visual search

What is Visual Search?

Visual search is a method of searching the web that utilizes images as input rather than traditional text-based searches. In other words, visual search allows users to find information based on a digital image alone. This concept seems simple enough, but the burgeoning world of visual search engine technology is opening doors for brands to better understand their consumers and deliver highly tailored marketing materials and customer experiences. Where in the past we depended on text-based data to understand our potential consumers, marketers now have access to visual searches, voice searches, and more. 

With all of this in mind, today we will explore some highlights of current visual search technology, how users interact with visual search engines, and finally how visual search can be leveraged into a powerful digital marketing tool. 

Visual Search Engines 101

In a recent interview, the CEO of Pinterest, Ben Silbermann, stated, “a lot of the future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords.” Pinterest already is well known for leveraging image searches to create personalized experiences for its users, no text search required. The fundamental concept here is to take photos that users submit and return relevant information (in this case pins). Other companies/services currently utilizing visual search engines in 2020 include:

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Bixby
  • Retailers like IKEA, Neiman Marcus, ASOS, and Wayfair

It should also be noted that some visual search engines also scan images for visible text to translate. In this way, visual search engines can virtually double as both a visual search engine and a traditional text-based search engine. These results are then used to spit out similar items, products, services, nearby places, or other information based on user inputs.

How to Utilize Visual Search Engines

To understand how users interface with visual search engines, let’s explore perhaps the most powerful visual search engine on earth: Google Lens. Google Lens has a few key features which are fairly typical of visual search engines overall.

Using images as an input

The first and most important aspect of any visual search engine is scanning the available image(s). Google lens scans images in real-time, translates texts, looks up words, can make phone calls to individuals or businesses, and even adds events to your calendar all based on an image! This illustrates another key aspect of visual search — scanning documents and/or written text rather than hand keying it into a device.

Translating images to find similar items

A common use of visual search is for shopping. Anyone walking down the street can simply snap a picture of an outfit, a vehicle, a purse, or any other item and search for similar products through Google Lens. Not only will the service likely identify the exact product you saw, but it will also make suggestions of other potential products based on key features like colors, patterns, utility, style, and more.

Using images to explore local areas

In a new area of town or in a new city? Users can take a picture of a local landmark to learn more about that landmark and the surrounding area. Google Lens uses a single image to bring up the name, address, key facts, and of course everything else that comes with a typical Google search. 

The Power of Visual Search for Digital Marketing

Now that we understand a bit about how visual searches function, how can that be translated into the world of digital marketing? As with any new technology, the key comes down to understanding consumer interaction and being an early adopter. Here are a few ways in which brands can leverage visual search engines to boost their brand:

  1. Improve customer experience: utilizing visual search is a great way to create memorable customer experiences for your current and prospective customers alike. Users are more likely to remember your brand if you have slick visual search capabilities on your site/app.
  2. Integrate visual search into your marketing materials: this type of advertising is perfect for social media influencer ads or other social media ads. Simply prompt users to search for an image or use pre-existing images to direct users towards your similar products.
  3. Visual search is becoming important for SEO: another key impact of visual search comes down to overall search optimization. Visual search will only increase its share of the digital pie in years to come. By tailoring your digital presence towards visual search, you will remain ahead of the curve. 
  4. Standing out from the crowd: while visual search is becoming more common, it is far from expected. Integrating new technology wows your customers and propels your brand in the minds of consumers.

Clock Tower Insight Digital Marketing Practices

Clock Tower Insight helps our clients to build their brands through any means necessary. We believe in using cutting edge research to deliver unparalleled insight and understanding into today’s rapidly changing marketplace. With over 15 years of dedicated experience, our marketing insight has helped organizations including Belle Tire, Nielsen, Orbitz, and Kraft Foods. 

We are proud to offer a number of services to our clients, including customer experience management, brand positioning in the marketplace, market sizing, market testing, and more.