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AI-Powered Visual Search: Enhancing the Shopping Experience in Online Marketplaces

Two things most online marketplaces have in common are a desire for increased sales and providing an exceptional customer experience. While these aspects go hand in hand, there is an emerging way to boost both and ensure happy and loyal customers while increasing your bottom line.

The answer lies in artificial intelligence through visual search or AI visual search. The power of this is undeniable. In fact, ever since Google Lens was launched in October 2017, the online search giant now processes over one billion visual searches each month through its AI-powered visual search tool.

This makes sense because humans are primarily visual beings. With this in mind, this article explores what AI-powered visual search is and how it works, its benefits for consumers and retailers, implementation aspects, as well as ethical considerations. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is AI-Powered Visual Search?

In short, AI-powered visual search enables online shoppers to find products online by either uploading an image or taking a picture with their smartphone camera. This technology is powered by AI and computer vision. The ultimate purpose is to make online shopping more intuitive and seamless.

And this makes sense because instead of typing text descriptions, which can be highly limited, shoppers can search for the exact item they have in mind. Going a step further, AI visual search can enable consumers to virtually “try on” products such as clothing or makeup, while receiving personalized and tailored recommendations based on their data.

How Does AI-Powered Visual Search Work?

If you want to use AI visual search, all you have to do is open your phone’s camera, press the power button or the home button for a few seconds, wait for the visual assistant to pop up, and you’re ready to begin your search. Behind this simplicity lies a complex interaction of elements. For example, AI visual search technology is often powered by things such as:

With all these technologies taking place simultaneously or independently, it’s important to also understand how AI powers visual search or what the mechanisms behind it are. Often, this can be done in several ways, including:

What this seemingly complex world offers is helping consumers to search for items simply by clicking on items that represent the features they want in an outfit, for example, by choosing the length, fit, neckline, color, etc. Then, the AI technology can match items that are most similar to the parameters set out.

Benefits of AI-Powered Visual Search for Consumers

AI visual search opens up a world of possibilities for consumers. Among these are increased convenience and efficiency in finding products with specific creative logos improved accuracy in search results, a more personalized shopping experience, and lower language barriers in global marketplaces. Let’s take a look at each one below.

Convenience and efficiency in finding products

If a consumer has an idea of what they are looking for but don’t have ways to describe it through text search, they can simply take a photo, upload one, or browse through a vast library of images that quickly make accurate matches and recommendations to make their discovery. The faster and more conveniently they can find products, the higher their chances of being satisfied with their ultimate purchase.

Improved accuracy in search results

Being able to customize your search results and to find the ultimate product you have in mind is achieved through artificial intelligence doing what it is best at. Through improved training models and data sets, the search results consumers receive will become increasingly more accurate, meaning they’ll find what they are looking for faster and with greater ease. For instance, they can tailor their search results based on colors, textures, patterns, lengths, and many other defining characteristics to really discover their ideal product.

Personalized shopping experience

AI’s ability to study a consumer’s journey and search results means that it can tailor recommendations to customers with greater precision and a higher accuracy in securing a sale. This is due to personalization in shopping that we have not seen until now. And this is made possible by aspects such as virtual “try ons” for makeup, hair products and accessories, shoes, clothing, technology, home electronics, vehicles, art, and more.

Reducing the language barrier in global marketplaces

Many consumers are put off by language barriers in many online marketplaces. However, with AI-powered visual search at their fingertips, they can now surpass these language barriers and shop from marketplaces that are most convenient for them in terms of price, products, and added extras.

Benefits of AI-Powered Visual Search for Online Retailers

Online retailers are also positioned to take advantage of the benefits that AI visual search offers. In particular, they can boost customer retention and engagement, increase conversion rates and sales, achieve easier product discovery and recommendations, and earn a competitive edge in the market. Below, we take a closer look at each of these advantages.

Increased customer engagement and retention

When an online marketplace offers their customers what they are looking for, there is a higher chance that customers will be satisfied with their experience, thus boosting customer engagement and retention. 

Higher conversion rates and sales

Increased customer retention rates ultimately lead to higher conversions and sales, which improve your bottom line and help your business thrive in a competitive environment. It also means lower bounce and abandoned cart rates.

Enhanced product discovery and recommendation

Offering AI visual search also means your online store can enhance its product discovery and recommendations to customers. With product discovery, more items in your catalog will become visible, which normally may not be, and this can ensure that your recommendations are more accurate, while saving customers time and effort.

Competitive advantage in the market

And last but not least, serving your customers well, offering them tailored product recommendations, retaining and engaging them, as well as boosting your sales all mean that your business will have the competitive edge in a crowded market.

Implementation of AI-Powered Visual Search in Online Marketplaces

To implement AI-powered visual search in your online shop, make sure you start with a clear setup that means you have all the required libraries installed. Next, you need to train a neural network for image recognition using your dataset of product images. This step can be sped up through the use of pre-trained models. You then should create a user-friendly interface to allow users to upload their images and view search results. The final step is deployment.

While this is just the start of the process, you also need to work on it on a continuous basis by following and applying numerous search engine optimization (SEO) best practices for online shops. Among these include: optimizing images (alt text, quantity of images, keywords), implementing user-friendly interfaces, optimizing for mobile devices, integrating with product catalogs, and monitoring user behavior.

Ethical and Privacy Considerations

Naturally, many aspects of the world of AI remain unregulated as yet and while the decision-makers work on developing clear cut rules for effective monitoring, implementation, and deployment of this technology, it’s worth considering some important ethical and privacy considerations, among which are the following:


AI-powered visual search is here for the long game as more and more consumers who engage in online shopping use its personalization and recommendation features to find exactly what they are looking for.

Despite some ethical and privacy considerations, when leveraged the right way, AI visual search has the potential to bring enormous benefits both to shoppers and consumers as well as online marketplaces.

Velislava Georgieva is an Outreach and Content Manager at Inbound Blogging, specializing in Content Marketing and Outreach Strategies. Besides her passion for digital marketing, she likes yoga, fitness, and hiking. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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