Mobile Commerce Insider Featured Article

October 29, 2014

Retailers Begin to Embrace Mobile Visual Search

findSimilar, a new image recognition and visual search platform from the U.K. software company Cortexica, is rapidly growing in popularity as many companies realize its promising implications for the future of the retail industry.

Mobile Visual Search, the underlying technology of findSimilar, uses images captured by a mobile device’s built-in photo app to place users in an immersive digital experience that links the virtual and physical worlds and puts them on a path directly to purchase. The technology has been cited as a revolutionary way to convert photo sharing activities into sales, especially encouraging impulse purchases.

U.K.-based Zalando was the first European retailer to incorporate the findSimilar platform into its mobile app, called “FotoSearch,” in 2014. Originally developed for iOS, the app enables users to upload images of products and find comparable items in Zalando’s inventory. The app turned out to be quite successful, prompting the company to roll out a corresponding Android version and bring the app to 14 more countries.

“The visual search technology is a product of a decade of Bio-Inspired research at Imperial College in London,” said Iain McCready, CEO of Cortexica. “The software mimics the way the human eye interprets images that we see every day. This makes our image recognition using a mobile device much more robust to real life conditions as it tolerates bright or poor lighting, rotations, small image size and quality, often a problem when taking a picture with a mobile phone or tablet. By searching for products based on color, texture and pattern, as well as shape, the software leverages sophisticated algorithms that make it the most accurate system on the market today.”

In the U.S., Macy’s launched a similar program consisting of image search functionality on its website and the Macy’s Image Search mobile app, again was based on Cortexica’s platform. Kent Anderson, President of described the company’s photo search application, “When our customers see a look that they like on friends or on a celebrity, they can directly shop for corresponding products from and buy them without a lengthy search.”

As visual discovery becomes more important in photo-sharing platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, and photo-sharing in general becomes an integral part of modern communication, platforms such as findSimilar and its competitors will blur the distinction between the digital and physical realms and surely change the face of the retail industry.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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