If you own an e-commerce businesses, you’ve probably heard chatter about visual search. This emerging technology, where you search using an image rather than words, has the potential to transform the industry. To stay competitive with other web stores — and to make sure your products get out in front of customers — it’s important to start changing the way you use photos.
What is Visual Search?
When you use a traditional internet search, you enter one or more words into a search engine. The engine then finds websites that are the best match for your search. With visual search, you search using a photo or a graphic instead of words. You can try searching with images in Google. Simply drag an image file into the search bar. The search engine reviews the image and returns websites that contain similar photos.
How Does Visual Search Impact E-Commerce Businesses?
For your e-commerce business, visual search is an exciting opportunity. Imagine one of your potential customers is at a restaurant and sees someone with a gorgeous purse. Instead of bothering the owner of the purse, the customer could snap a quick picture and upload it into a visual search engine. The engine would return a list of matching results — including the stores that carry the purse. If your online store is in the list, you could get the customer’s business.
The power of visual search lies in speed and instant gratification. Instead of spending time hunting down information about a product, your customers can find it in seconds and buy it immediately.
With products such as Google Lens, your customers can point their phone cameras at an item for an instant search — no dragging or uploading required.
As visual search gets more sophisticated, it’s likely to be able to show users related images, in addition to exact matches. But what does that mean for your business? If a customer searches for a specific couch, a search engine could also show coordinating mirrors, rugs, and sofas. If you run a home decor store, that means that your products are more visible, which translates into more sales.
Optimizing Your Store for Visual Search
Visual search has the potential to skyrocket sales in your online store — but only if your photos show up in the search results. Just like regular text searches, this requires search engine optimization.
As an e-commerce owner, you probably already optimize your images for text search by using keywords in the file names, alt text, and descriptions. To get your store ready for visual search, there are a few recommended techniques:
- Use multiple angles: Shoot products from all angles to make it easier for search engines to match customer photos.
- Cut out clutter: Eliminate background clutter when shooting to help search engines recognize your products.
- Reduce image size: Use compression tools to make file sizes as small as possible without losing quality. This helps them load quickly.
- Use separate thumbnails: Create separate small images for thumbnails to help pages load faster.
- Make an image sitemap: Image sitemaps tell search engines about your photos, which makes them more likely to show up in image searches.
- Encourage social sharing: Pinterest, in particular, is likely to be a huge player in visual search. Add Pin It buttons to your photos for easier sharing.
Visual search offers exciting possibilities for your e-commerce store. By starting now, you can optimize your photos and help your products show up in search results.