The future of search: voice search vs. visual search

How is transforming Fashion eCommerce Search Engine?

As smartphone usage continues to soar, mobile browsing has resulted into interesting omnichannel shopping patterns. The way how consumers interact with brands o retailers, or they access (or find) online catalogue of products has changed considerably. There is no doubt that the smartphones play a huge role in the customer journey.

Mobile Shopping is the consumer trend to watch

By March of 2017, smartphones accounted for 43 percent of digital visits to retailers, while PCs accounted for just less than 50 percent. However, mobile visits are poised to overtake desktop visits within a few months as the share of traffic from tablets also slides. Another interesting fact is actually over half of search queries originate on a mobile device.  Also, the consumers are becoming more comfortable finalizing transactions on their phones and more and more they prefer to use it for the entire purchase process. That puts even more pressure on brands to improve their mobile and/or app experiences.

Consumer search behaviors are changing

Mobile Shopping is the future (and present) of online purchase experience. In this sense, the mobile search engines also have been evolutioning, adapting to the user’s necessities and the new tendencies. Typing what we want into a search box is not a natural search process – and much less is doing it on a small screen. Today we say “Hey, Siri / Alexa ….” or take a photo of the items that we want to begin the search process with. It is here that the voice and visual search engines have a great part to develop. Visual search and voice search are creating new ways to discover and purchase products on mobile devices.

But… Does voice open new search opportunities for fashion Industry?

Text Search vs. Voice Search

The search behavior continues to change. Specifically it’s the share of people willing to use voice assistant speakers. It’s estimated that by 2020 total voice query volume will reach 50%. It makes total sense – speaking is more natural, faster, and easier than typing, and it frees up hands and eyes for other activities. But…Does search-by-voice really solves the problems of the search-by-text? Surely not, because voice recognition system turns speech into text. Additionally, voice search presents new challenges for the retailers.

Search engine optimization has grown more challenging and complex with voice entry in the role because:

  • Voice search has longer queries and it uses other structure:  While the shift from desktop to mobile search shows that the search queries get shorter, the change from text searches to voice is resulting in longer, more colloquially worded searches. The average text search is somewhere between 1-3 words while the average voice search increases at least up to 7 words. In fact, when using voice search, we are generally asking Google, Siri, etc. for answers to questions.
  • Pronunciation, rhythm and intonation are the new challenges: Today’s eCommerce search engines can index a large number of product names or descriptions to aid product search, but they don’t always deliver relevant results. The principal handicap is making coincide the product description by the consumer with the assignation of the attributes or keywords of the image by the retailer. And it is that there are as many descriptions as perceptions. Additionally, add to it language barriers and also pronunciation, rhythm and intonation to the voice search.

Voice Search vs. Visual Search

Many visionaries and articles are predicting voice search as the next big thing for retail. However, we haven’t been convinced that voice search fits the bill for fashion retail. As we have seen, voice search doesn’t solve the challenges of search-by-text and it creates new problems (queries get longer, pronunciation, etc.). According some studies, almost 40% of all shoppers use some form of visual search in their product discovery process. Yet so few retailers are prepared for this demand.

But… Is visual search the right future for fashion retail?

  • Optimize the search process:  Voice and text-based fashion searches require consumers to enter specific search terms in order to find the right garment, while visual search strips away this requirement. Visual search allows users to discover products using the cameras in their mobile devices or by browsing their favorite social or lifestyle sites. Finding the product they want is as easy as snapping a photo and pushing it through to the app or uploading an image to the platform.  
  • More accuracy in search discovery: Visual search (or search-by- image) is like exact science. A objective search in which interpretation (alteration) has no place at all. This offers an advantage over keyword-matched search (typed or spoken), in which results are only as good as the searcher’s ability to describe an item.
  • Without SEO optimization strategy: With text and voice search, keywords must exist in both: the query and the product description or the page’s metadata, and a match depends on product copy describing the product in the same or similar way. In this sense, algorithms are able to do the legwork – “read” images to identify color, patterns, shape, size and proportions-, thus speeding up the shopping process. But image recognition technology also can improve your SEO optimization strategy. Our auto-tagging API can assign relevant tags to every trending item that appears in the image automatically, but also add tags that make the difference based on visual characteristics; because details do matter in fashion.
  • Easy implementation: the fashion retailer needs to respond to voice search by building content that emphasizes natural language processing… to think of the many ways customers interact with your business and build a content strategy around the language of those interactions. However, a visual search strategy is easier to execute, since it depends on having the technology available onsite.

The Web usability adage ‘don’t make me think’ is satisfied by visual search.  On mobile, visual search taken from photo can lead to quicker results. Also, visual matching is providing far more accuracy in search discovery than written or even spoken word…a picture literally can tell a thousand words in this case!

That’s why visual search has paved a new way for using the technology as a simplifier for ordering in fashion retail. Less steps from the initial inspiration to completing the purchase is a win-win for the retailer and customer alike. As an early adopter of visual search, your business will be at the forefront of product discovery, increasing engagement with your offerings and driving conversions onsite and in-store.

Why waste time searching for the perfect pair of shoes, after all, when Visual AI can do it for you? #BeWEsual

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