A picture may be worth a thousand words, but only recently has search engine optimization (SEO) begun to shift toward an acknowledgement of the visual element. Simply put, visual search is a way to search for relevant results via an image query, rather than a text-based query. It’s not likely to entirely replace text, but visual search is definitely starting to become a force to be reckoned with.
Spearfishing and Basket Abandonment
Visual search is particularly promising for the retail industry. E-commerce websites do a brisk business on impulse buys from window shoppers. However, if they dismiss the importance of visual search, e-commerce sites could miss out on big bucks from spearfishers. Spearfishing is the practice of looking for one specific item out of hundreds or thousands of similar items. Let’s say you’re watching a TV show, and you see a character wearing a coat you love and would like to own. Typing in “brown coat with white trim” would yield tons of results. You’d have to scroll and scroll to find what you’re looking for, and chances are, you wouldn’t be successful. This would lead to basket abandonment, which means to give up in frustration and abandon the digital shopping cart. Visual search allows users to turn their cameras into search query tools. With it, you can simply snap a photo or do an image capture online of what you want, and search for it directly.
Cross-Selling and Impulse Buying
Although spearfishers are driving visual search implementation, it’s still possible to convert spearfishers into impulse buyers. For example, let’s say you’re unable to find the specific brown coat with white trim that you saw your favorite TV character wearing. But perhaps the e-commerce site has other brown coats that look very similar, and you decide to buy one of those instead. This is cross-selling. Additionally, let’s say the image of a model wearing the brown coat is also wearing a pair of boots you like. You impulsively decide to buy the boots to complete your look. By presenting the available inventory in an aesthetically pleasing and visual search-friendly way, the e-commerce site owner can boost sales.
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