Go Global. Go Digital.

Visual Search: Is the Future Optical?

It’s no surprise that visual search is more commonly incorporated in search engines, social media platforms and e-commerce sites these days. Due to greater reliance on smartphones, the tendency to snap images as a form of notetaking or to help remember something has become somewhat second nature to most of us. According to Demand Gen’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey report, which polled 170 C-, VP- and Director-level B2B marketing representatives across multiple verticals:

  • About 84% of respondents either frequently or occasionally access business-related content on their smartphones.
  • Time-starved buyers are becoming more discerning with the content-types they spend consuming. They are willing to spend no more than 5 minutes reviewing most content formats. The preferred formats include Infographics (58%), Video/Motion graphics (43%), Listicles (43%) and Interactive content (33%). Three out of the top four preferred formats are visual-centric.


For B2C, visual search creates a new space for image-driven and inspiration-based connections. It can collapse the purchase journey, allowing someone to go from image to purchase in just a few clicks.

While many consumers are still unaware of the exact technology, over 50% of internet users stated that upon taking a picture, they’d like to be given similar product ideas. Consumer-brand interactions are shaped by visual content, particularly on social media. 61% of consumers aged 18-34 discover new products through social media. Google and Amazon have both realized this and visual search is a central tenet of their strategy to encourage discovery beyond search. 

Visual search can take several forms:

  • At its simplest, users can utilize photos rather than text to search for results in search engines. 
  • Some e-commerce sites allow their shoppers to snap or upload an image of products that they wish to buy and provide suggestions of similar items available to purchase on their sites. 
  • Bing Visual Search allows its users to search for specific items shown within a larger image. Other platforms have released similar searches such as Google Lens – a tool that turns smartphone cameras into a search box. Pinterest has its Shop the Look feature which turns items inside an image into something users can buy. 

Why should enterprises leverage on Visual Search?

Although the adoption of visual search is still in its infancy stages, enterprises should experiment to identify the best ways to capitalize on this consumer shift. A Gartner study found that early adopters who build in the visual search will see digital commerce revenue increased by 30%. Visual search enables marketers to gather more robust information about consumer habits – early responders will see an increase in conversion rates, revenue, new customers and enhanced customer experience. 


You might also like: Micro-Moments

Tips to Optimize for Visual Search 

  • Organize your presence across Instagram, Google and Pinterest. Visual search engines use these as hints to understand what each image contains.
  • When using stock imagery, adapt accordingly. Otherwise, the image will be recognized based on the millions of other times it has appeared.
  • If people use products as a stimulus for a search, what information would they want to know? For example – price, product information, similar items and so on. Use this as the base for structured data, to make it easy for a search engine to surface this information.
  • Consider how your shoppable images might surface. Visual search engines are instrumental in the purchasing process, particularly with millennials. According to socialmediatoday, 62% of millennials desire the ability to visually search over any other new technology. Look at your influencer engagements and those of your competitors to see what tends to show up.
  • Engage directly with creative teams. Search remains a data-intensive industry but is now merging with creative aspects. Search marketers need to be working with social media and brands to make the most of visual search.

In the last six years, visual search market revenue has increased by 29% year-on-year. While it will not be replacing keywords and text-based searches entirely anytime soon, it will inevitably disrupt the SEO industry significantly. 


Image Credit: Getty Image

Share this article

Grow Your Business

Be A Smart Marketer

Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.


Share this article

Most Popular

Be A Smart Marketer

Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

Most Popular Posts

Reach out to job applicants in China Social Media

Tailor your approach to recruit in China: Identify platforms like WeChat, Weibo, Zhihu. Create engaging content, leverage targeted ads, engage with candidates, collaborate with influencers, optimise for mobile, monitor performance. Attract top talent effectively!

Read More »