In online sales, getting your product found is everything. Making sure your products show up when people search for what they need, is crucial to success. Brands compete on all fronts to capture customers before their competition does.

Optimizing product descriptions, site maps, blog content, and metadata to help search engines find your products is essential to driving traffic. If your products don’t show up in search results, they don’t exist as far as buyers are concerned. And once people land on your site, the next important step is making it easy for them to find the product they’re looking for quickly. And even better, the products they didn’t even realize they were looking for, but that matches the thing they googled in the first place. Search, when leveraged right, is one of the most powerful tools in the ecommerce toolbox.

Up until not long ago, the search game was almost entirely about the written word. Written language was the only source of content that consumers could use, and so it was through the user’s chosen online text string that products would bubble to the surface. But as artificial intelligence (AI) is implemented in an increasingly wide array of contexts, it has greatly affected the efficiency of online search.

Visual AI is Changing the Game

With AI, online search is no longer reliant on text alone. Instead, search algorithms are getting both more intelligent and a lot more “human-like” in how they process information. You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, before, that was only true if you were to show the picture to a person, not a machine. But with AI, the machines are catching up, and they’re learning fast.

The field of image recognition through the use of AI has been exploding over the last decade. For example, it’s already many years ago now that Tesla cars learned how to understand a grainy video feed of a dirty road, where the washed-out lane markings were hardly visible. The vehicles did this through a combination of AI and machine learning. Programmers didn’t teach them; they taught themselves. That’s the power of AI.

Now advancements to similar kinds of AI are being brought into the realm of product search, allowing merchants to stay relevant and meet online shopper expectations, an important aspect of conversion and loyalty.

Visual AI Explained

Before we look closer at visual AI in search, we’ll explain what it is. Visual artificial intelligence is a computer science discipline where machines are trained to understand images in the same way humans do.

Using visual AI, machines are not just “seeing” –they’re also “understanding” what they see. This means that, for example, they can detect images within an image and comprehend that there is carpet, a sofa, and a TV in the picture. They do this by comparing new images to pictures they have already “seen.” In this way, machines can be trained to understand more and more.

Related reading: AI in Ecommerce: It’s Everywhere

Google Lens and Visual Search

Search is evolving quickly, and with Google Lens bringing visual search to the Chrome browser, consumers have come to expect image search as a part of their online experiences. However, Google is the biggest search engine in the world, and their image search algorithm may not be trained to be an expert in specific, consumer-facing verticals like fashion, jewelry, and home decor. This has prompted leading brands and retailers to explore solutions to help them optimize their customers’ digital buying experience.

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Visual Product Search and Ecommerce

Traditional shopping has always been a very visual and interactive experience. Visual search helps blur the lines between physical and digital shopping experiences. High-quality images are already a prerequisite for ecommerce success, but until recently, product searches relied on text and keywords regardless of platform. Visual product search entirely changes that.

Visual product search bridges the gap between brick-and-mortar and online shopping and makes it much easier for people to find the products they’re searching for. Instead of typing in search queries to try and find that floral dress you fell in love with in the shop, a visual product search will find it for you if you snapped an image of it. Marketplaces like eBay and Amazon have already been offering this type of search functionality for years, and now individual brands are also starting to catch up.

But visual search isn’t just benefiting the consumers; it also holds enormous potential for ecommerce merchants. For example, visual search can be used to show consumers similar products or products that complement the product they searched for. This makes visual search a powerful tool for cross-selling and up-selling.

Related reading: Ecommerce Personalization: Benefits, Tactics, and Best Practices

Syte: A Product Discovery Platform for Ecommerce

Syte, a Vaimo partner, offers a Product Discovery Platform for ecommerce. Syte uses visual AI to help shoppers find products, whether they’re looking for a particular item or just browsing. Visual search with Syte works in a way similar to text search, but instead of entering a text query, shoppers simply share an image or pick one from the brand’s inspiration gallery. The algorithm then scans the image, breaks it down in detail, and locates similar items.

The visual search also includes multi-object detection, which means you can get search results for multiple items in the image. So if you have a picture of a person you can look for the suit they’re wearing and also the shoes, the shirt, etc.

Add “Discovery Button” To Product Images

Syte uses the same visual AI technology to enable ecommerce merchants to add a “Discovery Button” to all product images. The button can be placed on images found on product listing pages (PLP) and product detail pages (PDP) allowing shoppers to click on any product photo that inspires them and find all similar items.

This paves the way for inspiration-led buyer journeys and a more interactive and engaging shopping experience. It’s also a valuable means for eliminating so-called dead-ends on an ecommerce site. If, for example, someone clicks on an item and that product is not available in their size, the Discovery Button allows them to click on the image and immediately find similar items.

Recommendation Carousels Based On Visual AI

Another use case for visual AI with Syte is recommendation carousels, where similar and complementary items are suggested, such as in “Shop Similar” and “Shop the Look” suggestions. This also adds a new path for product discovery more similar to that in a physical store.

Visual Search and Product Discovery Increases Conversions

Syte offers a range of product discovery tools based on visual AI, including personalization, text search, and merchandising. The technology can scan and assign detailed ‘deep tags’ to every product image. This means that if shoppers use search keywords that are not exact or can’t explain their visual preferences, Syte can still help them find the most relevant products at the right time, regardless of how they prefer to search or browse.

Visual AI allows brands to truly understand their shoppers’ unique preferences and provide an optimized experience that makes them feel understood. This can dramatically impact the results. Syte has found that shoppers who use visual discovery tools:

  • Convert at a rate 5.8X higher
  • Yield 16% higher average order value
  • Yield 380% higher average revenue per user
  • Show a 12% higher retention rate after 30 days, compared to other high-intent shoppers
  • Yield a 19% higher lifetime value after 30 days, compared to all customers

Related reading: Retail Customer Experience Optimization: Quick Wins To Boost ROI

How Vaimo Can Help

At Vaimo, we’re experts at all things ecommerce. We’re always at the forefront of technological developments and we collaborate and partner with innovative tools and platforms like Syte. This enables us to provide our clients with ecommerce solutions optimized for ROI from day one and to continuously help them implement and integrate the latest cutting–edge practices to drive sustainable growth.

Visual search is here to stay, and the potential for ecommerce merchants is enormous. We’re happy to help you evaluate your options and plan your next step by starting with a short but thorough audit of your ecommerce stack. This will show you the potential for the future of your ecommerce experiences. Get in touch with our team of experts to explore the opportunities!

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At Vaimo we help brands, retailers, and manufacturers all over the world to drive success in digital commerce. Reach out to us if you want to hear more about how we can improve your customer experience strategy, go to market plan or explore how technology can enable success.