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Businesses constantly search for new methods to improve their consumers' experiences. Visual search technology has emerged as a game changer, allowing customers to quickly find what they want in the vast SKUs by uploading photographs or taking photos. This front-line technology is expected to account for approximately $33 million by 2028. It uses AI algorithms to scan pictures and connect them with related items, speeding up the search process and increasing consumer happiness.
In this article, we'll look at the exciting development of visual search technology and how it is leveraged to create competitive advantages and exceptional shopping time in online retail.
The roots of visual search technology can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. Researchers began experimenting with image recognition algorithms and computer vision to facilitate image-based searches during this period. However, these early attempts were limited by the lack of sophisticated machine-learning models and massive datasets for training.
The breakthroughs in machine learning, particularly the development of deep learning algorithms, marked a significant turning point in the evolution of visual search technology (Krizhevsky et al., 2012). Deep learning, powered by neural networks, offered improved accuracy and efficiency in image analysis. This led to the emergence of Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), which proved to be highly effective in object recognition tasks (CNN - The Network Architectures, n.d.).
In the mid-2000s, several pioneering companies started exploring the potential of visual search. One such example is the acquisition of Like.com by Google in 2010. Like.com, founded in 2004, was an early player in the visual search space, allowing users to search for fashion products by uploading images. Google's acquisition of Like.com showcased the growing interest in visual search technology among tech giants.
The widespread adoption of smartphones and their increasingly powerful cameras further accelerated the development of visual search technology. With the prevalence of mobile devices, users could easily snap photos of products they liked and search for them online. This trend prompted companies to invest heavily in optimizing visual search for mobile platforms.
Integrating visual search with social media platforms opened up new possibilities for businesses to connect with potential customers. Pinterest, for instance, launched its visual search tool in 2015, enabling users to find similar items to those they pinned on the platform. This move strengthened Pinterest's position as a powerful visual discovery tool and set a precedent for other social media platforms to follow suit.
As the amount of available data grew exponentially, so did the capabilities of visual search technology. Companies started leveraging big data to train their AI algorithms, allowing for more accurate and context-aware image recognition. The increased use of data also facilitated the development of personalized shopping experiences, as visual search engines could consider individual user preferences and behavior (Frenay & Wehenkel, 2013).
In recent years, visual search technology has continued to evolve rapidly, driven by AI research and hardware advancements. Cloud computing services and edge devices have enabled even smaller businesses to implement visual search into their online stores.
Now that we have explored the intriguing journey of visual search technology, let us delve into how store owners can effectively implement this game-changing technology to enhance their customer's shopping experience and drive business growth.
Visual search technology has come a long way since its inception, transforming the way customers shop and interact with brands online. As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, visual search will play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering personalized, efficient, and engaging shopping experiences.
By understanding the development history of visual search technology and implementing it strategically, store owners can elevate their businesses to new heights, appealing to tech-savvy customers and staying ahead in the competitive market.
This article belongs to the Inkathon, an illuminating series focused on eCommerce. This series offers a comprehensive repository of expert knowledge, informative case studies, and practical use cases that help you gain valuable eCommerce insights.