How We See Things
Before visual search came to life, voice search was at the forefront of advanced search capabilities. We now know this to be incorporated in devices such as Siri, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and more. But some key aspects have always been missing with voice search - the opportunity to search for multiple products at once and, most importantly, the ability to see search results visually. Visual search solves this challenge by displaying easy-to-see navigate results to help users make a decision faster.
Today, visual search allows consumers to easily gather information and make purchase decisions in a timely manner. The ability to snap a photo or select an area of an existing image to find products all within a matter of seconds presents a unique opportunity for both advertisers and consumers alike, especially during the holiday season. In fact, in Q4 SocialCode data shows an average increase of 32 percent in usage on platforms with visual search capabilities compared to other times throughout the year. This is a growing trend showing that these platforms have a more captive audience during the busy shopping season, and thus help consumers make their way down the purchase funnel and streamline convenience in the shopping experience.
Leading the Way
Although several platforms have been preliminary leaders in the world of visual search in its early days, not all visual search is created equal. Google has dipped their toes into this opportunity with the implementation of Google Lens, which can recognize an object in a photo and give an extensive list of information. Most recently, Snapchat and Amazon have partnered to implement a visual search capability directly on the newest Android phones. Users simply open Snapchat’s camera and can send images of a product or barcode scan to Amazon and will receive like-product suggestions. But there’s one platform in particular that delivers on the transaction with conversion in mind – Pinterest. As one of the first innovators in visual search with shoppable images at the core value of the platform’s offering, Pinterest delivers attention with intention, with users seeking out possibilities for themselves.
Pinterest connects visual inspiration to purchasable products in visual search through Product Pins and Shop the Look. Before these features were available, users had to guess what the product was called and do broad, text-based l searches on the platform to find it. This gave little direction and meant users would have to endlessly scroll through pages to find what may or may not be the actual product they were looking for. This is where Pinterest’s ‘Shop The Look’ Pins become important, by presenting shoppers with the means to purchase right off the bat. This allows advertisers to curate specific pieces in one image which then enables users to hover over each, revealing where to purchase. But even with a feature exemplifying advanced technology, shoppable images alone still aren’t enough to fully engage with the consumer. As an advertiser, there’s always a need to reach the right audience which ultimately means adopting the consumers’ mindset to better understand not only what they want to buy, but also how they want to buy it and from whom.
Merging Online and Offline
In reality, shoppers see value in the retail experience in terms of being able to touch, test and try-on products they may not have purchased before or products that carry a higher price-point. At the same time, they also want a transaction that is convenient. Understanding this mindset can help advertisers implement a savvy approach to visual search. Although visual search lacks the physicality that stores present, brands have found ways to tie together the convenience of purchasing online and the demand from consumers to try before they buy. A leading example of this can be seen with Facebook’s Dynamic Ads for Retail. This feature allows businesses to promote in-store inventory to consumers who have previously shown brand interest. By providing insight on where to find a product in-store in addition to available sizes, styles, colors and more. Similarly, Pinterest has new measurement solutions to help track the impact the platform’s Promoted Pins have on in-store foot traffic. From the analysis of billions of ad impressions across several verticals, results found that 93 percent of campaigns drove a positive lift in foot traffic, according to Pinterest. This presents a major opportunity for the platform to expand its capabilities to connect online and offline commerce.
A Shift From Brand Loyalty
Once you have an understanding of how consumers are looking to purchase, it’s important to determine if they are willing to consider what it is you are trying to sell. It’s no secret that brand loyalty has diminished drastically over the last few years. In fact, a study conducted by McKinsey found that only 13 percent of consumers are brand-loyal, while a striking 87 percent like to shop around before making a purchase. With cost and consideration on the brain, shoppers are now more likely to purchase products that are a one-off of the branded version, or an out-of-season discounted piece. Although well-known brands may struggle to win back their once loyal customers, this shift benefits visual search, especially on Pinterest. Users can have a particular branded product in mind, search for it on Pinterest, and then tap the camera icon in the corner to bring up like-items for purchase at different price-points. These discovery capabilities implemented through shoppable images help advertisers generate awareness and eventually consideration in the consumer journey and can streamline the holiday shopping process this season.
Creating Value Through Visual Search
Although visual search at this moment is more widely used for shopping, platforms are discovering ways to make the purchase experience much more engaging for consumers. Pinterest, for example, has implemented “Pincodes” which are scannable codes that are placed on items or aisles in-store that can reveal more inspiration on Pinterest. Similarly, for the holiday season Pinterest has partnered with Etsy and Brit + Co to create the “Etsy Gift Finder,” helping users find the perfect holiday gift for everyone on their list. The feature simply asks a few questions about the type of gift, who will be receiving it and something that describes them perfectly and then shows a curated list of products for purchase in Etsy. These advanced capabilities make Pinterest the go-to platform for discovering the perfect gift for your discerning friends and family.
Winning With Visual Search
In order to win with visual search, it’s important for your brand to keep these key points in mind to guide a clear strategy:
Visual search helps solve the cumbersome nature of voice or text search by giving consumers convenience and visual inspiration when shopping.
Although there are several platforms that have been early adopters of visual search, Pinterest’s shoppable images deliver attention with intention, guiding consumers to discover the right products.
Implementing a visual search strategy is not enough. It’s imperative for advertisers to adopt the shopper mindset in order to reach the consumer at the right time.
Visual search in its current form is mainly for shopping. However, there are unique and differentiated offerings on Pinterest such as Pincodes and the “Etsy Gift Finder” that help consumers find the perfect gift this holiday season.