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UAE retailers try on snap-and-buy option

Landmark adds visual search to its apps, and others are heading in the same direction

Gulf News

Dubai: In the world of e-shopping, “click-and-buy” seems so like something from the past. For UAE’s retailers — both online and the made of bricks kind — the time may have come to give their shoppers a feel of the “snap-and-buy” option.

Visual is increasingly what tilts buyer’s decisions towards one product at the expense of another, and with snap-and-buy retailers may have a better chance of convincing shoppers. What visual search does is pretty straightforward, at least by the sound of it.

Potential shoppers could come across a product — an outfit or an accessory — that they like the look of and want to know more about. They open the camera icon on the retailer app they have on their phone, take a snap of the product in question and put it through the visual search process.

Within seconds, the product is identified and a list of similar items are put up that the retailer can sell immediately. The shopper can click through to add an item to their cart or purchase it. (Mind you, the retailer app needs to have a “visual search” provision built into it.) At a time when video is dominant on digital and social media, visual search is offering quite a moment for still images.

Retailers are catching on — “Landmark is bringing visual search to more than 10 apps (from its brand portfolio),” said Ted Mann, CEO of Slyce, the image recognition and visual search platform provider with which Landmark has an association. “Consumer apps like Pinterest drive more than 600 million visual searches per month.

“Amazon has visual search in the US, but still hasn’t rolled it out in other geographies. It’s fair to say that Landmark is leading the charge on bringing this new search technology to the Middle East.

“Just like voice search turns speech into written queries, visual search is doing the same things with images. The place you most commonly encounter visual search is in retailer apps via the camera icon.

“Most recently, Samsung has begun adding visual search as a capability to its mobile assistant, Bixby, as well as a mode to its core camera app — so you can switch from panorama mode or selfie mode over to shopping mode.”

In many ways, visual search is a value-add from the “snap-the-look” feature that was trending two to three years ago. “More recently we’ve worked with brands like Tommy Hilfiger to have apps that enable you to “shop-the-look” at their fashion shows,” said Mann. “There are many other use cases that are equally exciting.

“At the US home improvement chain, Home Depot, consumers use visual search to identify and locate hardware parts in store. And at Bed, Bath & Beyond, they use to build their wedding registry.” The time has come for the UAE and Gulf shoppers to go all visual in their online pursuits.”

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How visual search can help out retailers and consumers

An image recognition technology, it enables consumers to find a product within an image. “At its most basic level, you submit an image to a visual search engine and get back one or more items, which you can then purchase — or add to a shopping cart, wish list, registry or more,” said Ted Mann of Slyce.

“In the event that an exact match isn’t found, the visual search delivers a larger result set with the most visually similar items that the retailer sells.”

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