How visual search, AR and VR will disrupt retail this year

Marketers who create a seamless path from social content to purchase will excel in 2017, says Paul Korber.

Paul Korber Headshot copyConsumers are used to instant gratification. They now consistently look to Instagram and Facebook for peer-to-peer recommendations and products that inspire their lifestyle.

What are they looking for? Compelling experiences that aid their purchasing decisions, and that give them something to tell their friends and followers about.

This is an evolving opportunity for many marketers.

In a recent study, Marin Software found businesses spending on social are investing 69% of their marketing budget on Facebook and 42% on Instagram, with both budgets likely to rise in the next 12 months. In fact, of the businesses surveyed, 60% plan to increase their investment in Facebook, and 40% on Instagram.

Social media feeds are no longer a separate part of the shopping experience.

Content that allows consumers to visualise how brands fit into their lifestyles will likely prompt users to share with their friends for feedback before making final purchasing decisions.

Visual search

The rise of Instagram proves that an image can tell a thousand words. Therefore, in 2017, we’re also likely to see visual search slowly increase in application as users look for better deals with online retailers.

Visual search encompasses searches made using any kind of image, including with a smartphone camera, and is another significant emerging search field for retailers.

Pinterest for example, and its pinboard-style social network, has positioned itself as a front runner in the realm of visual search – developing a sophisticated, visually-based internal search, with plans to integrate camera search into its interface very soon.

While only 4% of advertisers indicated that visual search is a top priority for their business in 2017, before too long voice and visual search may be considered an inseparable part of the overall search marketing landscape, much as mobile now is.

AR and VR

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) provide two additional opportunities for retailers looking to deliver a seamless experience, from browsing to purchasing to creating memorable content opportunities.

AR acts as a visual aid for shoppers looking to virtually try on or experience the product before purchasing or viewing it in person. For example, AR mirrors or ‘smart mirrors’ implemented in bricks and mortar stores can allow customers to display a product directly onto the retail floor or themselves to view it ‘in situ’.

Customers can skip the changing room entirely and see what products might look like when worn, and significantly cut time between browsing and purchasing in-store.

Retail marketers would be wise in 2017 to think about creative ways to serve content that works collaboratively with the rich data generated by social media, and the peer-to-peer recommendations that make it so popular.

Providing your customers with the opportunity to see, click, create, share, review – then purchase—all within a few clicks, can make the difference between a passing interest in a product and finalising the sale.

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Paul Korber is regional vice president, customer success at Marin Software APAC.

Further reading

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