Visual search is a key trend of the future, and one which is likely to change the way we discover and purchase relevant products. Snapchat's been talking about this for years, Pinterest is developing its visual search capacity, and Facebook too is working on image-based solutions to help users find exactly what they're after. But no platform has more invested in search than Google, which is why the development of its visual search tools is so important.
Underlining this, Google has this week published a blog post which details the development of its Lens image search option, outlining the range of additions and innovations they've made to make it a more effective, accurate tool.
And they've certainly made some significant developments - according to Google, Lens can now identify more than one billion products, 4x the number it covered at launch.
Lens also now covers a wider range of uses - for example, Google notes that up to 15% of pictures now being taken by people are of practical things, like receipts and shopping lists, as opposed to objects and portraits. Catering to this, Lens can now identify text in images and convert that for use in other applications.
"For example, you can point your phone at a business card and add it to your contacts, or copy ingredients from a recipe and paste them into your shopping list."
There's also Style Search, Google's version of Pinterest's Lens, which is also getting smarter and more intuitive:
"With the style search feature in Lens you can point your camera at outfits and home decor to get suggestions of items that are stylistically similar. So, for example, if you see a lamp you like at a friend’s place, Lens can show you similar designs, along with useful information like product reviews."
As you can see, there's an increasing range of ways in which Lens can be used, and as the tool is built on Google's vast database, it has huge capacity for development and improvement. While much of the discussion of the next generation of SEO has been around the growth of voice search, particularly through the development of smart home devices, visual search is another key aspect to consider, and will become even more relevant in 2019.
Indeed, Google has big plans for image-based discovery:
"As computers start to see like we do, the camera will become a powerful and intuitive interface to the world around us; an AI viewfinder that puts the answers right where the questions are - overlaying directions right on the streets we’re walking down, highlighting the products we’re looking for on store shelves, or instantly translating any word in front of us in a foreign city. We’ll be able to pay our bills, feed our parking meters, and learn more about virtually anything around us, simply by pointing the camera."
Arguably, visual search has even more capacity than voice search, and given this, it'll be important to keep tabs on visual search trends in 2019, and to note how consumers are turning to their phones for more such uses - and how you can ensure your brand and products show up in such instances.
There's a lot of debate around the future of AI in regards to taking people's jobs, automating interactions, etc. But the real, practical use cases lie in areas like visual search - and while it may not be the key trend of 2019, it will be an important one. I mean, that and TikTok influencers, but you can decide which is of more value to your brand.