Why Brands Need to Start Using Visual Search

Steve Guillemette | December 11, 2017

Why Brands Need to Start Using Visual Search

It’s the new wave of ecommerce. Don’t be late to the game.

We live in a visual world – surrounded by instantly recognizable friends, family, places, food, and products. As your eyes take it all in, your brain processes and identifies it nearly simultaneously. It’s the powerful human experience of recognition – an experience that can now be replicated online.

Imagine leveraging this ability to compare and recognize images and apply it digitally to internet searches. Called visual search, it’s an emerging technology that can help consumers find the products they’re looking for and move them down the funnel of the ecommerce shopping experience. It allows people to initiate an internet product search just by pointing their phone’s camera at the item they want to look up, or right-clicking on an online image. This allows for quick scanning without needing to know a product’s brand name or even what the product is called.

It’s almost effortless. Imagine pointing your phone’s camera at a kitchen gadget to learn what it does and how much it costs, or scanning a backpack you saw on the subway to learn where you can buy it. You might even focus on a store sign to find out when the business opens.

Images have always been essential to ecommerce strategy. Three-quarters of Internet users want to see visual content before they make a purchase, according to a 2017 eMarketer report. But now, they’re even more important. To stay ahead of the competition, start using visual search now to promote your brand.

How Visual Search Works

Visual search uses image recognition technology to analyze an image, find out what it is, and if possible, additionally identify information such as brand name, cost, etc. It can then scan for similar images that exist on the Internet. Forward-thinking retailers, brands, and social media platforms are all coming up with ways to make this new technology work for them.

Google lets users upload or right-click on images instead of using text to initiate a search. Ecommerce sites such as Amazon and eBay offer visual search to sellers. This makes it easy for customers to find specific items they spotted somewhere, even if they don’t know how to describe them. Because the technologies link similar images together, they also let users shop for comparable products, giving fairly accurate product recommendations, according to eMarketer.

Retailers can leverage visual search to boost traffic on their site. The online shoe retailer developed an app called “Sole Mates” to allow consumers to upload a photo of a shoe spotted in public, or a photo they found in a magazine, to find and purchase similar styles sold on their site.

Some sites that aren’t solely commercial, like Instagram and Pinterest, also use visual search technologies. On such sites, you can feature photos of your products to users who weren’t necessarily looking for them, sparking the interest of new audiences. Pinterest allows consumers to search user generated “pins” and suggests similar items.

As with all new technologies, evolution is happening in real time. Visual search is continuously improving, according to eMarketer. It’s not 100% accurate yet, but it may get there soon, says Forbes.

How Brands and Retailers can Use Visual Search

Attract Potential Customers

Visual search makes it easier for customers to find you. Shoppers who might never have known your products existed will be directed toward them if your images are linked to the images of products they already know.

These tips will help you use visual search to draw in new customers:

Create highly visual content that’s easily shareable on platforms that use visual search. Each original, high-resolution image should focus on a single product, and it should be “clean”, meaning it features the product clearly, without a cluttered background or foreground. If there’s too much going on in the picture, current technologies might not be able to identify the product accurately. At the same time, images should be compelling – clearly showing features and benefits that will make the biggest impression on your audience. CreativeDrive can produce these types of strong visuals for your brand or website.

Feature your products on a range of platforms with strong visual search engines – like Pinterest – to reach a broad base of users.

Create product copy, photos, and even prices specific for each platform. For instance, Instagram users prefer content that doesn’t look like an ad, and lifestyle photos far best. CreativeDrive has an ecommerce content team that specializes in creating and adapting content for multiple channels.

Try using visual search tools such as Tailwind and Curalate to improve and analyze your results.

If you’re really ambitious, create your own visual search app for your business. That’s what many large companies such as Target and Neiman Marcus are doing.

Improved SEO & Conversion

Images factor into SEO rank, giving visual search benefits for both brands and retailers. Concentrating on image optimization, in addition to text optimization, results in high quality and relevant content that naturally appeals to shoppers.

These tips will help you use visual search to improve SEO and Conversion:

Ensure products are represented with a full gallery of clean, easily comparable images. This will ensure that image search engines, including Google reverse image search, have a variety of views and can accurately discover your products.

A comprehensive image gallery also improves the shopping experience. Consumers will be able to leapfrog through the customer journey, saving time by getting to relevant results sooner and minimizing the potential for abandonment. This efficiency increases both satisfaction and conversion, according to this respected digital marketing strategist.

Planning your Content

The following tips will help you use visual search to plan your content:

Assess your current content, and root out products with insufficient or cluttered images. CreativeDrive can help you develop a strategic content optimization plan to improve the quality of visual content which should be complimented by SEO optimized copy.

Review analytics on ecommerce sites to learn what’s popular in visual search within your product category, so that you can plan your content accordingly.

Look at data on which images customers are clicking on after they click on your images (or similar ones). Find out if they’re moving on to other companies’ products or looking at other products in your line. This will help you figure out if you have gaps in your product lineup, which translate into missed sales opportunities.

Tracking Where your Images are Shared

The future of search is visual, and it will inevitably become a central part of the shopping experience. Now is the time to develop your strategy while many other businesses are still testing the waters. In the increasingly crowded world of ecommerce, it pays to stay a step ahead.

By tracking images through visual search, you can accomplish the following:

Discover supportive influencers who have shared your images–or posted images of themselves using your products–and thank them on social media for doing so. They might be using or wearing your products without even knowing it. With the prevalence of selfies, you’re apt to find your products in unexpected places.

Protect your brand by searching for products that illegally copy your designs or use your logo.


AdWeek: “Why Visual Search Will Become a Marketing Obsession in the Coming Years.”

Bing Digital: “Is Visual Search the Next Big Ecommerce Trend?”

CMS Wire: “How Visual Search Is Influencing Marketing”

eBay: “eBay to Launch New Visual Search Tools for Finding Products Using Photos from Your Phone or Web.”

Emarketer: “Visual Commerce 2017: How Image Recognition and Augmentation Are Changing Retail.”

Forbes: “Fashion Site ASOS Launches Visual Search Tool.”

GetElastic: “Ecommerce Trend: Keep Your Eyes on Visual Search.”

Pinterest: “How to Use Pinterest’s Visual Search Tool.”

SquareUp: “The Most Effective Ways Marketers Are Using Instagram and Pinterest.”

TechCrunch: “Ebay to Launch Visual Search Tools.”

Asad Ali: “How Can Visual Search Change SEO for E-Commerce”