Connecting Consumers and Retailers via Visual Search

As consumers continually align their shopping habits to the way they use technology, the retail industry must also make adjustments to accommodate them. When consumers began demanding the ability to shop from their computers, they lit the spark that led to the e-commerce boom. The changes in retail habits did not stop there. Information technology is seeing continued advances, and computing has now become mobile for many demographics. Buyers of today are adapting to technological innovations by also engaging in m-commerce, through which they may make purchases from their mobile devices. Image recognition technology is fast becoming part of the solution for meeting the needs of these shoppers on the go.

Practical Example
Industry leader Slyce, found at slyce.it, presents a great example of how visual search technology works and how retailers can take advantage of it. The general idea, as illustrated by Slyce, is for consumers to have the ability to easily locate and purchase something they want after taking a picture of it with a mobile device. The image recognition technology enables the buyer to use the image to run a search, and that search leads to options to purchase the item desired.

From the Slyce demo, it is easy to see how the underlying technology leads to a mobile device user becoming a buyer. After a simple click of a cell phone camera, visual search technology matches the image with products available for sale. With a few taps on the device, the desired product is conveniently ready for checkout in a mobile shopping cart. The Slyce demo effectively depicts how this is accomplished by having the visual attributes of a product entered into the system for recognition by shoppers.

How Image Recognition Works
Exact algorithms are proprietary to the companies offering services, but there are some basic principles of image recognition that help with understanding the technology. Meta data, captions and tags propel a large number of searches on images, but advancing technology is making it possible for computers to also detect patterns in the images themselves. An analysis is conducted on the numeric sequences represented by the pixels of an image, and the information is stored for future reference. When consumers run visual searches on pictures they have taken, they are matching the pixel information to what is stored already. The information has to exist for consumers to find it in their search results and make their purchases.

Benefits to Retailers, Brands and Publishers
Because potential buyers are increasingly mobile, it is becoming more imperative to begin taking advantage of visual recognition. To put their products in reach of customers, businesses will need to make it easy for the items to be located. Image recognition enables sellers to do that for consumers who take advantage of mobile technology, and it provides a means of making an immediate connection between the buyer and the retailer.

Sellers benefit not only from mobile application of visual searches, but also from desktop usage when shoppers run a search on scanned pictures or images they find online. With visual searches, consumers have an increasingly sophisticated tool for finding exactly what they want. This means image recognition, for both desktop and mobile users, is increasingly one of the most important instruments for connecting consumers to the products they are eager to buy.