Check it Out: Seeing is Believing ... With Visual Search
Frustrated at getting blank results pages from product keyword searches on retailers’ websites? Think it would be easier to pick out what you’re looking for from a lineup of images rather than describing it via text. Well, it appears you’re in luck.
Picitup, a developer and provider of computer vision solutions, launched PicCommerce, a suite that adds visual shopping functionality to websites, in early September. The technology indexes and interprets images similar to the way Google indexes and interprets text. PicCommerce’s cloud-based technology consists of three products: PicColor, which enables consumers to shop by product color; PicSimilar, a product recommendation engine based on visual similarity; and PicCliq, a shop-by-photo engine for mobile apps.
Art.com is one company that’s partnered with Picitup. The retailer of art and décor items as well as professional custom framing and mounting services went live with the PicCommerce suite in August after a beta test that began in January. The visual nature of Art.com’s product line made it a natural fit.
Prior to the addition of visual search to its site, Art.com visitors were forced to search via taxonomy and tags. While the retailer has a very powerful taxonomy engine — the multitude of categories and tags associated with its inventory of more than a million products is evidence of that — it was still limited by the fact that it could only return the products that were searched for. Art.com’s visitors needed to be able to discover pieces of art they may not have thought they were looking for.
“Everybody knows to look for ‘starry nights,’ but obviously there’s more to art than starry nights, especially with a vast inventory of a million images,” says Roberto Mameli, vice president of engineering at Art.com. “To be able to allow customers to find more ways to discover rather than search is a powerful tool. In some ways visual search is a little bit limiting as a term. Searching implies that you know what you’re looking for. Discovery is a much more compelling word that this technology enables.”
Increased Engagement Yields Increased Revenues
The primary benefit of visual search for retailers is that it increases consumer engagement (i.e., time spent on-site), which ultimately leads to higher conversion rates and higher revenues.
Art.com has seen Picitup’s technology help with the conversion rates for its long-tail keyword terms, especially those emerging artists that may not be as well known yet. It’s also getting a lot of positive feedback on its Facebook page — its number of “Likes” have increased — since launching visual search.
Will visual search become the next big thing in the e-commerce space? While I agree that the solution is ideal for a brand like Art.com, where a visual product line is meant to be discovered much like you would browse at an art gallery, is it as valuable for a brand like Woodworker’s Supply, which sells woodworking project supplies such as hinges and sanding belts? Not likely. I believe the adoption rate will be low, but those retailers using visual search will find it effective. One thing is certain, however: This is a trend worth keeping an eye on.