How to make visual search work for you

Jenny Griffiths
Aug 5, 2019 · 4 min read

Visual search has the potential to hugely benefit customer experience for retail brand. However, there isn’t a one size fits all approach for visual search, which is sometimes how it’s perceived in the industry.

When you’re thinking about visual search and whether it would work for you, here’s our cheat-sheet of the three questions you should ask yourself in the planning phases for working out the most effective way to utilise visual search for your retail brand.

What makes something AI, and how visual search work?

Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence simulating intelligent behaviour in computers; allowing it to perform tasks that were previously only achievable by humans, such as learning and interpreting data. Computer Vision is a branch of artificial intelligence, which focuses on teaching a computer how to “see” and interpret the world around it.

Visual search for fashion lets a computer look at a photo of any item of clothing; be it an item in a catalogue, celebrity editorial, or user generated content, and match it to similar items in stock, today. This means it can be used in a huge variety of situations — from matching users to items they can shop from photos taken on their mobile phones, to optimizing customer flow and user experience when a link to an item they click on is out of stock.

This is why visual search really is the talk of the town in the cutting edge of the digital fashion industry right now. Here are three questions to ask yourself before you dive into the implementation phase, to make sure you’re getting the most out of this incredible technology.

Image for post
Image for post

Question One — Why are you considering it?

Are you looking to be perceived a brand who embraces trends and drives innovation, or do you have a key KPI that you want to shift? Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Understanding the context of “why” rather than “because it’s an industry trend” really helps signpost:

· What success looks like — to your company, to your consumers, and how you’re being measured personally

· Which platforms you should test and integrate on

· The budget you should be assigning to this

· Do you want a tried and tested SaaS (software as a service) product, to reliably deliver those KPIs, or do you want to invest in a custom build which will push boundaries

Question Two — What are your starting platforms?

When one thinks of visual search, they tend to think of mobile and the notion of “just take a photo on your phone and find similar.” This is a fantastic integration for certain brands with millennial audiences, but it wouldn’t be for others, for instance brands who have a desktop-first audience, or a strong email community.

First up, you shouldn’t try to fit a new-user behavior (like visual search) into a brand-new platform. It would be like becoming a vegan at the same time as training for a marathon, when all you’ve done for the past 5 years is eaten a burger every day and never run more than 5k. You’re setting yourself up to fail. You should instead enhance a channel that you know your audience is engaging with, and build from there.

The ones that we at Snap Tech encourage our clients to think about:

· Web — you have a good, existing web user base which can also be called to action via other web experiences (e.g: email)

· Mobile — you have a young, engaged audience, who turn to your mobile app more than mobile web

· InStore — you have a shop, great footfall, and want to think this to your growing digital presence

· Social — you have a wonderfully engaged community which you wish to monetise

· Email — when you have a strong email open rate, and want to target relevant content based on actions such as cart abandonment or outfit completion

Needless to say, the above thought process works if you’re looking to innovate and enhance growth. If you want to shake up a particular platform, for instance mobile, you can use visual search as a great hook to do so; you’ll just have to be cleverer around calls to action and PR.

Question Three — What’s your internal team’s actual capability?

Be realistic about your teams bandwidth and capability. Are you a technology company? Are you specialists in visual search? Have you invested years in R&D into this area? If the answer is no, you will need to partner.

When you’re picking a partner, make sure you see the technology in action; don’t be taken in by logos and promises. It’s completely fair if the company can’t do a custom integration just for you for a demonstration (if you see visual search working on one retailers’ data, it will work on yours), but make sure that they haven’t just pre-loaded examples.

Where do you go from there?

If you’ve answered the three questions above, and you know what you want to achieve, where you want to roll out, and that you want to partner, we’re here to help.

Oracle are working with Snap Tech. They are a company who have been providing visual search to retailers and publishers since 2011. Their visual search solutions cover everything from making the red carpet shoppable for the BAFTAs, to making sure that you never show a sold-out page from an affiliate link again, to putting visual search at the heart of a consumer’s physical shop experience; in the fitting room (without cameras of course!)

They are integrated with Oracles’ Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud solutions, meaning that adding visual search to your existing Oracle integrations on OCC is a breeze.

Click here to contact us if you’d like to book a free discovery session to see how visual search would work best for your brand with these world leading experts, and what an Oracle powered visual search experience looks like.

Snap Vision

Snap Vision is a visual search company providing world class image search technology

Jenny Griffiths

Written by

Founder @SnapFashion. Software engineer to #startup CEO. Visual search obsessive and #AI pioneer at

Snap Vision

Snap Vision is a visual search company providing world class image search technology to publishers and retailers

Jenny Griffiths

Written by

Founder @SnapFashion. Software engineer to #startup CEO. Visual search obsessive and #AI pioneer at

Snap Vision

Snap Vision is a visual search company providing world class image search technology to publishers and retailers

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