What is visual search in fashion?

Bite-Sized Tips #1

Jess Erdman, May 2022


(Quick video summary from our webinar 'Why fashion eCommerce needs visual search?")


What is fashion visual search?

While the terminology sounds complex, the concept is quite straightforward: fashion visual search uses an image as the stimulus for a search query. In text-based search, you might type in that you’re looking for an “party dress” for an upcoming event. In fashion visual search, you would use an image as a starting point for the search: whether that’s you pointing your iPhone camera, a screenshot saved on your computer, a clickable image within a video, or a virtual mannequin with adjustable search filters.

Visual search in eCommerce can be helpful to find a specific product, search within parameters like silhouette/fit, or explore entirely new products. While text-based search does very little without the user taking the lead, fashion visual search offers a more guided search experience (depending on the search tool).


What do you need to know about the technology behind visual search in eCommerce?

Visual search in eCommerce is driven by artificial intelligence, and the technology’s goal is to understand both the content (what are you searching for?) and the context of the search (what’s the motivation behind your search? Are there related styles you’re interested in?)

While camera search was the norm in the earlier days of fashion visual search, we’re now moving into an era where more complex visual interface searches are taking the place of camera search. Camera search has difficulty understanding the context and details of the search without further prompting–requiring more work on the user’s end. For example, if a shopper uploads a picture of a pink maxi-dress with a v-neck (but she actually wants a scoop neck), the shopper will need to first upload the picture, then further refine the search results. Oftentimes, there aren’t options to further refine the search results, leaving shoppers at a dead-end.

On the other hand, using visual interface search, that filtering process becomes smoothly integrated into the search journey.

Here’s a quick explainer of the difference between camera search and visual interface: 

The differences between camera search and visual interface search

Shoppers love to see specific product attributes, like a certain kind of fit or silhouette–but image upload struggles to identify product attributes and even categories.


Image Upload


Visual Interface

You can learn more about the difference between the types of fashion visual search here.

How can fashion visual search help your eCommerce?

Schedule a free 20-minute consultation 

Why is fashion visual search the future of ecommerce?

Reason 1: Fashion visual search is a more intuitive way to search
Visual search in eCommerce solves the search problem that plagues every fashion eCommerce: shoppers either know exactly what they want and can’t navigate to the product because of overwhelming, confusing fashion taxonomy, or shoppers (more commonly) have an “I’ll know it when I see it mindset.” Shopping in general is a visual, visceral activity–and visual search closely mirrors the way we shop in-store. 

And, research backs up these claims. For example, when shopping online for clothing/furniture, over 85% of respondents put more importance on visual information than text information.


Reason 2: It prompts shoppers to explore retailer’s inventories
Visual search in eCommerce helps shoppers explore retailers' inventory, without knowing exactly what they’re looking for–which is ideal for both parties: retailers want to see their full inventories get attention and shoppers want to see more than the same recycled search results from text-based keywords. 


Reason 3: Visual search in eCommerce overcomes the limitations of text-based search
In the past, shoppers were confined by text-based search, and were only able to search within the limitations of language–and if they don’t know the language to use, they’ll receive incorrect search results. And, the technology was limited as well–now, with neural networks and deep learning, visual search solutions like YesPlz AI can train artificial intelligence to fully understand an image and its context, creating a dynamic, delightful search experience.


Examples of retailers implementing fashion visual search

In the next edition of our series, we’ll talk about retailers implementing fashion visual search, and what the future could look like in 5 or 10 years from now. 

This is the first part of YesPlz’s Bite-Sized Visual Search Tips, a series where we break down the most pressing questions in visual search.

Interested in learning more about the latest topics in fashion tech and retail tech?

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by Jess Erdman Jess Erdman
Content Marketing Lead

I'm passionate about creating cool content. The best part? I get to learn new things about fashion tech and ecommerce everyday. Have an idea or opinion about this article? Reach out at jess@yesplz.ai

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