Your daughter has finally announced the colors for her wedding. Gulp! They are lime, burgundy, and orange — an unusual combination. You decide that maybe you can wear a lime or peachy orange dress. But it horrifies you to think about slipping your size 9 feet into those colors.
During a trip to the mall, you see an attractive pair of burgundy heels. The only problem is they are on someone else’s feet. You ask where she got them. She says she got them years ago and does not remember where. So you gulp again and ask to take a photo of her feet with your smartphone.
You send the photo to your daughter and tell her that you want a similar pair, but it may take a while. She suggests downloading the Neiman Marcus Snap-Find-Shop app and sending in the photo for a rapid product search.
Success! Neiman Marcus gets back to you almost immediately with suggestions.
Limitless retail service
Shoppers still want to view and try on clothing in-store. However, most like to speed things up and expand their product searches by looking online before driving downtown or to the mall. They expect great customer experience in the form of limitless choice and fast product delivery at an affordable price.
Retailers are discovering that they increase sales by offering many ways to shop. Omnicommerce is bringing in more customers. Mobile image recognition tools provide a new channel for e-commerce and personalized shopping.
When customers know what they want but cannot put it into words, pictures make product identification easier.
Image recognition searches
Neiman Marcus is not alone in offering image recognition applications for quick product searches. But its Snap-Find-Shop program is a first in luxury and department store retailing. The app matches customer photos against the company’s entire inventory of clothing and accessories.
Snap-Find-Shop launched in late October 2014. At first, online shoppers could only use it for searching shoes and handbags, but late last August the company expanded the service to its entire retail inventory.
The online magazine Digiday reports that Neiman Marcus made this change due to customers submitting photos for many kinds of fashion merchandise, especially dresses and jewelry.
Snap-Find-Shop uses the Slyce platform for visual product searches. That company’s CEO, Mark Elfenbein, talked with Digiday about how his company analyzes customer photos. Elfenbein said the company considers 25 different product traits. These include material, patterns, and stitch.
Image recognition apps are succeeding in fashion merchandising. This is because it is difficult for customers to describe what they want in a few words. A photograph compresses search time.
Digiday notes that other fashion retail customers with recent image search programs powered by Slyce include JC Penny, Shoes.com and Tilly’s.
Germany’s online-only retailer Zalando uses visual search software by Cortexica, which also powers Macy’s Image Search app.
Instant sales and rapid fulfillment
Regular online fashion shopping begins with a written search. After selecting size and color, the buyer clicks to place merchandise in a virtual shopping cart. Other steps follow, including the selection of payment method and type of shipping.
In contrast, snap-style shopping is simpler. The app presents an image, and if you like it, you click for an instant sale. The Neiman Marcus Snap-Find-Shop app displays only merchandise that is available for immediate shipping.
Digiday notes that e-commerce comprised 25.8 percent of all Neiman Marcus trade in the first three quarters of 2015. That includes smartphone and computer/tablet shopping (e- and m-commerce).
It is too soon to determine how snap apps will affect e-commerce. But an increasing number of retailers are launching these m-commerce programs. This indicates that they share Neiman Marcus’s belief in mobile as a sales tool with major potential. During a technology innovation conference in 2014, Zalando CEO Robin Lee predicted that voice and picture searches will dominate Internet searches within five years.
By making mobile shopping as easy as see and click, Neiman Marcus and other retailers may be making their financial growth more of a snap.