Target has licensed Pinterest’s image search tool for exclusive use in its own app, highlighting the increasing popularity of visual search among retailers seeking a mobile e-commerce boost.

The tool helps Pinterest users find images that are similar to photos they’ve taken. Once embedded in Target’s app, it will allow shoppers to take pictures of items and then receive suggestions of similar products. For example, if you see a dress you like at a pricy boutique and snap a photo, Target’s app can recommend similar (but more affordable) dresses.

Just a handful of retailers have explored this territory. Only 8% of brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail US offer photo search tools in their mobile apps. One key exception is ASOS, which recently integrated capabilities that let shoppers search for products by uploading photos directly into the search box rather than typing out keywords. Similarly, West Elm shoppers can paste Pinterest board URLs into the brand’s “Style Finder” to receive multiple recommendations based on the board’s images.

West Elm

Ranked fifth in L2’s most recent Digital IQ Index: Big Box, Target has struggled this year to redefine its online strategy amid falling profits. Integrating innovative visual search capabilities could help Target differentiate itself from the competition. After launching its “Scan + Shop” image search feature, Urban Outfitters saw its App Store rank jump from 1,342 to 662. American Eagle and Express saw similar effects when they integrated image search into their mobile offerings.

“We believe visual search in particular is incredibly important to our business,” Target senior vice president for marketing Kristi Argyilan told The Wall Street Journal.

L2's Daily Insights in Your Inbox.

Edit your preferences or unsubscribe