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Visual Recommendations: The Future of Online Retailing

90% of information transmitted to the human brain is visual, and when it comes to making an online purchase, images are the most influential factor according to 93% of us. This is perhaps no surprise when we reflect on today’s visually-driven digital economy, where JPEGS, emojis and videos have rapidly replaced text as our main mediums of online communication.

Given this image-obsessed economy, ecommerce retailers are looking for new ways to engage image-focused shoppers, and the market has rapidly responded, with big-name giants like Amazon, Google and Pinterest rolling out image recognition technologies like visual search at an accelerated rate.

So much so that the image recognition market is expected to grow to the value of $25.65 billion by the end of this year. But how can online retailers take advantage of this budding technology trend? The answer lies in implementing visual recommendation solutions to enable image-focused shoppers to discover products efficiently and smoothly using the art of the image alone.

Introducing Visual Recommendations

The term ‘visual recommendations’ is an umbrella term that describes the various processes that work to showcase relevant product recommendations and search results to shoppers when they search for a product using an image. Visual recommendation features give retailers the ability to automatically recommend products where patterns, style, colour or shape are hard to express in words but are significantly easier to convey through images.

By using visual recommendations, retail brands can empower their shoppers to search their entire product catalogues using images alone with ‘Visual Search’ and ‘Visual Tagging’ functions which interpret, analyse and tag visual attributes in products to make them searchable and visible in onsite search results. Brands can also allow shoppers to browse with imagery in visual recommendations zones on category and product pages, enabling them to shop visual trends, editorial shoots and styles at the simple swipe of an image.

Exposing your catalogue to the right audience

53% of customers will abandon an online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their questions, so it pays for brands to help guide shoppers to the most relevant potential purchases as efficiently as possible. Visual search and visual tagging drive this process forward by exposing a brand’s vast product catalogue to visual searchers in an efficient way.

Advanced AI algorithms analyse and tag the visual attributes of each online product so that visual searchers can find them easily when they upload a distinct image with unique visual characteristics. Advanced tagging systems can even turn these tags into intuitive clickable filter menus which enable shoppers to quickly select images of products that are most relevant when they search.

In this way, social-savvy customers like Gen-Z or Millennial shoppers, who demand visual search capabilities more than any other technology for shopping, can grab images of things they like from Instagram and locate them online from a retailer’s shop in a few simple swipes.

Enhancing visual discovery

In addition to visual search and tagging, shoppers can intuitively browse images in special visual recommendation zones on retail websites that enable shoppers to shop with their eyes in fewer clicks – particularly beneficial for browsers on mobile.

Examples of such zones include ‘Shop the Look’ which allows shoppers to click on an image and shop every product included within it at the quick swipe of a button, like an image of a fashion editorial shoot on a high-end fashion website, or ‘Visually Similar’ recommendations on product pages, which give the shopper the option to flick through images of similar products to the ones they are browsing.

Not only does this help consumers to consider and select items efficiently without having to click on complicated navigation menus, or hard-to-click text URLS, it also gives brands the amazing ability to promote and cross-sell complementary products that customers may also like.

Making Merchandising more Flexible

But any good visual recommendation solution must allow merchandisers to take control and test different approaches onsite for maximum impact. Some technologies embrace this by giving merchandisers the ability to personalise visual recommendations based on the distinct features of a particular category. For example, in some categories, you may want to return products of a similar brand in the visual search or recommendations process, as well as prioritising and mixing the display of diverse attributes like pattern, style and colour. For example, in categories with very homogenous products, such as ‘bags’ or ‘trainers,’ merchandisers may want to filter results more based on style and colour rather than material due to the similarity of the products.

Advanced recommendation systems can do this easily by allowing merchandisers to manipulate the weighting of attributes so that the right product images are showcased in the right categories and circumstances. When merchandisers want to inspire their shoppers, they can instruct the systems to showcase newness and diversity, or if they need to expose underperforming stock to shift it and hit targets, then they can tweak the systems to do just this. By having this flexibility, the creative merchandising process is completely supported and empowered.

Powering Performance

But what does this all do to a retailer’s performance? Gartner has already predicted that by 2021, those brands who have embraced visual search alone on their websites will attain a 30% increase in digital commerce revenue. Evidence from some early adopter brands is already validating this prediction with impressive results, from increases in revenue to AOV and conversion.

One such example is fast-fashion Australian retailer Forever New, who has seen their conversion rates skyrocket by 135% with the introduction of ‘Visually Similar’ recommendation zones on their site using image recognition technology from Attraqt. With results like these, and with demand for image-led browsing expanding all the time, it’s easy to see why visual recommendations may just be the key to the future of successful retailing.

Learn more about how Merchandisers can extract value from Visual Recommendations in Attraqt’s case study with Forever New.

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