UX Spotlight: Visual Search – Pinterest proves a picture is worth a thousand keywords


Pola Zen

October 20, 2017 | 3 min read

Last Updated: Mar 11, 2020

In the UX Spotlight series, I post weekly on UX features that impressed me online, and are great examples and inspiration for anyone looking to enhance their digital user experience.

As the demand for customers’ attention grows stronger, and the number of distractions available to them online at all times grows larger, retailers are wisely finding more and more ways to simplify and accelerate the product search process. The latest foray into this path of improvement is the visual search, in which customers can search for items by simply snapping a photo. Several notable e-Commerce stores such as British fashion giant ASOS have already rolled out the feature, with Ebay’s take on it coming this fall.

Today we’re highlighting Pinterest’s integration of visual search, as they further their transition from social media tool to eCommerce mega center. Finding pins – and products – has never been easier.

On the mobile Pinterest app, users can select a camera icon rather than filling in the traditional search field. They may then snap a photo of just about anything, from books to fashion items to pastries, and Pinterest will pull up pins related to their picture.

The Impact:

For example, if you search for something like a moleskini (setp 1). The first result is the very similar to the one pictured, which shows the potential of Pinterest’s accuracy (setp 2). Other search results included similar items (setp 3) and organizational items with in-theme aesthetics (setp 4), which demonstrate Pinterest’s ability to make connections to other items of interest, the reason most people go to Pinterest to begin with.

If you search for something like Christian Louboutin, Pinterest pulls a number of similar items, some of which are available directly for purchase:

The potential for this feature is huge. Too shy to ask the girl next to you in the coffee shop where she got her boots? Take a pic, and maybe Pinterest can find a similar pair. Love the décor at a friend’s wedding? Take a pic, and maybe Pinterest can pull up a how-to of achieving the look at your celebration. Love a designer bag but it’s a bit too pricey? Do a visual search, and maybe Pinterest can suggest similar bags more in your budget.

The Takeaway:

Visual search eliminates the keyword guessing game

All of the above are far easier than relying on keywords, which have long been a barrier between buyers and sellers. What a seller might call three-quarter-length, a buyer might search for as elbow-length, or modest. What a seller might think to tag a sundress, a buyer might think to call a summer frock in their search. Visual search eliminates the keyword guessing game. It also eliminates the sometimes aggravating step a customer has to take in trying to describe verbally something that they could easily take a picture of.

Reducing obstacles is imperative in today’s largely mobile, increasingly impatient market

Reducing obstacles is imperative in today’s largely mobile, increasingly impatient market. More shoppers than ever are making their purchases on mobile, and mobile users are efficient, to say the least. They spend 3 times less time looking at product pages than those on desktop, and browse, overall, 1.8 times faster than desktop users. 37% of mobile sessions end after visiting just one page!

Visual search will help mobile users easily cut to the chase and find items they can’t describe. The result? Increased traffic from inquisitive customers, and increased conversions from satisfied ones.

I am always on the lookout for UX innovation. If you come across a digital experience that stands out, please send it over to pola.zen@contentsquare.com