The future of online fashion shopping will be driven by highly engaging visual experiences that are curated to an individual’s taste! Convenience will always remain the key factor for online shoppers as brands adopt innovative solutions to engage, inspire, and guide their decision-making. Consumers’ shopping behaviours are changing, and to stand out, brands need to create ‘curated content’ at scale and smoothen the discovery-to-purchase experience to keep them hooked and loyal. Among the key technologies driving this change are computer vision and AI, which can enable visual search and recommendations across the buying journey. Visual AI not only complements the existing text-based search or rule-based recommendations, but also delivers faster, more accurate results, and far better engaging user experiences.
Shopping online a decade ago was text-based:
Almost 10 years back when I first started online shopping, I was amazed how just typing a few words to define a clothing item in a search bar resulted in over 3,300 products to choose from. It was just ‘WOW’! But, over the course of time, the same wow factor of searching, filtering, favouriting, comparing, and purchasing became an overwhelming and painful activity.
Why did I need to take all these actions? Why couldn’t I just upload a photo of the item, that was the source of my shopping inspiration, and get relevant results? How about some recommendations that go well with it? Why couldn’t I see a complete fashion collection and add them to my shopping cart at once? Why was shopping a pain? Why couldn’t it be more fun?
Alright, melodrama aside, the key message is – shopping should be fun and easy, but the discovery experience is just painful.
Shopping online today is visual:
Fast forward to 2020 and it seems like that experience has changed quite a bit. I’m sure there were many other shoppers who had similar pain points as me when it came to online shopping. Their prayers were answered when online brands realised the shift in shopper behaviour and started adopting visual AI technology.
Visual discovery experiences, powered by computer vision and artificial intelligence, are now a reality and among the most preferred technologies in the shopping world. Over 62% of millennials and GenZ want visual search capability more than any other technology, based on a study conducted by ViSenze. That is a testament of the acceptance of new technologies and a hint to brands.
[ On a side note, I am just about finishing Dark on Netflix, which may have influenced my comparison across different times. Apparently here, the beginning is NOT the end 😉 ]
Retail brands are curating fashion collections, tailored to specific customer segments, that reveal the top trending styles and allowing us to buy the entire collection easily. Now, I can simply upload an image and get product recommendations that are visually compatible with the item in the image. It’s a much faster, more accurate, and an engaging shopping experience. All of the sudden shopping is fun again!
Over 55% of GenZ US shoppers are influenced by social media, based on an eMarketer study in 2019. The plethora of celebrities, influencers, and brands posting content around new fashion styles, tips to wear clothes, latest fashion collections, and fashion trends helps inspire fashion shoppers. This well-curated collection of content drives engagement and awareness among the youth, and guides their decision-making on the future purchases.
My online shopping journey was paved with challenges:
It would be wrong to say that I was not a part of this changing consumer behaviour. Social media does inspire my ideas, to some extent, and influence my life on what to buy next. Why? That may be the result of my network, influencers, and media recommending the latest trends which makes my life easy because I can trust their suggestions on what will look good on me. It’s social proofing!
With social and media playing a big part as it did with me, it is not difficult to be inspired these days. The pain lies in having to find the clothing items online that I found on social media or in the physical world.
In addition, how many times did you pick an item from your wardrobe and figured that does not match with anything else? For me it happens often, but, for my wife, a lot. Now, she has a good fashion sense and is able to find the right item to pair in the offline, or online stores, but I am just lost. Even trying to find a cool party shirt with a lounge pant online is a pain for me. Usually, I would browse through a few dozen product pages, find a few options that I think MAY go well, and then share those options with my wife to get her opinion. All this effort, just because I am not fairly confident about which clothing items will go well together. I am trying to build a complete look, but it is a lot of hit and trial.
What would solve this challenge then would be recommendations by brands or online retailers on how to ‘complete the look’.
A picture is worth a 1000 words:
That is where visual search and recommendations come in to help us decide. Analysis of ViSenze’s visual search data shows that over 70% of fashion searches were triggered by existing images or screenshots. This highlights the shift in consumers’ shopping behaviour and the evolution of the retail industry which is driven by visual AI.
Visual recognition technology has caught the eyes of some of the biggest internet giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.), online shopping brands (ASOS, Zalando, Zalora, H&M, Rakuten, Uniqlo, etc.), and smartphone manufacturers (Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, etc.). And they are enabling shoppable experiences using visual AI across the board.
Zalora app lets me discover products faster by simply uploading an image or taking a click from my camera. They also simplify decision-making for me by suggesting complementary products on the product page that help me complete the entire look. There are quite a few brands and retailers out there who are driving innovating shoppable experiences using visual AI.
The power of visual AI is now at our fingertips! Pick a latest android smartphone, that may have ViSenze technology, to take a photo and instantly get relevant product recommendations online.
Brands do not have it easy as well:
While it is easy to imagine what experiences will WOW us, we also need to understand the effort that goes behind crafting that experience. Currently, most brands that curate content do it manually, which limits their scalability across the fashion catalog. It takes a lot of time and effort to create product recommendations and shoppable collections. Being manual, there is a gap for real-time update when a stock goes out of stock, or, when new stock is added. This leads to a poor user experience.
Brands can leverage the power of visual recommendations to drive automation at scale. They can solve the above mentioned problems around manual effort of content curation, and handling out-of-stock inventory in real time.
It’s the Beginning, not the End:
Consumers globally have started adopting new technologies and they are loving it. Over 87% shoppers said they would most likely buy if there was a visual search feature available, based on a consumer study by ViSenze. Brands and retailers must adapt to these changing user behaviors and cater to their needs. To scale their curated content strategy and to build more seamless shopping experiences, brands must adopt visual recognition technology.
If you have time and want more details, do read our latest e-book on how you can ‘Supercharge your content strategy with Visual Recommendations‘.