Visuals remain a language that transcends boundaries and nowhere is that more true than in the fashion industry. Seeing is believing for customers and professionals alike, on or off the runway. Yet the fashion industry, which has become the number one e-commerce sector in the world, still uses so many words on their websites. Some words are unavoidable, but a visual will always remain the key ingredient when it comes to fashion. Customers buy what they see and like. Even the most descriptive words have their limits, and not everyone is a poet. For the average person, it can be a nightmare trying to search for an exact outfit they saw on a celebrity or stranger. There’s the possibility it exists on a website in another language, with that perfect outfit the only thing the customer can actually understand. Valuable time will be spent searching for this chosen item and when they can find it, frustration and failure are common side effects.
However, yet again technology arrives to assuage our stresses and return an industry so steeped in visual comprehension to its image-based roots, mobile visual search.
Visual shopping is not new, in fact, it is how shopping first began and still exists today. The principles of an item catching your eye and becoming a purchase have remained from the forums of ancient Rome to the Amazon marketplace. You see something, you like it, you buy it.
While e-commerce has provided many benefits, it has also removed a bit of the spontaneity of spotting something you like on the go and buying it for yourself. The fabric cannot be felt nor tried on (although developments are on the way) and must rely heavily on product descriptions.
With smartphones, the internet has lost much of its immobility, and now it seems time to lose its text-based boundaries to better adapt to the human condition. Over 62 percent of GenZ and millennial shoppers want visual search to be part of their shopping experience. In addition to this, we must address the fact that the same study found that nearly 80 percent of consumers discovered most products on mobile while on the go. The evidence is damning, mobile visual search is the wave of the future.
The Tower of Babel
Language is a beautiful thing and yet it ruins sales for about one in four U.S. businesses. The right language for the right customer can be just as valuable as the right image. The cultural bond of a familiar language runs deep and is necessary for providing a consumer the best possible buying experience. The most advanced Mobile Visual Search solutions have come to include translation within their modus operandi. A single tool to provide the best possible experience for the fashion shopper. Mobility, sight, and multilingual understanding are all present and accounted for.
Influencers are not as new as they may seem. Celebrity fashion has long been a craze, with visuals often the only thing to go by for the average consumer without a celebrity budget. In March 2019, an unlikely item became Instagram’s must-have accessory. The same, mysterious faux-pearl hair clips began cropping up on multiple influencers and celebrities. The item spread through word of mouth in the inner circles of fame leaving the consumer as an outsider. The search was a difficult one but in the, end the grail was discovered. The clips came from a no-name seller on Amazon charging just $2.65 for a set of three. Their sacrifice should not be forgotten as we move into a world where we can simply take a screenshot and search for “hair clips like these.” Mobile visual search provides a new dimension of “fast fashion,” allowing us to find the latest trending products upon first sight. The consumer can conquer their own style and those of their favorite celebrities or influencers.
The New Market
It seems obvious that the way people naturally want to shop is far better served by mobile visual search than it is by traditional text search or site navigation. This explains why it’s already popular among millennials and Gen Z, as well as its fast adoption by competitive fashion-based companies and general powerhouses alike, from ASOS to Walmart.
Over 90 percent of the information transmitted to the human brain is visual according to MIT. Therefore, it stands to reason that improved visual shopping provides a better experience for consumers, encouraging them to buy more and frequent a visually catered e-commerce site above others. As more and more companies adopt visual shopping, it may be hard to keep up with differentiation. There are many great visual search platforms and solutions that perform just as expected by allowing customers to navigate their favorite products with their camera roll. The secret appears to be finding the best fit for your company and understanding where technology can save, solve and succeed.
An Example of Success
A rapidly growing mobile shopping application ABLY was struggling to create an optimal online shopping experience for its customers. A lack of category filters on ABLY’s app left consumers unable to find the exact items they were looking for. Typical filters, such as color, were extremely narrow to give suitable search options, preventing shoppers from being able to find the most desirable products. While they had the demand most sites dream about, their customers were getting lost on their buying journey, getting frustrated, and more often than not, leaving with nothing (or at least less than what they would have bought from a more comfortable experience).
They came to OMNIOUS.AI with an issue, and AI acted as a solution. The OMNIOUS TAGGER took charge and allowed for a complete revitalization of product labeling. Yet I must say it was OMNIOUS LENS, the mobile visual search solution, that took the company’s turnaround to a whole new level.
OMNIOUS LENS worked to ensure that no shoppers were lost as a result of sold-out or unavailable products. The visual AI engine automatically identified the products in images (including clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, and fashion accessories), recommending similar items to shoppers in turn. These products were almost exact matches for the intended items for purchase, leading to more and more conversions.
As a result, ABLY’s MAU (monthly average users) improved by roughly 300 percent over the course of one year and has become one of the most valuable unicorns in Korea’s fashion e-commerce app industry.
Ensuring mobile applications are optimized is one way to make sure you are providing the best possible visual search experience. Mobile technology has changed the world time and time again and visual mobile search is no different. People are constantly on the go, so being able to accommodate the popular lifestyle will ensure this time-saving technology is never sacrificed for lack of time or focus.
Fashion e-commerce is a popular industry for good reason. While this popularity lends itself to abundant sales, it also means hard work must be done to secure these sales. With multiple options available, accessibility and accuracy become defining features. mobile visual search is capable of delivering both, changing the way consumers browse for the better.
You can’t always get what you want, but with mobile visual search, sometimes you can.
Jaeyoung Jun is the Founder and CEO of OMNIOUS.AI. As an award-winning industry researcher, Jaeyoung Jun’s credentials include conducting R&D for major government agencies and technology companies worldwide. Jun has been leading the digital revolution of the fashion industry since 2015. While working towards his Ph.D, Jun founded OMNIOUS.AI after seeing the potential applications of deep learning technology in the fashion industry. Jun had the vision to commercialize technologies that can read, quantify, and locate specific fashion data and trends directly from images. Jun’s contributions to online fashion businesses, e-commerce companies, and retailers were awarded in 2020 when he was selected as the grand prize winner in the startup sector at the 30th Korea Textile and Fashion Awards.