Searching for a specific product online can be a challenge for consumers who can visualize what they want but struggle to articulate it. To address this pain point of e-commerce, several brands have added visual search technology to their apps.

Google Images, Amazon, and Pinterest have used visual search tools within their search bar for years. Yet just 8% of brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Specialty Retail US have integrated a photo search tool into their iOS apps.

Using these tools, shoppers can upload a picture directly into the search box and find visually similar items. This can be anything from a screenshot of a celebrity’s outfit from Instagram to a picture of a leather jacket spotted on a stranger in the street. These visual tools allow users to generate more specific search results, as opposed to traditional keyword searches.

The technology is particularly useful for brands offering thousands of apparel items, such as ASOS, which is leading the visual search trend in Europe. ASOS has around 85,000 items available on its platform. Nearly 80% of ASOS site traffic comes from mobile devices, and around 70% of orders are fulfilled on mobile. The recent addition of visual search to the UK mobile app is a strategic reinforcement of the brand’s strong mobile offering.


Other industries have also integrated the camera feature within their apps. Beauty brands are using the technology as a customer service tool to offer personalised beauty routines based on pictures uploaded by users, while Home Depot allows users to upload a picture of a tool or other home item they’re looking for online. By making items easier to find online, brands encourage consumers to become more frequent e-commerce participants.

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