Music + Visual Search : Re-thinking Mobile Shopping

Customers want it all these days. Consistency across all channels, no friction in the shopping funnel, and entertain them while you’re at it! So how do we manage all the moving pieces to keep them coming back? The question on everyone’s mind these days has a plethora of answers, but most of them can be boiled down to two priorities: Unique Experiences and Convenient Shopping.
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) continues to place big bets on mobile and invest in its app to strengthen the customer experience. Most recently, AEO integrated Slyce — an image recognition technology that activates product recognition through photos — which allows customers to see a clothing style they love, snap a picture, and immediately get a list of similar AEO styles to shop. has been working with the team at AEO over the past year to find new ways to engage customers through music. With the visual search integration, we’re able to surface music in news ways to create a richer, more immersive experience for the customer.
Here’s how it works:
1. Customer snaps a pic of a clothing item from the AEO app
2. App returns results of similar styles and unlocks a new radio station for the user
To understand why visual search and music together drive a successful mobile strategy, it’s helpful to evaluate these in the context of customers’ top priorities: Unique Experiences and Convenient Shopping.
Unique and Personalized Experiences
For today’s prized 18–34 year old demographic, brands know that brand experience is at least as important as the product experience. In fact, 47% of adults 18–34 value the experience more than the actual product. Additionally, 48% of that same group feel more loyal to a brand that provides interesting experiences.*
Several respected studies over the past half-century have demonstrated that music can have a powerful effect on buyer behavior when it is part of the retail experience. Matching music’s tempo, volume, and genre with a retailer’s environment (both in-store and online) can drive real results.
This positive correlation between music and shopping is not surprising given the emotional, visceral impact that music has on most people. While sports, movies, and television also inspire powerful emotions, music has the unique ability to be part of the overall experience without dominating. These qualities make music ideally suited to retailers in winning and keeping their customers.
Returning to the example of American Eagle Outfitters and its in-app AEO Radio,’s technology allows optimization of music stations so these map to an individual’s specific music taste. To date, AEO Radio has been incredibly successful in engaging customers, with a 200% increase in session times for those who listen to music.
Convenient Shopping
The ability to take a photo of a clothing item and get similar recommendations for purchase — as the AEO app allows — eliminates a significant friction point. In this respect, a well-designed app is a) directly responsive to a person’s real-world environment and b) not limited by an individual’s fashion “expertise.” For example, someone does not need to know that a garment is an off-the-shoulder, pin-tucked blouse, only that they like the blouse. With the aid of AEO’s app, they can easily and quickly select a similar blouse for purchase immediately.
A few data points that validate how visual search is increasingly relevant:
— Taking a photo of a product is the #1 most popular in-store mobile shopping activity, meaning that customers are already accustomed to shopping with smartphone in hand and frequently using the camera (Comscore Mobilens 2014)
— In five years, it is projected that 50% of queries will be conducted using speech or images vs. typing (Andrew Ng, Head of Baidu Research)
By leveraging music to drive adoption of the new visual search feature, AEO not only drove increased usage, but also tied together the two key customer priorities — Unique Experiences and more Convenient Shopping.


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