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Amazon teams up with Snapchat to offer new take on visual search

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Amazon has partnered with troubled social network Snapchat to create a new visual search function that uses Snap’s app to connect to – and buy – goods on Amazon.

The new function – built into Snapchat’s app, and activated when you add Amazon to your Snapchat list – will let shoppers point their phones at goods while in Snapchat and rapidly find them (and, if they want, buy them) on Amazon in one smooth process.

According to a blog post on Snapchat this week “It’s super easy to use. Simply point your Snapchat camera at a physical product or barcode, and press and hold on the camera screen to get started.”

The post continues: “When the item or barcode is recognized, an Amazon card will appear on-screen, surfacing a link for that product or similar ones available on Amazon. Tap your selection to visit the Amazon App (if you have it installed on your phone) or, where you can complete your purchase or keep browsing.”

The move has seen a small bump up in Snap’s share price, which had been in decline since early 2018 as user number waned. The tie up with Amazon could well reverse this trend and bring the social network and Amazon into line with rivals Instagram and eBay, which have been heavily drilling into social commerce and visual search respectively of late.

Back in July, eBay went live with Image Search in the UK, allowing shoppers to simply enter a photo into the search bar to find what they are looking for.

The move brings the much vaunted tech to the marketplace sector and helps shoppers find what they want without having to describe it. The service is likely to be a boon for fashion and apparel retailers – although it could see a rise in people stalkerishly taking photos of people wearing stuff whom they don’t know.

It is also going to work well for unusual items that are hard to describe, such as shoes, handbags, antiques and unusual items.

The move by eBay adds to its ‘Shop the Look’ services that it rolled out earlier this year with Mashable and Time Inc, where shoppers could buy items that they could see on Mashable and Time Inc articles about celebs. Now it is available to the general public and could transform how people shop.

Meanwhile, Instagram has been rapidly growing its retail credentials as it starts to power more retailers who want to sell direct from the images on their Instagram feeds. It is also rumoured to be about to roll out its own dedicated shopping app.

And it all makes sense. A recent study by visual commerce AI company ViSenze, which powers image recognition at fast fashion pureplay Asos, finds that most Generation Z and millennial shoppers prefer to buy using their mobile device – and say using visual search technologies, best suited to smartphones and related devices, would help them to find the products they want to buy.

But can it add much really? Sucharita Kodali, Forrester Vice President, Principal Analyst, is sceptical. “This type of functionality hasn’t been game-changing for any companies that have it to-date, but Amazon is the natural partner for something like this because Snap doesn’t have the resources to invest in its own eCommerce platform and Amazon is the biggest, structured catalogue it could possibly find.”

However, many see the move as a canny one. According to Patrick Munden, Global Head of Retail, Salmon: “Amazon’s new visual search tool with Snapchat builds on what is a savvy and important partnership for the ecommerce giant. Historically, Amazon has lacked a social commerce element in its offering, so teaming up with Snapchat to provide a search & purchase tool fills this gap.”

He continues: “It will be interesting to see how the new features will be integrated into Snapchat’s app and its user experience. Whatever the case, it represents another opportunity for Amazon to capture another section of the consumer market and further grow its already substantial foothold. And it’s just one more reason why traditional brands and retailers need to be delivering an innovative and effortless shopping experience, to keep up with the ecommerce giant.”

Image: Snapchat

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