#RBTE2018: Hammerson ‘de-rails’ shoppers with visual search

Hammerson is using visual search technology to help shoppers find the right product in its shopping centres and knock them out of their routine.

Speaking at RBTE, Hammerson head of customer experience, Kathryn Malloch, said: “Our Style Seeker [visual search app] started with a piece of insight that our customers are on rails.

“They park in the same location, they take the same route around the mall and only visit four or five retailers. We knew that was a challenge for our retailers.

“From a customer point of view you are getting a really different physical experience from what you are getting online. If you search for a red dress online you will get thousands of options.”

Hammerson realised from this piece of customer insight that it could potentially help visitors to its malls discover more stores through a visual search app, which allows shoppers to take a picture of a piece of clothing and discover similar alternatives to it that are stocked in the mall.  

She said Hammerson did not initially know if the concept would work, but after promising early signs it has now been scaled into a bigger pilot.

Hammerson decided to outsource the development of the app rather than create it in house.

Malloch said: “We want to work with experts and the other thing we are really conscious of is tech is changing all the time and for us as an organisation it would be really hard for us to keep up with that.”

Dinis Cruz, the CISO at Photobox, was speaking on the same panel at RBTE and argues that there is also a strong argument for developing tech in-house where possible.

Cruz said: “There is so much empowerment with technology if you get it right. Either you really understand it fundamentally as a company and your company is driving this, or you don’t.”

However, he admitted that sometimes it is best to defer to other experts in the field.

He added: “We have a saying that if Amazon has done it we are not going to reinvent it. We absolutely do not want to invent something that can’t be best in class.”