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Director of product management for ASOS, Richard Jones has noted seeing “great engagement” from the visual search. Source: Shutterstock

ASOS sees success in visual search tool

TWO months ago, fashion retailer ASOS introduced a shopping feature which enabled its consumers to search for outfits using photos instead of keywords. Now, ASOS are confident that the visual search tool will drive sales by enabling consumers to find what they’re looking for more efficiently.

Director of product management for ASOS, Richard Jones has noted seeing “great engagement” from the visual search thus far, which aims to improve its customer experience.

The decision to introduce the feature is part of the brand’s general focus on digital innovation. Last year, ASOS’s CEO, Nick Beighton suggested that technology will be crucial in meeting changing customer expectations, and more specifically that “visual search, voice search, and automated intelligence will help customers navigate in a better and more convenient way”.

ASOS’s early observations of the new feature have shown that it allows users to more easily find products.  However, despite Jones’s early appraisal of the visual searching feature, he has declined to share statistics to support these beliefs.

The new feature allows shoppers to snap a picture of a piece of clothing on their smartphones, which is then matched with similar styles available on the site using the ASOS algorithm.

With approximately 85,000 products on the website and 5,000 being added every week, ASOS’s new feature seeks to aid shoppers in the somewhat challenging task of sifting through the overwhelming volume of products.

“With something like keyword search, you almost have to know what you’re looking for before you type it. For someone that’s on more of a discovery journey, that really becomes an issue [when they’re in the app]” added Jones.

Today, 80 percent of UK traffic for ASOS and almost 70 percent of orders come from a mobile device, with visitors spending an average of 80 minutes per month in the ASOS app. So it is not hard to see why ASOS has developed the new mobile feature.

In a global economy, image content is becoming the universal language of consumers, with an increasing shift away from text-driven content.  In visually-based apps such as Pinterest and Instagram, consumers are attracted by an image. Text, however, must be understood or translated, limiting the power of communication.

Thus, with a market of image-obsessed millennials armed with smartphones, visual searching seems a crucial investment for e-commerce businesses wanting to drive sales.

Isla Kirby, digital director at shopper marketing agency “Savvy” told

“More and more shoppers are not merely looking for, but expect convenience, and their smartphone is the key device they reach to deliver this. Making a search simpler and easier and more in-line with shopper expectation is key and visual search is a natural step to achieving this.”

Not all is perfect in the world of visual-searching. Some early users of the ASOS feature have noted that searches do not always return the items they know ASOS sells. Some observers have also questioned whether consumers will use the visual-searching tool as regularly as retailers hope.

Whether it proves to be a success in the long run for ASOS is something that remains unknown. But one thing is for certain, visual search is looking to be the next big shift in how e-commerce is powered globally.