Why visual search is the next big thing for eCommerce brands

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Why visual search is the next big thing for eCommerce brands

Let me tell you why visual search is the next quick win for e-commerce brands. People don’t like to be sold to, but they love to buy. Think about when you’re on your way to work or anywhere in the street, someone stands right in front of you, slaps a leaflet in your face: “Join my gym” or “Buy my…this offer.” It’s annoying. Everyone I’ve spoken to about this, everyone had an experience of someone interrupting their day. And just – everyone had an appalling experience with this. Being sold something is annoying.

Online, it’s no different. Ad blockers. According to data from The Guardian, or the forecast that they have, the growth of ad blockers in the US could remove up to $12 billion in advertising revenue by 2020, and it’s easy to see why.

Here’s another example. I go onto Twitter to read news or follow people that I’m interested in. An ad, right in my face, six months into my contract that I already have – no! Wait another 18 months. But, it’s really hard for brands to know when the time is right. When the time is right, we love looking at ads. Again, if that was shown to me six months ago, I would have loved that. I wanted opportunities, I wanted ideas. When the time is right, we love looking at ads.

Who’s really good at knowing when the time is right online? Google, especially Google Shopping. They get people at the critical moment when they’re typing in things that they want to buy, and they capture them right there. It works much better than just text ads, Google Shopping, because of the visual appeal that they have, because people can see the products that they can buy. One of the case studies showed a 26% higher conversion rate than text ads. “That’s just one case study,” you might say. Well, overall in the industry, in 2016 retail marketers spent 12% more on shopping ads than they did on text ads, and that is significant because just a year ago that statistic was literally the other way around.

When you think about the funnel, and when people start to look at things they want to buy, Google is brilliant; the shopping is brilliant at capturing the transaction and getting that sale. They struggle with the rest of the funnel, because AdWords is very text-based and Google’s not really designed for discovering new things. When you look at things like bedroom decoration ideas, or something vague like: “What can I eat with avocado for dinner tonight?” it’s not that good.

There is another tool in the market for that: Pinterest. It’s been literally designed to help people find new ideas, find new things that they never knew existed. Where Pinterest absolutely excels, and where they’ve done a really good job, is they use machine learning. And based on everything that they know about you on the platform, once you click on something, they use all that data and they find other things that you will probably like as well. They’re absolutely brilliant.

The numbers. 150 million active monthly users, two billion searches a month, so, they are super active on the platform, and they’re not just looking at stuff, they’re actively buying. 87% of Pinners have purchased something because of Pinterest. While on other social networks and platforms ads are annoying, people on that absolutely love engaging with it. Two-thirds of Pins represents brands and products. And they don’t go there just to find stuff they already know; 97% of top searches were for non-branded search terms, and that could be your brand there.

When you think about the funnel, AdWords amazing, Shopping amazing at capturing the action. Pinterest, on the other hand, really good at generating awareness for new products, helping people to find new interests, helping them to make a decision, and now they’re getting amazing at getting the sale as well, just as Shopping. Now they’ve introduced the new search ads for Pinterest, and now you can put your brand in total control of where they’re going to show up at the right time, when people are searching for products. It’s not something like, you’re probably looking at this and thinking: “Where’s the bloody ad?” Well, it’s quite well-disguised. It’s not in your face, but as a brand you are in full control. When people type in “watches” you can be there.

Now, even more importantly than that – it’s already in the US but now it’s in beta in the UK, and you need to get approved for that, but still it’s only, I suppose, a couple months away from where we can use this – buyable pins. Users can literally buy stuff on the platform, so they don’t need to leave anywhere. Merchants are in full control of the data, so when someone buys something from that, Pinterest doesn’t know anything around what is going on; the merchant gets all the data.

Going back to the funnel, AdWords, Shopping, amazing at action, not so good at the top of the funnel. Pinterest, amazing at the top of the funnel, and now they allow you to be in full control of the whole funnel. People are looking for stuff, and now as marketers we can sell anything to them and they don’t even mind it because it’s the right time.

I think this is an unbelievable opportunity for any e-commerce brand, and I urge you to go out and explore it. Thank you.