017; and has the ability to combine with multiple applications such as Google Assistant and Google Translate. 

For example if a user took a picture of an item that contained a foreign language, they could use Google Translate to provide them with information in their preferred language. 

Bing Visual Search

Bing visual search works just like how it would for any search query. It provides users information as well as products. When it detects that the user intent is shopping, Bing Visual Search provides users with associated products and pricing information.

From a developers perspective, it is preferred because of it’s extensive developer platform. 

Bing allows developers to tell the search engine what information people should gain from a particular image. So, as an example, if Bing Visual Search leads someone to a particular product on a website site, a developer has the ability to define what action(s) should be offered to the user.

A trend for the present and future 

It’s likely that we could see more Ecommerce brands adopt visual search in 2021 and beyond. Just like voice search, the more users who wish to use visual search, we could see a completely different way in which content is optimised – leading to a new and unique experience.

As online shoppers increase, the big and small companies are likely to follow suit with the likes of Amazon and Pinterest, seeing their visual search popularity surge. 

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