How Visual Is Transforming the Search Landscape for Digital Marketers (infographic)

How Visual Is Transforming the Search Landscape for Digital Marketers (infographic)

A digital storm has swept through the search world the last few years. Innovations in technology, including smartphone cameras, machine learning, and voice recognition software have simultaneously become more sophisticated. These powerful technologies have paved the way for another new and highly transformative tool: visual search.

Wondering what visual search is and why it’s so significant for marketers? Want to know how marketers can harness its power? 

To get the latest information about visual search and learn how it can transform your marketing efforts, check out this fact-filled infographic from MDG Advertising, Let’s Get Visual: How Search is Changing.

What Exactly Is Visual Search?

Powerful and complex, visual search substitutes text—the typical input method for searching online for information—with images. This is different from visual search, which takes a text-based query and locates the best image match. With visual search, the searcher sends a photo to a search platform instead of typing text into a box.

Visual search begins with any image, including real-time images and streams taken with a smartphone or other device, images already available in the device’s photo library, or images from an external source (email, websites, etc.).


During the next step, the search platform has to interpret and recognize the image, which involves identifying what the photo is, figuring out what the user is looking for, and delivering relevant and accurate results. 

Why Has Visual Search All of a Sudden Become So Popular?

Creating a visual search query can feel magical to the user, who simply shares an image and lets the search engine do the rest. Visual search’s ease of use hides the reality, which is that the technology is incredibly complex—visual search requires much more sophisticated processes than a traditional text search.

Visual search is just now gaining in popularity because until recent years, it couldn’t be executed reliably. Several elements had to come together to enable visual search to be just as accurate as its text counterpart:

Images: Smartphones with high-resolution cameras and fast Internet access have made it easy to take and upload excellent-quality images to search engines.

Data: Today’s search engines have access to huge libraries of data, enabling them to identify what an image is. 

Intelligence: In order for visual search to function properly, machines have to be smart. Both machine learning and advances in artificial intelligence have provided the means for search platforms to be able to decipher images faster and more accurately.


What Makes Visual Search So Great?

So, why is visual search such a powerful tool for marketers? Because it integrates what searchers can see, with the endless amounts of product information available online. This enables visual search to do many helpful things, such as providing answers to questions that are impossible to put into words. 

There are instances when users can’t figure out how to explain in writing what they’re looking at, which makes text-based searches difficult. Visual search is ideal for providing answers to questions like, “Where can I purchase this?” or “What is this?”

Connecting the digital and physical worlds is another key advantage of visual search. Often, the things we can see in the real world don’t quite connect with the information that can be found on the Internet. Visual search closes that gap by allowing users to match up products they can see in the real world with product information that’s online; by embedding QR codes and barcodes to connect products to online content; and by providing fully interactive shopping experiences. Visual hints and prompts enhance users’ experiences and could encourage them to make a purchase.

How Does Visual Search Work?

Although it’s a fairly new technology, some companies are already embracing visual search. For example, Google Lens is a tool that the search giant offers, which uses a photo from a smartphone camera to generate search results. The user simply points their camera at an object to search for relevant information.

Pinterest Lens involves a similar approach: the user points his or her device at an object and will receive relevant Pins or products. Online shopping giants have also incorporated tools for visual search into their platforms, including Amazon with its Rekognition platform and eBay’s Find It tool. Rekognition links images with online products, while Find It locates product listings by connecting social media images with offerings on eBay.

Is Visual Search Really That Popular?

Have consumers fully embraced visual search? Has it become mainstream technology? Recent data show that while visual search isn’t yet ubiquitous, its popularity is growing rapidly. 

Most people are still unaware of visual search—only 27% are familiar with the technology. Plus, visual search accounts for only a fraction—less than one percent—of searches. However, its use is growing: on Pinterest, visual searches skyrocketed to over 600 million in 2018, up from 250 million in 2017. 

How Should Brands Start Optimizing for Visual Search?

Even though visual search hasn’t yet become mainstream, marketers should begin optimizing now for this technology. Start by investing in a robust catalog of images. If you want visual search tools to be able to find your products, it’s essential to build a huge image library.

Connecting and cataloging images is another way you can prepare for visual search integration. Be sure that all your images are linked to the right product or service, and take a look at your overall site structure. Well-organized websites are more easily scanned by visual search engines. 


When preparing for visual search, imagine that the digital and physical worlds are interconnected. Figure out how your in-store displays can be set up to accommodate consumers who might be utilizing visual search. 

Remember, visual search is in its infancy. People are just now beginning to familiarize themselves with the technology, and are becoming increasingly more sophisticated. Marketers should be prepared for visual search to become much more powerful—and popular—as it evolves.

Explore this new and exciting search tool by viewing MDG’s informative infographic.

Let's Get Visual: How Search Is Changing [Infographic]

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