The Visual Search Impact on Online Sellers

Pinterest has publicly launched a point-and-shoot discovery tool for Android and iOS that may change up retailers' expectations for and emphasis on their visual search initiatives in the future.

The new Pinterest Lens enables users to find pins and content related to photos they take on their camera or from their camera's gallery. The feature is available to those with an up-to-date iOS or Android app. Users can tap the search bar and then the red camera icon to open Lens. Once Lens is pointed at the object of interest (clothing, furniture, etc.) Lens will then locate similar goods shared by other Pinterest users, showcasing information on businesses that sell such items.

What this means, of course, is that it is time for retailers to consider how they can best optimize for this visual search era as Pinterest users are now able to find product on Pinterest by online sellers or their competitors using the approach. Lens is still very much in beta, of course, but it does show the potential of such machine learning technologies. What's more is that Pinterest is most certainly not the only company working on doing visual search.

Google, for example, is reportedly testing a dedicated visual search interface (following the years-long luke warm reception to its predecessor Google Goggles) among other features, and there are numerous startups looking to make their mark in the vertical.

Visual search engine Envy (which officially launched at SXSW this week), for example, is a Web-based mobile app in which consumers locate and select products and services by swiping through images - sort of like Tinder but for, well, everything - from restaurants to salons.