How can visual search improve sales?


Visual search is quite often an overlooked feature when it comes to discussions about AI. However, its advantages, especially in terms of e-commerce, are not to be ignored. Read on to find out how visual search in profiting the world of online retail.

What is Visual Search?

Much like the name suggests, visual search is very similar to regular text searches except instead of words, images are used as search terms. This is powered by AI and machine learning. Basically, when a user uploads an image into a visual search, the computer searches for images that match certain reference points. AI technology comes into play as the computer learns to ‘recognise’ images faster and more accurately as more and more images are uploaded. Reverse image search has actually been around for a long time, it’s just as the technology becomes more advanced that more and more brands are taking notice.

How can it be applied to e-commerce?

The applications for online retail are far reaching. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, which means it takes away much of the guesswork that traditional text searches have to deal with. If a shopper sees something they like the look of, a coffee table, for example, instead of having to try and describe it in words, they are able to simply upload a picture of it and a search engine can give them all the best matching results, be it the same table, or very similar ones that are available to buy.

Not only that, but visual search can be of great help to social commerce, a traditionally difficult format. The possibilities on sites like Instagram where a user uploads images are almost endless. In fact, Pinterest has taken advantage of this with its Lens feature. This allows a user to upload a picture and then is provided with any matching pins. And, thanks to shoppable pins, users are able to buy what they see.

Internet giants, Amazon and Google, have also gotten into the space, meaning that the technology clearly has long-lasting potential. Google’s own Lens is only in its infancy stage, available only to Pixel 2 users, and with no integrations available for shopping. Though this is sure to change, and the actions that can completed as of now are very intriguing, from saving business card details with just a picture of one, to finding out more about the history of your surroundings.

Amazon, the e-commerce giant, obviously focuses on the shopping aspect. By pointing the app’s built in camera at something, or by uploading an existing image, Amazon can suggests items that are similar to those in the image.

As we see more and more sites integrating this feature, it seems that this is something that retailers will need to increasingly think about. This means that having a good selection of clear images, shot at different angles could be hugely beneficial for taking advantage of this new trend.  

Elizabeth Norton

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