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Revolutionising E-Commerce: Visual Search for Improved User Experience

Lena Beeg | Lena Beeg / July 1, 2021

As the world becomes increasingly digital, e-commerce businesses are always looking for ways to enhance the shopping experience for their customers. One of the latest advancements in ecommerce technology is visual search. By allowing customers to search for products using images instead of text, visual search technology has revolutionised the way people shop online. Visual search technology has already proven to be an effective tool for enhancing customer experience and increasing sales for e-commerce businesses. In this blog post, we will dive deeper into the importance of visual search for e-commerce. Get ready to explore the benefits of visual search, discuss the different types of visual search technology available, and provide examples of how businesses have successfully implemented visual search to improve their online shopping experience.

What Is Visual Search for E-Commerce?

Visual search is a search method that allows users to search for information or products using images rather than text. This technology uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms to analyse the visual features of an image and identify the objects, shapes, colours, textures, and patterns it contains. The results of the analysis are then used to provide relevant search results, such as similar images or related products.

In contrast, text-based search requires users to enter specific keywords or phrases related to their search query. While text-based search is effective for finding information that can be easily expressed in words, it can be limited when it comes to finding visual or complex products. Additionally, text-based search requires users to have a clear understanding of what they are looking for, which can be challenging when searching for products that have unique features or specifications.

Visual search, on the other hand, offers a more intuitive and natural way of searching for products or information. By allowing users to search with images, visual search technology can find visually similar products or information that may not have been easily identified using text-based search. This way, your customers might discover products they didn’t even know they were looking for! But how does visual search actually work?

Pinterest Visual search

How Does Visual Search Work?

Visual search uses computer vision and machine learning technologies to analyse and understand images, and to provide relevant search results based on the visual features of those images. Here's a breakdown of how visual search works:

  1. Image recognition: Visual search technology starts by analysing the visual features of an image, including shapes, colours, textures, patterns, and other visual elements. This process is called image recognition, and it uses deep learning algorithms to identify the objects in the image and their characteristics.
  2. Feature extraction: Once the objects and their features have been identified, the next step is to extract those features from the image. Feature extraction involves breaking down the image into a series of numerical values that can be used to represent the visual features of the objects in the image.
  3. Indexing and matching: The extracted features are then compared to a database of product images to find matching or similar products. This is done using a process called indexing and matching, which involves creating an index of the visual features of the products in the database and matching those features to the features extracted from the query image.
  4. Ranking and presenting results: Finally, the results of the visual search are ranked and presented to the user. This is done using a combination of relevance and popularity algorithms, which take into account factors such as the similarity of the products, the popularity of the products, and the relevance of the products to the user's search query.

As you can see, visual search is a complex technology that involves multiple layers of processing and analysis to provide accurate and relevant search results based on the visual features of an image.

Benefits of Visual Search for E-Commerce Businesses and their Customers

Visual search provides numerous benefits for e-commerce businesses, including increased sales, better customer engagement, and improved user experience. Let’s have a look at the key benefits of visual search!

  1. Increased sales: Visual search technology can help e-commerce businesses increase sales by providing a more intuitive and engaging way for customers to discover products. That is because visual search can help customers find products they may not have otherwise discovered through traditional text-based search methods. Additionally, the technology can reduce the time customers spend searching for products, improving their overall shopping experience and potentially leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.
  2. Better customer engagement: By providing a more interactive and personalised shopping experience, visual search can help e-commerce businesses better engage with their customers.  Since customers upload their own reference picture, visual search can help them find products that match their preferences and style, leading to a more personalised and engaging shopping experience.
  3. Improved user experience: Visual search can improve the overall user experience of e-commerce websites and apps by providing a more intuitive and seamless way to search for products. After a long day, the last thing users want to do is wreck their brain for the right keyword. Visual search can reduce the cognitive load of searching for products and make the process more enjoyable and effortless.
  4. Increased conversion rates: Visual search can help e-commerce businesses increase their conversion rates by providing more accurate and relevant search results. Advanced image recognition and machine learning algorithms produce highly accurate and relevant search results that are more likely to lead to conversions.

Customers, too, enjoy the benefits of visual search, including more accurate search results and the intuitive way to find products. Discover the key ways in which visual search can benefit customers!

  1. More accurate search results: Visual search can provide more accurate search results by allowing customers to search for products using images rather than text-based search terms. This can be especially helpful for finding products that may be difficult to describe in words, such as clothing items with unique patterns or designs.
  2. Easier product discovery: Customers may easily discover new products and find items that match their preferences and style. By providing visually similar search results, visual search can help customers find products that they may not have otherwise considered or discovered through traditional text-based search.
  3. Faster product search: Visual search can also speed up the product search process, as customers simply upload an image or take a picture of a product they like, and quickly receive visually similar search results. This can save customers time and effort, making the shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable.
  4. Enhanced mobile shopping: Since customers can use their mobile devices to take pictures of products they see in the real world, visual search improves the mobile shopping experience.

asos visual search (1)

How E-Commerce Businesses Can Prepare for Visual Search

Now that you’ve discovered the benefits, you might want to know what you can do to prepare for visual search technology in your online shop. We’ve got you covered with some  tips for optimising your e-commerce store for visual search!

  1. Use high-quality images: High-quality images are essential for visual search, as they help search algorithms accurately identify and match products. Make sure to use clear, well-lit images with high resolution and good contrast. It's also a good idea to use multiple images for each product, including images from different angles and close-ups of key features.
  2. Optimise images for search engines: In addition to using high-quality images, it's important to optimise them for search engines. This includes adding descriptive file names and alt text, as well as optimising image size and format for fast loading times.
  3. Implement structured data: Structured data provides additional information to search engines about the products in your online shop, making it easier for visual search algorithms to identify and match products. Make sure to use schema markup to add structured data to your product pages, including information such as product name, price, and availability.
  4. Optimise for mobile: Mobile devices are increasingly being used for visual search, so it's important to optimise your e-commerce shop for mobile users. This includes using a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes, optimising images and other content for mobile devices, and ensuring fast loading times. Our W4 experts are happy to support you with the mobile optimisation of your shop.

Unsure of how to approach the optimisation of your online shop? At W4, we specialise in e-commerce development and design to create a seamless digital shopping experience for your customers, regardless of your product or service offering. With storytelling throughout your social media, website and newsletter, our Content Marketing experts will generate the buzz you need to attract the right customers Moreover, our very own SEO team will make sure your online shop ranks in search results to ensure maximum visibility of your products.

They did it right: Successful Examples of E-Commerce Visual Search

There are several successful examples of visual search for e-commerce that businesses can learn from. Did you know about these visual search pioneers?

  1. Pinterest Lens: Pinterest Lens is a visual search tool that allows users to take a picture of an item and find similar products on the Pinterest platform. This tool has been successful in helping users discover new products and has also increased engagement and sales for businesses utilising the platform.
  2. ASOS: The popular online clothing retailer has implemented a visual search feature that enables customers to upload an image and find similar products on the site. This feature has been successful in improving the user experience and helping customers find the products they are looking for.
  3. Wayfair: The online furniture and home decor retailer has implemented a visual search feature that allows customers to take a picture of a room and find similar products on the site. This way, Wayfair helps customers visualise how products will look in their home, which has increased engagement and sales for the business. 

These successful examples of e-commerce visual search demonstrate the importance of providing a seamless and intuitive visual search experience for customers, optimising for mobile and structured data, and using high-quality images to accurately identify and match products. 

The Future of Visual Search for E-Commerce

Visual search technology is rapidly evolving, and this presents many opportunities for e-commerce businesses in the future. One of the most significant changes is the increasing accuracy of visual search algorithms, which are now able to recognise more complex images and provide more accurate search results.

Another trend in visual search is the incorporation of augmented reality (AR) and virtual try-on technology. By incorporating AR and virtual try-on technology, e-commerce businesses can provide a more immersive and personalised experience for their customers, improving the overall shopping experience. In addition, the increasing use of voice search technology presents new opportunities. As voice search becomes more accurate and widely used, businesses can optimise their stores to better respond to voice search queries, improving their search rankings and making it easier for customers to find the products they are looking for.


Visual search is becoming increasingly important for e-commerce businesses, as it leads to an improved customer experience that increases sales. The technology also provides more accurate search results and makes it easier for customers to find products. To prepare their stores for visual search, e-commerce businesses should focus on using high-quality images, optimising those images for search engines, implementing structured data, and optimising their stores for mobile. At W4, we specialise in optimising e-commerce stores for visual search and other emerging technologies. We do not only  support businesses in implementing visual search features and optimising their shops for a better customer experience. Pur experts also also stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in e-commerce – so that you can stay ahead of the competition.

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Tags: E-Commerce AI

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