ASOS is once again transforming the way that we shop online. With the retail giant being credited as one of the pioneers of fashion online, it’s no surprise that it is leading the charge to the next stage of the future – visual search.
The testing phase of the visual search feature began last month. To use the function, you simply search using a photo – your favourite gown from the Met Gala, a movie star’s red carpet dress, or even what someone from Hollyoaks wore to Glastonbury. The software will then search through the 85,000 strong catalogue of products to find a best match. The Guardian tested it using a photo of the actress Lily James at the Baby Driver premiere, where she wore a sequin dress. The first result was a £16.50 slip dress from Miss Selfridge. Currently, around 10% of customers have access to the software.
The ASOS head of product and user experience said it was too early to say if the visual search function would have much of an impact on shopper habits. Other companies such as John Lewis and a shopping centre operator, Hammerson, have been using FindSimilar, an app which allows users to search with an image. It’s suggested that the technology could be used to help physical stores fight back against online retailers to help blur the lines between online and offline shopping. John Lewis has already decided to add the tool to the website on a permanent basis.
The success of visual search could be evaluated by looking at the rise of voice search, pioneered by tools such as Amazon’s Echo speaker, which uses the virtual assistant Alexa. The new Echo Look has a selfie feature, where Alexa can offer the user fashion advice, something that retailers may have to look towards in the future.
One CEO of a tech startup predicts that shopping will become like Netflix, where the user logs on to be presented with an edited list of what they might like to buy. He added that he believed retailers should move away from traditional retail ideas, and start thinking more like a ‘consumer tech business’.