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Facebook buys visual search company used by Ikea as social shopping market heats up

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Facebook has confirmed that is has purchased visual shopping and AI company GrokStyle for an undisclosed sum, potentially adding a range of shopping, curation and even content moderation services to the social network.

GrokStyle, which underpins the furniture visual search elements of Ikea’s app, allows users to take photos of goods and find them online to purchase. While Facebook already has some image recognition features on its platform – and behind it for content moderation – the GrokStyle purchase looks likely to added to its armoury shopping tools as it gears up to grow the social shopping side of its business.

Along with its Instagram social shopping services, Facebook also already offers pages for businesses and brands, a marketplace for peer-to-peer selling and pop-up stores for some digital businesses. Last December, it also started testing a new feature that allows merchants sell through interactive live videos.

The trial in Thailand allows sellers to show their wares in videos on their Facebook pages and shoppers ask questions in real time chat sessions. Anyone wanting to buy takes a photo and sends that to the merchant via Messenger.

The GroStyle purchase could add to this offering to make it way more straightforward to make the merchant videos shoppable.

Social shopping is gaining ground among consumers. Instagram – a Facebook company – already offers the beginnings of shoppable services from its posts, while rival Snap has teamed up with Amazon to add visual search and purchase to the SnapChat site, pushing up revenues in the process.

Image: Facebook

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