Content Marketing Blog

Image search technology: Google Shop the Look vs Pinterest Camera Search

With Google’s latest announcement regarding its image search technology, Pinterest’s own image search developments could be at risk of being overshadowed before they’re even rolled out.

According to a recent Google blog post, 90 per cent of smartphone users aren’t completely sure of the brand they want to buy when they begin shopping. To give users a more streamlined path to purchase, Google has introduced ‘Shop the Look’ into its image search. Images in search results pulled from the social pages of influential fashion bloggers will now contain galleries and links for purchasing.

The idea is that you can now search for something like ‘cocktail dress’ in Google and if you like an image from one of these bloggers you can tap on it for related products and direct links to buy the dress.

Google's Shop the Look example

Google’s Shop the Look

Currently, Google has only partnered with LIKEtoKNOW.it (a site that offers fashion bloggers a monetary incentive for sharing products on their social pages) so it will only use images from bloggers who have registered with that site.

This means retailers now have more opportunity to appear in search results if they purchase Shopping ads and have their product shared by a fashion blogger on LIKEtoKNOW.it. Google said: “As with standard Shopping ads, retailers will be charged on a cost-per-click basis, and all impressions and clicks will be reported within existing Shopping campaigns.”

Pinterest has also put a lot of money into their visual search technology recently but has not yet unveiled its most recent development.

The photo-sharing site made one of the first major updates in November 2015, allowing users to zoom in and select certain objects in ‘pins’ (photos and other visual content) to show a list of related products in the results. In June this year, Pinterest expanded on this function by automatically detecting images within the pins and adding icons to them, so that users could just click on those instead to bring up the related products list.

Pinterest Visual Search tool with automatic detection

Pinterest Visual Search tool with automatic detection

The biggest development, however, was the introduction of camera search technology. It was announced at a company event as part of a series of updates to be rolled out over the following months. The idea is that users can take a photo of something within the app (like a pair of shoes, for example) and Pinterest will visually match the item with a range of different pins, allowing the user to follow the links to purchase the item.

What does ‘Shop the Look’ now mean for Pinterest?

Given that Pinterest is yet to actually make the technology available to its users, Google clearly has an advantage. Pinterest arguably has more advanced technology by allowing users to access their smartphone camera through the app, but Google being Google will undoubtedly update and match this technology within time. Pinterest may have a hidden card up its sleeve with its latest staffing acquisition, however, as the company has just hired Li Fan, former head of image search at Google.

If and when Pinterest rolls out the camera search technology marketers and business owners alike will be interested in advertising on that platform to have a better chance of reaching their audience. Given that Google is offering a very similar ad product for its users with ‘Shop the Look’, this means that both companies will effectively be targeting the same market.

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