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26 February 00:00

Visual Search: One of the Biggest Digital Marketing Trends of 2019

Visual search represents one of the biggest digital marketing trends of 2019. Is your company ready?

By Mediaplanet Creative Team

Maybe you’ve already done this. A photo of someone wearing a stylish pair of sunglasses catches your eye. You wonder which brand they are or where you can buy them. You right-click and press “Search Google for Image.” A second later, the results come in and in addition to the visual results, Google suggests a possible related search in text.

Welcome to visual search, one of the biggest digital marketing trends of 2019. It doesn’t just help internet sleuths discover the origin of pictures or memes, but also has the potential to revolutionize how we find and buy products.

How Visual Search Works

We humans are extremely visual. A full 90% of the information we take in is visual and we process the things we see extremely quickly — like within 13 milliseconds fast.

In the race to make search even easier and more aligned with how our brains work, search companies are teaching machines to “think” more like us. After all, when we look at images, we don’t see ones and zeros. We see shapes and colors. And now, machines are being taught to do the same.

When an image is processed by visual search, an algorithm identifies objects in it and performs an image search for those objects. For example, if there’s a picture of a sunglasses, visual search will retrieve images of identical and almost identical-looking sunglasses.

Visual search engines relies on neural networks that use machine learning technology. As such, they’re constantly improving and expanding their knowledge base. When a company like Google has enough information, it can go beyond merely identify the objects in pictures and returning identical or similar images. It can also do things like suggest local retailers and provide customer reviews.

Why You Should Adopt Visual Search

Now that you understand the basics of how visual search works, you might be wondering whether it’s worth it to make the images on your site visual search-ready. If there’s any doubt, consider these stats:

  • Images currently make up 12.4 percent of search queries on Google.
  • Among millennials and generation Z, 62 percent would rather have visual search than any other new technology.
  • The image recognition market is expected to reach $25.65 billion this year.
  • Pinterest alone processes more than 600 million visual searches per month.
  • Image-based ads on Pinterest have an 8.5 percent conversion rate, and Pinterest is projected to hit $1 billion a year in ad revenue by 2020.
  • By 2021, brands with websites that support voice and visual search are expected to increase their digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.

How Your Brand Can Improve Its Visibility

So what can your brand do to improve its rankings on visual search? It’s relatively easy. Here’s how:

  • Build image search into your web inventory: As of now, only 8 percent of retailers have image search built into their web inventory. Do this and you’re likely to be ahead of your competitors.
  • Submit images to your sitemap: For starters, your images should be clearly displayed and free of clutter so that web crawlers and other applications can easily process them. This means they should all be the best possible size and file type. Once they’re optimized, double check that you’ve added info about each of your image to the corresponding URL on your sitemap.
  • Boost organic image visibility: Metadata is especially important for SEO in visual search. This is one of the only sources of textual info that web crawlers have to analyze images. It also drives traffic to both your website and the products on your site. Make sure you fill out the metadata for every picture on your website.
  • Advertise on Pinterest: Pinterest’s impact on the market continues to grow and its visual search capabilities are well-developed. If it fits your target audience, try advertising on the platform.

Changes to Visual Search in 2019

As more companies adopt this technology, visual search will continue to evolve. Some changes will inevitably be unforeseen, but these trends are likely to take off this year:

  • Improving technology: Just like other AI-powered technology, visual search will become more accurate and more widespread.
  • Broader visual search: Platforms that are mainly visual, such as Instagram, will add combined visual search/shopping functions to create smoother experiences.
  • Text and image: An increasing number of brands will combine their visual and search test to increase their reach.
  • Increased integration with chatbots: Chatbots will be integrated with visual search so that visual search will become a natural starting point of conversations.

As Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann says, “The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords,” and we agree. What do you think? Is your company ready to take advantage of the growing trend of visual search?

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