Visual Search 2018

New Tools from Pinterest, eBay, Google and Amazon Increase Accuracy, Utility

Visual search has taken off in the past two years, with Pinterest, Amazon, Google, eBay and most recently Bing launching major visual search tools. They join a number of smaller tech firms and marketplaces that have their own visual search tools embedded in dozens of apps. We expect visual search’s growth to accelerate in the coming years.

The accuracy of visual search has improved as image recognition tools have access to big training sets of images, and visual search engines learn about the implicit questions users ask when submitting images. This has created a virtuous cycle, where more people use visual search, which in turn creates more accurate visual search tools.

Visual search remains a tiny fraction of total search volume, perhaps topping 1 billion monthly searches, compared with hundreds of billions of text searches. Even so, growth has been strong, with Pinterest, for instance, seeing monthly visual search jump from 250 million in February 2017 to 600 million in February 2018.

Visual search is good at answering questions that are hard to verbalize, such as, “What goes well with this shirt?” or “What breed of dog is that?” As such, it has not cannibalized textual search, instead working in tandem with it.

Visual search currently does not contain advertising, but marketers can already benefit by embedding visual search in their apps to improve the user experience, creating rich media experiences from traditional printed media and enabling search in multilingual contexts.

Optimizing images for visual search is still very early, but marketers need to build their image libraries, catalogue them and think of ways in which the physical world could spur a visual search.

What New Technologies Would UK and US Younger vs. Older Millennial Internet Users Be Comfortable with as Part of Their Digital Shopping Experience? July 2018 (% of respondents in each group)

Visual search was the technology US and UK millennial internet users would feel most comfortable incorporating into their digital shopping experience, at 62.2%.

Source: emarketer.com; 26 Sep 2018

Google is adding much more helpful search to Android Messages

After giving the app a fresh coat of paint and a new dark mode in recent weeks, Google is now adding some helpful features to Android Messages. In a blog post today, the company showed off a more powerful search experience that users will start seeing this week, which will let them find specific content types (images, videos, etc.) spanning all conversations or on an individual-chat basis.

So you’ll be able to tap on someone’s name and scroll down a sleek list of messages, media, and even locations that you and the other person have exchanged.

This is the sort of useful organization and decluttering that’s pretty common in other messaging apps, but for those who find themselves using SMS often, it’s nice to see Google making things a little more intuitive.

Google has much bigger plans for Messages, of course. The best parts of “Chat,” the company’s vision for a world where messaging is powered by RCS, are still to come.

Source: theverge.com; 25 Sep 2018

More Product Searches Start on Amazon

Google is losing its grip on valuable search data

Google might leave Bing and Yahoo in the dust for visits, but the popular search engine has been losing some shine as the go-to platform for product search.

A number of consumer surveys have shown that more US digital shoppers now start their searches on Amazon. Nearly half (46.7%) of US internet users started product searches on Amazon compared with 34.6% who went to Google first, according to a May 2018 Adeptmind survey. And the leading method among digital shoppers in the US surveyed by Salsify in February 2018 was searching and buying on Amazon (41%) followed by searching on Google then buying on Amazon (28%).

This is also the case, according to Q2 2018 Jumpshot analysis of multi-device traffic on its platform. In 2015, Google had 54% share of product searches and 46% belonged to Amazon. By 2018, these figures had reversed.

However, shoppers searching on Amazon took longer to make a purchase than those who searched on Google. On average, 25.9 days spanned search to purchase on Amazon while for Google it was 19.6. Most bought an item within five days, though more (35%) purchased in this time frame using Google than Amazon (19%).

Number of Days from Initial Product Search to Purchase Among US Amazon vs. Other* Buyers, Q2 2018 (% of total)

This behaviour can probably be explained by Amazon being used as a product research resource. Shoppers can read extensive user reviews, Q&As and look at photos, but they aren’t necessarily looking to buy immediately, whereas a Google product search could be from a shopper who already knows what they want.

It’s helpful to see that this buying behaviour, and search results can also inform marketing and merchandising strategy. “Amazon is starting to trump Google in the amount of consumers that begin their search for merchandise there. Amazon has that data now—they get the first bite of the apple,” said Mike Sands, co-founder and CEO of location-based services firm Signal.

This shift could hurt retailers that use product search data from Google for bidding and driving site traffic. Wes MacLaggan, senior vice president of marketing at ad management platform Marin Software, cautioned against ignoring Amazon. Marketers need to be aware of how their products are positioned on Amazon and the messaging they use.”

Search result placement on Amazon is key. More than two-thirds of product clicks happen on the first page of Amazon’s search results, according to Jumpshot, with one-third occurring on the first two rows displayed.

Source: emarketer.com; 7 Sep 2018

Google launches cross-device reporting feature

Google launches tool that can track users across devices, plus an additional line for text ads, and an app that allows public figures to address fans and stakeholders.

Advertisers, agencies, and publishers can now turn to Google Signals (GS) to track prospects, instead of devices. The new feature promises to help with the optimization of both advertising expenditure and the user experience across devices.

According to Prantik Mazumdar, CEO of Happy Marketer, cross-device advertising has been shown to increase conversions by around 40% in comparison to single-device marketing. He adds that a marketer can tailor the messaging and targeting of an ad in a more precise manner through the capability, potentially driving higher conversions.

GS is currently in beta testing and is part of wider effort to integrate the company’s web analytics service portfolio into the rebranded Google Marketing Platform, granting users the ability to base targeting on datasets generated in Google Analytics. In the age of GDPR, only users that have turned on Ads Personalization will be tracked.

“The consent-based opt-in nature of Ads Personalization means that users may be more receptive to the ads being served,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “We could potentially save ourselves the trouble of displaying an awareness-focused ad to a prospect on all her devices. This means we can map ads to appear in a sequence of the user-awareness journey, serving new ads with every in-device impression, increasing CTR or conversions over time.”

As the bridge between the analytics and marketing capabilities of Google, GS aims to offer advertisers, agencies, and publishers a better understanding of customers across devices.

“Given the popularity and prevalence of the Google stack globally, the global rollout of Google Signals will make cross-device tracking and marketing very accessible to a lot of marketers, and they would get a step closer to taking meaningful marketing actions based on the single view of the customer,” said Mazumdar.

Source: campaignasia.com; 14 Aug 2018

Google is gaining major ground on Amazon in the smart speaker market

Since snagging an early lead in the smart speaker market with the Echo product lineup, Amazon has maintained its dominance through the second quarter of this year – but it has less breathing room than ever.

As this chart from Statista shows, Amazon is credited with shipping 41% of the 11.7 million smart speakers distributed worldwide this past quarter, with Google coming in second with 27.6% of shipments. Apple came nowhere close to either of its rivals, with the Cupertino-based giant only shipping off 5.9%.

The big takeaway: Amazon’s competitors are slowly, but surely, gaining traction in the smart speaker race. The company no longer has as big of a lead as it did in Q2 of last year.

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Source: businessinsider.sg; 20 Aug 2018

Bing takes on Trivago, Google with intelligent search features

Microsoft has updated a search function in Bing, with the initial rollout fixated around the hospitality & travel industry.

A new update for Bing lets consumers view pricing trends, with the initial rollout focused around the travel and hospitality industry.

Functionally, the offering is similar to Google’s ability to offer searchers historical price trends for specific date ranges in order to assist in price-based decisions. It’s also conceptually similar to what Trivago offers for hotel seekers.

The price trend feature allows users to browse costs over a period of time, tied to a specific hotel. With this function, Bing intends to help users compare and contrast easily, with a user interface that allows multiple clicks to check the rates throughout a date range.

Available on both desktop and mobile, the new features are focused around the hospitality industry, including hotels and airlines. Similar to Trivago, the function also offers users a detailed breakdown of hotel prices, ratings, class levels, and amenities side-by-side.

Microsoft’s recent repositioning around digital transformation and focus around injecting machine learning across all consumer products is behind the recent string of Bing updates, which also included a hotel booking feature launched in May. This offers users aggregated pricing from third-party booking sites.

According to the Q4 2018 report by Microsoft, search advertising revenue through Bing Ads increased by 13% to $793 million due to higher revenue per search and search volume. The search engine and pay per click products rely on partnerships for monetization with multiple companies such as Oath. The growth of the engine is dependent on the ability to attract new users, understand search intent, and match intent with relevant content and advertiser offerings.

Source: campaignasia.com; 7 Aug 2018

Google launches game on Tencent’s Wechat as it eyes China market

Alphabet Inc’s Google has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on Tencent Holdings Ltd social media app WeChat, as the company continues to show tentative signs of re-entering China’s consumer market.

The U.S. technology firm has been experimenting with new inroads to the China, where the majority of its products including its internet search engine, email and app store are blocked by Chinese authorities over censorship concerns.

Last year, Google launched its ‘Google Translate’ app in China, and in May it added a file management app to several app stores run by local Chinese firms, a first for the company.

The latest product, Caihua Xiaoge, is a drawing game based on Google’s AI image recognition technology, and is a WeChat ‘mini app’, which works only within Tencent’s WeChat. Several foreign firms, including Starbucks Corp, have also launched mini apps.

Google in January announced a patent licensing deal with Tencent with the intention of collaborating further in the Chinese market. Last month, the U.S. firm also invested $550 million in JD.com Inc, China’s second most valuable e-commerce firm which also counts Tencent as an investor.

While it is unlikely Google will be able to open its global search engine in China, the firm is experimenting with less controversial projects in the market. In January it participated in a $120 million investment round by live-stream mobile game platform Chushou.

Source: reuters.com; 18 July 2018

Microsoft has unveiled visual search for Bing

Microsoft launched a new intelligent Visual Search tool for Bing — Microsoft’s search engine — that allows users to search the mobile web by uploading an image or taking a photo with their phone camera.

For example, taking a photo of a flower will not only identify the type of flower, but will also suggest where the nearest florist is. Visual Search is available in a range of apps, including the standalone Bing app on iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft’s web browsing apps for Android — Launcher and Edge.

Microsoft has joined the growing number of companies that are turning the smartphone camera into a discovery tool. Pinterest, Google, and Amazon have all rolled out visual search products within the past two years, for example.

And retail brands, such as Sephora, Asos, and Akira, have also integrated the tech into their smartphone apps to increase customer engagement and help drive conversions. Within two months of implementing a visual search feature into its site, 45% of Akira’s customers had used the feature, according to a case study by visual search company Markable.

For now, the technology is somewhat limited. But it has vast potential to transform the way consumers engage with brands and provide greater insight into consumer behaviour:

• Retailers can increase the accuracy of their product search and boost cross-sell opportunities: Visual search can help retail customers clarify ambiguities that occur when they attempt to describe objects and colours in text-based searches. For example, a consumer may see someone wearing a black hat that they might like to buy. Text search would return thousands of black hats, making it difficult for the consumer to find the hat they really want. Further, visual search offers an opportunity to “cross-sell” items based on contextual cues in the image, such as the customer’s shoes or shirt, by matching them to items sold by the brand.

• Publishers can increase consumer engagement with their content: Media and magazine companies can use visual search to bridge the gap between the printed page and real world. For instance, looking at a printed ad through the phone could turn the ad into an interactive video. The consumer could also scroll through the video to view more information about the product and even add the item to their mobile shopping cart.

And as consumers become more accustomed to using the smartphone camera as a search tool, it will find additional use cases in healthcare, government, transport and logistics, banking, and insurance.

Source: buisnessinsider.com; 26 June 2018

Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018