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A snapshot of the future of shopping

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Since the widespread adaption of smart phones consumers have drastically changed the way they shop. No longer do we just run to a mall or big box retailer and plunk down our hard earned cash. No we now run to the mall or big box retailer to test out the item and then just buy it online. Why? More often than not, customers can find it online cheaper, why pay more if you can just buy it online for less? At first we were stuck just frantically punching in a description in Google or Amazon to try and find the same item a pain in the neck, time consuming and frequently ineffective. Enter the now widely available barcode scanner option, virtually every retailer’s app now has one. Much more effective and this in turn led to the cottage industry of retail arbitrage you know the buy low at Walmart sell high on eBay for that must have holiday toy. So what is the natural next step in this progression well that would be visual search technology the ability to find an item with a picture. It’s been available for a while now, Amazon offered one of the earliest versions but it was far from perfect you would have to make sure it was perfectly clear and well-lit and the image had to be the product in the original packaging. This year Pinterest got into the action on visual search technology launching their own search option called Lens. Same basic concept you just take a picture of an item say clothing or a vase and the search displays similar items to the item you just photographed on Pinterest. It’s not radically different from Amazons own visual search but its accuracy can be quite astounding and its light years ahead of the technology of just a few years past.

Retailers are now racing to adapt this new technology in fact Target will soon be one of the first major brick and mortar retailers to embrace it. Target will soon be integrating Pinterest’s search technology into their own mobile app so when you snap a picture of an item in the Target app it will compare it to Targets catalog of merchandise and find you a match or a similar item that you can then purchase. Visual search technology will again drastically change how consumers shop instead of hours spent in a mall or online looking for that particular shoe you saw somewhere, snap a pic and find it instantly. Soon a picture will save you a thousand words when trying to track down that hard to locate item you so desperately want.




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