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Pinterest Expert Explains How Visual Search Is Changing The Shopping Experience


Updated June 1, 2020

Pinterest Expert Reveals How Visual Search Technology Is Changing The Shopping Experience

As an entrepreneur, you’re often faced with a choice: adapt, keep doing what you’re doing, or cut your losses. 

Unfortunately for many ecommerce and retailers they are missing out on Pinterest’s visual search tools. Many have not even heard of visual search.

What the heck is visual search?

Visual search is an emerging trend in shopping and search that allows shoppers to use pictures to search for items instead of keywords. The beautiful thing about visual search is that if you can’t find the words to describe it, visual search technology solves that problem. Did you know that Pinterest’s visual search technology can identify more than 2.5 billion objects across home decor and fashion images. So if your business doesn’t have a presence on Pinterest you are missing out big time on traffic and sales!

Humans are visual creatures

Shoppers today are more visual than ever so it seems natural that we would use an image to start a search. With visual search, images can yield better results compared to traditional search. It’s no surprise because people are finding what they want faster and it promotes personalization which shoppers are craving for today.

The easier it is for a customer to find the product they’re looking for, the less friction there is in achieving a sale.

In fact, studies show that visual search leads to checkout twice as quickly as text-based search.

How Does Visual Search Work?

Visual search uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and is revolutionizing how consumers find and buy your products today.

When presented with an image, visual search identifies objects within it, and then searches for images related to those objects.

Google Version Called Lens

Google’s version called Lens can not only identify objects in an image, but also matches them to local retailers.

Did you catch that?  Visual search can identify where the object you’re looking for can be purchased locally, what that means to you is more traffic into your stores or website and more sales.

Isn’t that what you want?

Google says more than one-third of holiday shoppers last year searched for images before shopping in a store. Source

Here is an example within Pinterest.  

Pinterest expert
Let’s say you’re looking for a living room chair like this one.

You would click on the visual search tool (grey circle with white frame as shown on the bottom right corner in the image above) and voila Pinterest will show images of the exact chair and similar chairs as shown below.

Pinterest expert


This type of search is different than typing in keywords like “living room chair”.

Next, you will see a “Shop” tab (as shown below in the image) with a feed of shoppable pins based on the in-stock products we’ve identified in that image. Every Product Pin links directly to the checkout page on the retailer’s site.

pinterest expert

There is a growing evidence to show this technology is taking off with consumers:

  • There are 3x as many visual searches using the Pinterest camera than last year.
  • There are now more than 600 million visual searches each month on Pinterest.
  • 62% of Millennials desire the ability to visually search over any other new technology.
  • Google, Amazon, Pinterest are investing heavily in visual search.
  • 80% of Pinners start with visual search when shopping vs. 58% of non-Pinners.
  • When shopping online for clothing or furniture, over 85% of respondents put more importance on visual information than text information
  • 55% of consumers say Visual Search is instrumental in developing their style and taste
  • 49% of Pinners say they develop a better relationship with brands they love through visual search
  • 61% of consumers say visual search elevates their experience while in-store browsing

Retailers including JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Tommy Hilfiger, Express, Bed Bath and Beyond & others have integrated Slyce’s product recognition technology. Fortunately for small sized businesses you don’t have to create your own visual search tool. You just need to have a consistent presence on Pinterest.

This can be an incredibly powerful tool for marketers. Consider how many people have seen your product in the past but haven’t been able to easily find it online. Many of those lost opportunities can now be leads. What is the size of this lost opportunity? Which competitive brands or retailers did you lose out to and why? It’s adapt or die. It’s not a question of whether a business will adopt this technology, it’s how, when, where, and in what combination.

Pinterest Is Going Public & Investing Heaving in Visual Search Technology

Here is a quote from the CEO of Pinterest who is about to go public and is banking on visual search to power their future.

“The future of search will be about pictures rather than keywords,” stated Pinterest CEO, Ben Silbermann. And with so much consumer and brand weight behind it, it’s no surprise that visual search promises to be a breakout trend of 2019.

Why should you care?  What’s in it for you?

You should care because if your target audience are Generation Z and Millennials this is how they are shopping online. As a retailer you need to understand how the biggest online consumers are behaving and thinking so that you continually connect with them based on how they shop.

So let me ask you…will you adapt and stay in sync with how the new generation of shopper’s shops today or will you fall behind and risk losing market share?

As you can see in this chart below shoppers 18-34 years old most prefer the ability to search by image. They want this tool to shop.

Pinterest expert

If you’re not convinced these stats speaks for itself:

  • Image-based Pinterest Ads have an 8.5% conversion rate, and Pinterest is projected to clear $1 billion a year in ad revenue by 2020
  • In two years brands which redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. That’s 30% folks.  Who can ignore that?
  • When shopping online for clothing or furniture, more than 85% of respondents respectively put more importance on visual information than text information. Source
  • Consumers now trust images more than text and visual search is on the rise. According to new research from Performics’ Intent Lab, a partnership with Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications, 59% of consumers think visual information is more important than textual information across all consumer categories. Roughly 36% have conducted a visual search, while close to 60% of respondents think images are more trustworthy than text. Source

Target Teams Up with Pinterest

The real leader in this field, Pinterest; who recently teamed up with Target to feature its visual search tool.

The head of Pinterest retail strategy a real Pinterest expert Amy Vener said this:

“For retailers, Pinterest is an opportunity to engage with customers earlier and more often, well before a transaction takes place”.

The earlier you can connect with buyers on their buying journey and the more touch points you have, the greater the odds they learn about your brand and develop trust which leads to more sales.

Pinterest Visual Search Tool: The “Lens”

Pinterest rolled out its first visual search tool called “Lens” in 2017. It’s a real-time visual search tool embedded in the camera of the Pinterest App. It allows you to shop for products anytime you point your Pinterest app & phone camera at something. You can also use Lens with food. Just point it at cauliflower or potatoes to see what recipes come up.

Pinnerse can also save photos from Lens, turn them into an image and save them to your boards so you can come back to it anytime. For example, if a shopper is in the market for a new dining chair, they can save pins to a board.

How does the Lens work?

Did you ever spot something you loved but couldn’t find the words to describe it? Pinterest has solved that problem with the Lens. Well, all you need to do is open the Pinterest app on your mobile device and tap the camera icon in the search bar.

Pinterest Expert

Next, make sure the object is in the center like you see on the top left image and then tap on the white circle (where the red arrow in pointing in the above image) and voila Pinterest will show you pages of images of those exact or similar objects as shown on the right image.

Top categories for Lens searches:

Home decor

Within the Pinterest’s categories these are the top interests when using the Lens are:

Wedding dress
Natural hair

Pinterest’s Visual Search Tool called SHOP THE LOOK

Another ambitious visual search tool Pinterest has produced is called the Shop the Look. It is specifically designed for fashion and home decor shopping.

Shop the Look pins have white dots (as shown on the left image below) hovering over the different parts of an outfit or a room.

Pinterest Expert

When people tap on the white dots Pinterest will show the exact or similar products featured in the pin. When they’re ready to buy, your customers can click through to your site to check out. That is how Pinterest is helping retailers make more sales.

You can also think of it as a PERSONALIZED SEARCH since this feature is showing the shopper the exact or similar products they are looking for. If you want to keep today’s customers happy, personalization needs to be a part of your customer’s experience. Here’s why.

  • 59% of customers say that personalization influences their shopping decision. Source
  • 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience. Source

Pinterest’s Lens feature is just one of many reasons brands would profit greatly from understanding Pinterest. I believe it is a marketing powerhouse that is vastly underutilized by most businesses and has the potential to drive massive new traffic and sales to you.

If you’re struggling with Pinterest marketing consider mastering Pinterest by taking my Pinterest Marketing for Business online course or if you’d rather outsource the management of your Pinterest and focus on your business then contact me a Pinterest expert at anna@whiteglovesocialmedia or go here for more details about how to get started.

pinterest expert

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