How visual search impacts the shopping journey

Gaining a more comprehensive understanding of consumers’ online shopping behavior is an increasingly important area of focus for brands and retailers in today’s digital age. Innovations in online shopping have typically been focused on the end goal – the transaction - instead of replicating the in-store discovery experience.  So, it’s critical for retailers to engage with consumers early in their purchasing journey rather than relying on the last signal of intent – the shopping basket - as a way to reach them.

Traditionally, a customers’ decision-making process has followed the path of:

  • The customer becomes aware of a need or problem.
  • The customer considers the products or services available to resolve their problem.
  • The customer decides to purchase the product or service that offers the best solution.

The surge in online shopping and shifting customer expectations has introduced important nuances to this process, particularly to the second element of this journey – the ‘consideration phase’. In the past, customers relied on an in-store salesperson to help them find exactly what they wanted, and this often involved suggesting additional items that the shopper had not yet even thought about.

However, what happens when they never make it to the store? Increasingly, the entire consumer path-to-purchase is happening online, so winning these new "moments that matter" mean having a plan to drive consideration online in order to replicate the in-store experience. Personalising the recommendations and ideas to consumers’ individual needs and tastes is becoming table stakes.

A strategic approach to ‘discovery’ is perhaps the most important element in reaching customers early in their decision making process. Previously, aiding in the consumer discovery process relied largely on advertising your business anywhere and everywhere, hoping that people will take note, buy your product or service and spread their loyalty through word of mouth. For consumers today, discovery takes place online, among their other daily activities. It’s not enough to just have a strong SEO strategy; brands must inspire consumers with new ideas that are relevant to them based on their life stage and taste preferences. Not only that, but brands must reach consumers in the right context at the right time - when they are actually in-market, yet haven’t already decided what brand to buy.

Not surprisingly, this is no easy feat. However, the emergence of visual search and discovery technology helps connect people to new ideas even if they don’t have the right words to describe them. This technology powers everything on Pinterest, from the content recommendations to the way we serve ads and it delivers unique marketing solutions for businesses. Unlike text or voice, visual search sits squarely in the native shopping environment, encouraging  consumers to purchase items that they normally might have missed. For example, if you’re shopping for running shoes in a store, you begin by visiting the shoe department, then pick out a running shoe. On Pinterest, you can click on images of the shoes you want to see, and then you can see similar styles before settling on the ones you want. And, increasing numbers of people are choosing to shop just this way. People now do more than 600 million visual searches every month across Lens, our browser extension, and the visual search tool inside Pins.

While we are at the very early stages of visual search, already the possibilities seem endless. These advancements are revolutionizing how consumers discover new products and services and decide on which brand they want to purchase from. By embracing the power of visual discovery to reach people early, brands can ensure a place in the consumers path to purchase, reaching new customers and fueling continued business growth.