ViSenze Blog

Visual search technology: Why should retailers care?

Posted by ViSenze 02-November-2015

2014 was an exciting year in retail. Worldwide, sales hit a record high of $22 trillion. Omnichannel retailing became the norm, the mobile wallet was on the rise, retailers recognized the importance of and started leveraging on Big Data, and brands went after huge opportunities in emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India.

It was a good year.

But 2015 is going better, with projected retail sales at $24 trillion.

And retail figure for 2016 is expected to top it all off and go through the roof - with a whopping $25.4 trillion!

According to our observations, it seems like the retail scene is undergoing even more changes and transformations next year.

To support the ever-growing global retail pie, we’ll see companies focus on improving the overall customer experience and reducing friction wherever possible to drive and support sales - especially in the e-commerce and m-commerce (or even s-commerce) field.

With this in mind, here are some interesting trends for retail in 2016:

  1. Increasing investment in technology

    Retailers will adopt and experiment with technology (such as visual search technology,  beacons, augmented reality, 3D printing, webrooming etc.) to improve all aspects of the shopping experience.

    omnichannel retail
  2. Offline expansion

    More e-commerce sites will set up shop offline to gain significant market share, where the majority of overall retail sales are still taking place. Additionally, the need to provide a seamless online to in-store (and vice versa) experiences continues to grow, and successfully pulling this off requires both a digital and physical presence.

  3. Localization

    Retailers that localize their product mix, store formats and consumer experiences according to the needs of their local communities will win. When consumers share their location, preferences and device info, a brand can deliver localized and personalized experiences - on smartphones, tablets, desktops or wearables - with a customer-centric approach.

  4. The store revolution

    Retail spaces will be transformed from places of transactions to experiential theatres to showcase products and engage consumers (with entertaining and enriching experiences). And as retailers redefine the function of bricks and mortar, digital technology will facilitate everything from stock checking to locating products to completing online purchases using mobiles and wearables while in store.

  5. Social networks as shopping platforms

    social commerceOver the past years, brands have used social media to market their products, talk to customers, and even make merchandising decisions. But in the coming year, we anticipate merchants to add “selling” to the list of things they can do on social sites. Retailers, it’s time to roll out your welcome mat for social commerce (or s-commerce).


The holy grail of retail in 2016: A seamless omnichannel customer experience

Ultimately, it’s all about the customer experience.

The predictions and trends shared by the experts for the coming years are pretty bold and diverse, but every single one of them boils down to one thing - improving the buyer’s journey across multiple channels.

As the lines between physical and virtual channels are blurring, retailers have come to the realization that they need to connect with users on different channels and touchpoints - beyond just traditional brick and mortar stores - simultaneously or even interchangeably.

Those who embrace omnichannel strategies across their brick and mortar store, website, mobile app, social media portal (and many more) to serve customers will thrive.

The trillion dollar question do you achieve that?

Well, the answer is simple - Provide a better way for your consumers to search on your platform by leveraging on technology.

offline to online conversion

And by streamlining the consumer’s path to purchase - starting with how they search for items of desire within product catalogs (from offline to online, online to online etc.) - you will be able to make shopping even faster and more enjoyable for your audiences.


The advent of a new superpower - visual search technology

With recent advancements in computer vision technology and machine learning, you are now able to do what used to be highly challenging.

With visual search, your consumers are able to take a picture of an inspiring item in real-life and upload it to find visually similar products on your platform.

It can also power solutions like mobile visual search applications and product recommendation modules based on previous customer behaviors on your site - crucial features to that offer a highly personal and value-added shopping experience.

Offer a smooth offline to online commerce journey? Check.

Increase engagement and conversion rates on your e-Commerce store? Check.

Personalize each shopping experience for your consumers and stay ahead of competitors? Check check check.

Consumers today want a personalized, hassle-free, exciting, and delightful offline to online shopping experience.

From a celebrity donning a stunning outfit on Instagram to a beautiful purse spotted in the street, the kind of visual inspiration that generates purchasing intent for fashion items is literally everywhere.

But the consumer journey from inspiration to transaction - identifying, locating and ultimately buying the item of interest - has traditionally been fragmented and full of friction.

Now, visual search technology is able to radically shorten and improve the path from inspiration to transaction, from offline to online, allowing anyone with a smartphone to immediately identify and purchase the products they encounter - online, or in the physical world.

mobile search by image


Putting visual search technology to the test

Not convinced?

We’ve even conducted an experiment to explore and validify the usefulness of visual search technology for end consumers.

Visitors coming by our booth at CommunicAsia 2015, held in June 2015 in Singapore, were invited to participate in “The Dress Challenge”. They had to find the digital representation of a physical item in the online shop that it was bought from - using just keywords in their search quest.

We then recorded the time they spent searching, and compared it against the time it took our visual search technology to locate the item.

The results were startling.

A simple black and white dress on a mannequin proved to be an immensely difficult task as the contenders struggled to find it using regular text and keyword descriptions.

On average, 96.6% of them lost their patience and gave up on the search quest without any results after 1 min and 30 seconds.

Those that did manage to locate the dress on the online store were well-versed shopaholics, and yet they still required 4 - 6 mins to search for it within a database of less than 500K products.

What is most astonishing is that our visual search technology managed to beat keywords search by 1/9th of the time spent searching!

results of visual search vs. keywords search

The only effort required was for someone to take a photo of the dress, crop it, click “Search”, and receive results for the exact same item on the e-commerce shop - all in less than 10 seconds.

The advantages provided by our technology are obvious. With consumers who are impatient and spoilt by for choice in this crowded retail and e-commerce sphere, you only have a few seconds to prove that your store can meet their expectations.

Let your consumers find exactly what they are looking for on your platform, without wasting time or effort.


Don’t be late to the game

It is clear (and proven) that visual search technology satisfies consumers’ rising demand to have quicker and more accurate results for searches, in a hassle-free and easy manner.

It allows users to browse and search through your product catalogue using only images as input instead of words, drastically improving the customer's’ experience on your site.

The logic is sound: Why translate what you see into words?

A study conducted by Redshift Research shows that nearly 75% of younger shoppers want visual search functionality to be integrated into their purchase journey.

In addition, though visual technology is not new (Zappos had this feature in 2009 and Google bought in 2010), it is finding new life in e-commerce businesses and mobile apps, with retail heavyweights like Flipkart, Amazon and Alibaba deploying this technology for at least a few years by now.

To get ahead of competition and offer a value-added shopping experience for your customers, you need to leverage on a ready-made solution out there with adaptable APIs - such as ViSenze.


What you stand to gain from using visual search technology

Offer a tightly integrated offline to online experience

The online world is being merged back into the offline one, and you need to find ways to incorporate technology into different stages of the customer journey - starting with their offline inspiration to online product search.

By offering a visual search application that they can access on their smartphones, your consumers can easily take photos of products around them in real-life and find similar ones on your e-commerce platform. The offline to online transition is now made seamless and smooth.

See your sales figure go up, up, up

Visual search reduces friction - your consumers just take a picture of a product and let our technology find the corresponding item on your platform.

As compared to the existing keyword search function on your website, visual search takes less time and provides better results. It speeds up processes online, increases basket size and boosts your engagement and conversion rates - our customers have even experienced an increase in conversion rate of up to 50%!

Providing a more personalized shopping experience

Our visual search technology also has the ability to power your You May Also Like module. It suggests visually similar items to what your consumers are viewing so they can deep dive into a certain product and consider other items that suit their style.

On top of that, it also boosts new products that are visually similar to the items that they have viewed previously and their purchasing history, without overwhelming them with your entire product catalog.

Your platform can now act like a personal stylist that has in-depth understanding of and is able to pick out items that suit your consumer’s style.

Avoiding lost sales due to stockouts

When consumers hit a dead end on your site because an item is out of stock, our product recommendation function will have them clicking “Add item to chart” and  “Check out” rather than abandoning their cart in disappointment.

For more information on how ViSenze visual search technology can improve your e-commerce business, click here.

visual search mobile application


Visual search technology: Transforming retail one search at a time

Following the rise of the visual web, the introduction of visual search technology is already changing the way brands and consumers interact with each other.

In this era, retailers who do not apply this technology to their business right now will be left behind.

2016 is all about adaptation and transformation. As new enabling technologies such as visual search are made available across the retail landscape, there is no better time to move away from a reliance on text search for your products and shift to using visuals.

You need to offer your consumers an easily digestible and intuitive experience led by visual content that can be quickly searched for and browsed anywhere, anytime.

For now, visual search is an emerging technology and solution that has been making waves in the retail world. But very soon, it would be so integral to both businesses and end users alike that you will not be able to go for a day without it.


About ViSenze

Founded by computer vision scientists and technology entrepreneurs, ViSenze set out with the sole objective of simplifying and making sense of the booming visual web.

As a pioneer and leader in visual search and image recognition technology, our strongest edge is our R&D technology capability.

Fuelled by innovation and our passion for machine intelligence, we are constantly developing cutting edge technological solutions that are used to solve real-world problems.

Our technology currently powers solutions such as mobile visual search applications, e-commerce product recommendations and search modules, and many more for retail clients including Flipkart, ZALORA, Rakuten, Lazada and Clozette.

With ViSenze visual search technology, retailers like you will be in a better position to take advantage of retail’s growth in 2016 and drive real revenue gains above and beyond those of previous years.


Here’s what our customers have to say

“By simply adding and adapting ViSenze’s search algorithms to our platform, we have managed to provide an engaging and personalized shopping experience for our users, delivering more relevant product searches and recommendations online. And the best part is that we could add this advanced visual technology rapidly and easily - without the need for any in-house expertise. ViSenze has allowed us to make our social content truly actionable, making “social shopping” a reality and unique offering that continues to wow our audience.” - Ms Kersie Koh, Co-founder and Creative Director of Clozette

“At Rakuten, shopping is entertainment! We are all about offering personalized, online fashion discovery experiences to our customers so OSHa’Re and the new visually-powered form of e-commerce with Rakuten Fashion Finder will do just that. With just a click, our shoppers can now search what they want to buy with images instead of words. They can also find out where to buy what their favourite celebrities are wearing or carrying. ViSenze truly makes shopping entertaining!” - Mr Yuichi Ejiri, Executive Officer of Rakuten and CEO of Taiwan Rakuten Ichiba Inc.

“ViSenze truly espouses a blend of innovation and smart technology. Their ViSearch product is simple to understand, easy to use and delivers the results we need.” - Patrick Steinbrenner, Regional Director at Zalora Southeast Asia


Test our visual search technology for yourself

Try our demo.


  E-commerce,   Best practices