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British Visual Search Startup Sets The Trend For Shopping Using Photos

Sarah Griffiths
Freelance Journalist

Being a trend setter isn’t easy. Snap Tech was the first cross platform visual search engine for fashion when it was founded in 2011.

But while trends come and go, like a good pair of jeans, the startup’s technology is still firmly in vogue and it remains at the front of the field, having helped change the way people shop on the go, and fashion editors’ habits too.

A new way to shop

The company was born out of computer science student Jenny Griffiths’ fascination with computer vision, as well as her frustration at not being able to afford the clothes she saw in glossy magazines on her student budget. Now, Snap Tech’s tool allows users to shop for clothes using a photo rather than words, and buy similar items to suit their budget and style, as well as making life easier for fashion editors trying to track down copycat looks.

How it Works

Snap Tech’s algorithms search through 250 retailers’ catalogues to return matches based on the cut, colour and texture of clothing captured in a photograph. This means scanning more than one million clothes in less than half a second and showing shoppers or editors everything in their desired shape or colour, so they can find the style they want and buy it with just a few taps.

Snap Tech is the only visual search company in the fashion space that presents users with two lists of results; colour/pattern and shape, which not only sets it apart from its competitors, but offers its users more choice in the way they search.

The startup licenses to two types of customers: retailers and publishers.

Snap Tech has worked with big retailers to increase customer engagement and sales. It is currently partnering with affiliate networks so that when shoppers click on affiliate links, posted by an influencer or online magazine for example, they can see something similar from the same retailer if an item is out of stock. The startup is also integrating with the Oracle Commerce Cloud, and will soon be on its marketplace.

Snap Tech gives editors tools to create content more quickly. Marie Claire uses Snap Tech’s software and says articles that would have taken six hours to put together can now take just one. Snap Tech recently monetized the red carpet for the BAFTAs, allowing interactive content to be generated and fans on Instagram to shop similar looks to those worn on the red carpet, within just five minutes of a star being photographed.

Trend setting

While mobile shopping via apps such as Instagram de rigueur, just a few years ago it was a novelty. “It’s a double-edged sword being first mover. The marketplace isn’t crowded and you’re the only person in the world who can do something, but the downside, which I didn’t appreciate at the time, is that it’s your job to do all the market education,” Jenny Griffiths, Snap Tech’s founder and CEO explains.

The first six years of Snap Tech often involved meeting editors and fashion brands to tell them about the potential of using AI to find and sell clothes. While this was challenging and time consuming, it allowed the company to test its market fit, which has paid off by allowing it to scale rapidly at a time when artificial intelligence is taking off.

Oracle for Startups experience

Oracle is helping enable the company to scale. Snap Tech migrated to Oracle Cloud infrastructure last year and has since seen its hosting costs drop by 40%, which has allowed it to invest in GPUs, so it can do more computer vision R&D than ever before. Integrating into various Oracle product families has also enabled it to scale without the need for its own global sales teams.

Snap Tech also leverages Oracle’s marketing and events for customer and marketplace exposure. From a networking and connection standpoint, Griffiths says, “It’s been insane. We’ve been at Oracle OpenWorlds and Modern Customer Experience events that have been great for meeting potential clients and key Oracle products executives—and just overall exposure.”

Fashion forward

The company’s ambitious mission is to change the way the world searches and while Jenny Griffiths acknowledges her team of eight is unlikely to do that alone, being part of a group of smart AI companies working in this area, whether competitors or partners, means that together, they will change consumer behaviour. “I think we’ve been a huge driver of that in the UK, and that’s something we’ve very proud of,” she adds.

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