In the Experience Economy, friction is the enemy. Its ally? Seamless data. Leading retailers and marketers already know this. SnapTech, for example, is enhancing the shopping experience by pulling data from retailers’ backend databases to enable users to see an item, snap a photo and shop for it. It’s a data-driven solution built around individual consumer needs, and startups like Macty are following suit.
Snap it up
When done right, visual search, such as Pinterest, gives customers access to the products they would otherwise struggle to find. Only a small proportion of search is done this way today, but more consumers are catching on as they begin to see its benefits, according to eMarketer.
With , consumers can take photos of something they want and find it on the internet. It’s a visual search engine that either directs visitors to the same outfit or item for purchase, or suggests a similar alternative.
SnapTech uses AI to detect what’s in a photo. In a podcast recorded at Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco, Jenny Griffiths, SnapTech’s founder and CEO, said she was fascinated by the idea of teaching computers to see the way that humans do. With that in mind, she came up with a solution where people looking at an image could match it up with the same product or relevant things online.
She says that running in the background is a blend of mathematical heuristics, “what makes a dress a dress, what makes a pair of shoes a pair of shoes,” and deep-learning. “Accuracy in visual search is the number one nemesis in the industry,” says Griffiths. The app looks at an image and links users to similar images based on colour and texture. Clearer images return more accurate results, but building on the basics of colour and texture means the algorithms can work without disappointing users.
Giving customers more flexibility
For UK startup Macty, visual search is just the beginning. Using AI and machine learning, the company’s technology presents customers with personalized recommendations based on the photos they upload and allows them to customize their requests using natural language commands.
Macty’s “Tweak & Pick” feature makes it even easier for shoppers to act on moments of inspiration and find the products they want. For example, you someone might find a pair of jeans you like but want them in a different color; instead of searching through a catalogue or long list to find the right product, simply upload a photo of the original jeans and customize their request by speaking directly to the software.
Macty CEO Susana Zogbhi believes this multimodal approach, which ties together different channels and departments, will make customers’ lives easier and help brands boost their online conversion rates. The average online conversion rate still sits below 4 percent today, leaving plenty of room for improvement.
The customer journey is no longer linear. Shoppers still set out to make a purchase in the end, but they can take different paths to get there. Meanwhile, innovations such as visual and voice search have further blurred the boundaries between devices and channels. The challenge for brands like us is to serve customers in an equally fluid way, and that requires us to rethink the way they operate behind the scenes. This starts with how data moves within our organisations and ends with a service that feels personal and relevant, no matter which channels audiences engage with.