The goal of retail image recognition is to move beyond the barcode. With this type of technology, consumers can discover products in the real world with their mobile phones. Then, they can purchase the item online or in the store. Information that was only obtainable through a product’s barcode in the past can now be accessed through a photo.
Retail image recognition is going to impact the marketing industry in a significant way. Real-world products won’t only represent sales, but marketing opportunities as well. Technology like this has the ability to turn the physical world into a digital shopping aisle where consumers can discover new products wherever they are—just by taking a single picture. CPG brands need to prepare for this paradigm shift by encouraging consumers to use their smartphones to interact with products. They should also build up their online image libraries to make their brands visible when consumers shift over to retail image recognition-based shopping.
Advancing Barcode Technology for Retail Image Recognition
Image recognition is an excellent example of how technology is changing retail. Barcodes laid the groundwork for retail image recognition today. Through establishing scannable, unique identifiers, companies were able to simplify their supply chains, speed checkouts, and even offer customers information in-store through mobile phone barcode scanning.
With improvements in the ability to collect and understand a more considerable amount of data, retail image recognition could become the new barcode. Instead of storing data within the barcode, the product or the product’s label becomes the data itself. A photograph captures the unique structure of the item. Then, it’s compared with a database of millions of available images to find a sales match. This entire process happens in only seconds.
The application of retail image recognition in the CPG industry could be a significant disruptor. By making product information accessible through only an image, brands can expand their marketing efforts. For example, if someone wanted information about a product they saw someone using, all they would have to do is take a photo of that product. Brands should prepare both their digital presence and their consumer base to gain the best results when this trend takes hold.
Using Images and In-Store Incentives to Prepare for Retail Image Recognition
Amazon and Snapchat made the news recently when they teamed up to offer a retail image-based shopping app. While many social media platforms and smaller retailers have existing apps in place, the Amazon-Snapchat partnership is indicative of mainstream potential. Brands should prepare early to ensure they don’t lose momentum when the industry shifts.
An extensive database of images will be critical to successfully implement an image-recognition strategy. Image-based online marketing campaigns help boost image libraries while also engaging customers. About 93% of consumers state that pictures are vital deciding factors in purchases. A campaign designed around memes or user-generated content, as an example, would serve to both establish a robust database of images while also improving brand awareness with consumers. Increasing image campaigns, as well as an overall brand presence on photo-based social media channels, is imperative.
Consumer adoption of this technology will also play a crucial part in the success of any strategy based around it. Brands can encourage adoption by partnering with shopping apps designed to boost physical interaction with a product. Shopkick, for example, incentivizes consumers to interact with products by rewarding them with kicks (aka rewards points) when they scan barcodes in the store. This type of feature puts consumers at ease with using their smartphones to interact with products, and helps to get them intrigued about the idea.
Developers of these shopping apps will be at the forefront of retail image recognition technology as it will have a direct impact on their user base. As such, most shopping app developers are already working on programs designed around retail image recognition. Partnering with these app providers early on offers brands the best possible chance of success.
Retail Image Recognition Strategies in Action
Most of the current retail image recognition strategies in place come from social media platforms. This was the case with Target’s decision to partner with Pinterest in an image recognition-based approach. The retailer is developing a tool for use with its existing registry feature. Users will be able to take pictures of things they need for baby showers or weddings, as an example, and receive a curated list of similar products. Even before the rollout of the tool, this strategy is a win for Target as it gets people interested in the company and its presence on social media.
Retail image recognition is poised to disrupt commerce.
Brands need to take an example from Target’s book and proactively manage image recognition. As CPG brands have so many products, a branded app specifically for the company’s products would be overly burdensome to administer. App partnerships can contribute to the success of a retail image strategy for CPG brands. Brand leaders must begin seeking out opportunities to partner with the right platforms. While social media and shopping apps are the primary options now, it’s likely others will appear as this type of technology becomes more prevalent.
Retail image recognition is poised to disrupt commerce. It’s going to blur the line between brick-and-mortar and online shopping, so brands should be prepared. By establishing partnerships with the developers of these programs and creating a catalog of searchable images, brands can get in on the ground floor of what is likely to be a lucrative trend.
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Image courtesy of Zapp2Photo