Retail image recognition technology will profoundly impact the future of visual merchandising as it will have the potential to convert everyday interactions into a sale. While visual merchandising traditionally focused on the consumer’s experience as they were at a brick-and-mortar location, digital avenues have expanded its definition. Through artificial intelligence and 2D image recognition, brands will soon have a new way to draw consumers to their products in the store, whether they’re online or in the shopping aisle.
Brands will need to revisit online marketing fundamentals like search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management (ORM) to take advantage of image-driven shopping. They must reconsider how their product images are presented online to ensure they’re both accurate and relevant to their product category. This marketing strategy will help brands build trust with consumers and draw them to their products.
How Mobile Makes a Digital Impact in 2D Image Recognition
Any brand that wants to take advantage of 2D image recognition must be prepared to leverage mobile technology. Consumers will use their phone’s cameras to collect these images, so there must be a seamless connection to the image recognition platform. Avenues for utilizing this technology include:
- Social shopping: More consumers are shopping directly on social media platforms; as of May 2018, 82% of U.S. adults report doing so. As these sites are so visually oriented, image search shopping is a natural addition. Snapchat most recently entered this market via a partnership with Amazon. If successful, other sites will likely follow Snapchat’s lead.
- Shopping apps: Shopping apps—like Shopkick—already heavily use the consumer’s camera phone on the path to purchase. Consumers typically scan the product’s barcode to receive rewards, which drive them to pick up and interact with the item. Image search will turn the product’s label into the barcode, making the process easier and more engaging.
- Image aggregator apps: Some apps can aggregate the image results generated by other sites; some apps even have the capability to describe images. Other apps—like CamFind—provide avenues to purchase or gain further information on the images. These platforms are able to offer results from various retailers and brands, meaning companies will have to optimize their products for overall mobile search.
Through these avenues, brands can enjoy access to 2D image recognition technology without the high expense of developing it in-house. However, the use of third-party platforms is only the first step. Brands must optimize their product images so consumers find them when they utilize image search features. That means returning to the fundamentals of digital marketing, SEO, and ORM.
The Role of SEO and ORM in the Future of Visual Merchandising
Image recognition in retail is expected to evolve the same way text search did. As such, brands must revisit the principles that first helped them make their products discoverable. Any search engine requires a combination of keywords and relevance. Those keywords should be attached to pictures so the search engine can put them into context. For example, the program could see a picture of a woman wearing lipstick, and know from the attached keywords it’s Covergirl’s Outlast Lipstick in Classic Red. Properly tagging photos with accurate keywords will help consumers using image search to identify and buy products. When it comes to image SEO, the brand has all the technical control.
Relevance, on the other hand, is decided by the consumers. Product reputation will play a significant role in the order of presentation. As the top spots get the most attention, competition with other brands will be extensive. Unbiased consumer reviews will be the deciding factor, with brands with the most reliable reviews securing the top search spots. Brands will need to engage consumers online to gain the reviews required.
Generation Z, the demographic cohort following Generation Y—also known as the Millennial Generation—has become the most influential segment of consumers. Generation Z represents 2 billion people—many of whom will become target demographics for brands over the next decade. This is because they spend more time online and have been found to use their mobile phones more than television for entertainment. In order to reach these consumers, brands should cultivate relationships with micro-influencers.
The future of visual merchandising is digital.
These relationships are critical as Gen Z consumers want transparency in their interactions. The unpaid relationship between a micro-influencer and a brand is a key sales driver as it establishes a genuine connection. A micro-influencer’s reviews will drive the relevance of a product when individuals search for images online. With micro-influencers, brands can propel their products to the top of the search results when consumers seek out items via 2D image recognition.
The future of visual merchandising is digital. Two-dimensional image recognition will allow consumers to locate products by uploading photos via their phone’s camera. With SEO and ORM, brands can gain prominent digital shelf space and build loyalty with consumers.
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Image courtesy of panuwat phimpha