Macy’s, Neiman Marcus Woo Holiday Shoppers With Mobile Visual Search

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Visual search is becoming increasingly popular, thanks to image-driven socializing via Pinterest and Instagram. Now U.S. shoppers are being invited this holiday season to use their smartphones to eye before they buy.

For retailers, mobile visual search apps make sense: they build a bridge between photo sharing on social and the point of purchase, particularly impulse purchases. By using images captured on a mobile device, image recognition technology can link the virtual and physical worlds by immediately directing consumers to the purchasing platform of their choice.

“The software mimics the way the human eye interprets images that we see every day,” said Iain McCready, CEO of Cortexica, a UK visual search firm with offices in the U.S., who helped update Macy’s app for visual search.

“By searching for products based on color, texture and pattern, as well as shape, the software leverages sophisticated algorithms that make it the most accurate system on the market today.” [more]

This week the department store giant integrated image search within the Macy’s mobile app, using Cortexica’s platform to help shoppers locate items that they’ve spotted and want to buy.

“When our customers see a look that they like on friends or on a celebrity, they can directly shop for corresponding products from macys.com and buy them without a lengthy search,” stated Kent Anderson, President of Macys.com.

The app lets consumers snap photos of outfits they like, upload them and be presented with those items (or something similar) available for immediate purchase.

Macy’s is the first major U.S. retailer working with Cortexica, which is also collaborating with German e-tailer Zalando among other partners.

Macy’s tested the “See it, scan it, shop it” idea during last year’s holiday shopping season with the Macy’s Star Gifts app, which used image recognition technology instead of scans, QR or barcodes. Powered by NantMobile’s iD technology, mobile shoppers could use visual recognition to purchase items from Macy’s via the store’s catalog, magazine ad or an outdoor billboard.

“Our next generation [of] visual recognition technology will layer a virtual world of consumer engagement over the physical, creating millions of new consumer connections for Macy’s,” said Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, Founder and CEO of NantMobile. “Macy’s is at the forefront of a retail revolution. They recognize that for their consumers, this technology offers simplicity and convenience.”

Macy’s, meanwhile, will be keeping an eye on a test by Neiman Marcus, which just launched a 3D image recognition app called Snap. Find. Shop., which was created in partnership with Slyce, a Canadian mobile visual search startup with the tagline, ‘The want engine.’

“Today, most online shopping begins with search—either through key words or navigating filters—and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words,” stated Neiman Marcus Group CMO Wanda Gierhart.

“Slyce has often been described in the media as the ‘Shazam for Stuff’ and this integration with Neiman Marcus offers users that highly-intuitive, one-click, snap-to-result experience for luxury fashion,” commented Slyce President & CEO Mark Elfenbein in a press release.

A sign of its meteoric growth, in June, Slyce raised $12 million dollars in funding, bringing the total to more than $27 million. 

“The ability to effectively make the entire real-world a showroom has become a compelling proposition for retailers,” said Elfenbein. And customers, it seems.

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[Images via Macy’s, Cortexica, Neiman Marcus]

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