Launching Visual Search as Easy as Snapping a Photograph

The ability to find a sofa that is a near match to one featured in a favorite home design magazine, or a pair of cute earrings a friend recently purchased on the web has never been easier, thanks to a developing technology known as a visual search.

This new way of locating just about anything that can be found on-line begins with an image that the seeker snaps themselves or locates on an existing website. That image is what launches the search inquiry, much in the way that popular search engines like Google or Bing use word descriptions to return results. A visual search engine eliminates the need for key words to filter results because the image serves as the sole basis for the search inquiry. Using the image or photograph, this rising technology employs patterns rooted in an algorithm to return like images and offer up the closest retailers where the desired items can be found. Consumers also have the option to purchase their item of choice on-line in many cases.

Take the Canada-based firm Slyce, for example. Slyce is one of the cutting-edge companies working to optimize visual search software that is aimed at giving shoppers a way to buy any product they want, whether they see it in the world around them or spot it while browsing the web. See someone wearing a pair of must-have designer boots? Obtaining an identical pair is now just a snap and click away as many major retailers are beginning to offer customers the ability to shop instantly using the software developed by Slyce. High-end retailers like Neiman Marcus are included among them, having launched its “Snap. Find. Shop.” purchase app for use with iPhones in the fall of 2014. Retailers such as Macy’s and Target also unveiled similar apps late last year, but the fledgling software these stores are employing are not as far-reaching. The Macy’s app requires the user to engage in some additional steps to narrow down search results, like specifying a particular department. The Target app, kicked off at the start of the back-to-school shopping season, only identifies items appearing in printed sales advertisements.

While launching a search with only an image to serve as the guide has not yet become as common as Googling a favorite author to find a copy of their latest book, the growing number of major merchants that are utilizing this technology suggests it will be among the newest tools consumers use to get exactly what they want in a snap.

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