Newsflash: Your phone’s camera can do more than just take cute pics of your dog. Phone cameras have gotten exponentially better over the last few years–they can now take professional-level portraits, activate QR codes, and can even do visual search and image recognition for better mobile experiences. Your phone’s camera is a brand-new type of activation point for brands that want to add an element of ease to their mobile strategy. The image recognition market is expected to grow to more than $25 billion through next year, with most brands focusing around the apparel and home decor sectors. But, it’s a jumping point for several types of brands to get creative with this type of mobile technology. Snapchat, Pinterest, ASOS and even sports teams like the Colts are creating image recognition experiences that activate instant results for the user.
One of the original leaders in visual search, Pinterest has continued to innovate in their mobile app development. Now, users can take a photo of an item they like and be offered similar products with direct links to shops. It’s good for users that might not be able to put into words the specific black lamp they saw at Target and shows them similar options with a link to buy. Pinterest’s “Shop The Look” feature shows users items that look like fashion items that they’ve pinned so they can get that jacket or coat ASAP. Plus, it’s a good way for lesser-known brands to get in front of users.
Google released their Lens updates earlier this year that would equip Google smartphones with the tech to take a photo of any restaurant and immediately see the restaurant’s menu, reviews, and shows you some friends that have checked in there before. This visual search tool can help you not only find the neighborhood’s best mom-and-pop shop, but can keep you from a low-star restaurant that has a slew of bad reviews talking about the terrible trout. And with more than 86 percent of people checking out menus online before stepping inside, visual search is a great way for smaller restaurants to get on the (literal) map. (Are you listening, TripAdvisor?)
Snapchat’s known for their cute animal filters and fun bitmoji dance moves, but they’re jumping on the image recognition train, too. Snapchat partnered with Amazon to release a beta version of a visual search tool where users can snap a photo of an item or barcode and find the product online. If Amazon recognizes the image, a link will populate through Snap and allow the user to click through to the Amazon site. They’re using AI-based image recognition, which uses machine learning to decipher the photo and helps reach Snapchat’s young user base, where they can find the hottest new shoes or tech watch.
The Indianapolis Colts partnered with Arby’s and Coca-Cola to create a unique mobile experience around their team’s 35th anniversary in Indianapolis. Arby’s released the Indy-exclusive plastic Coca-Cola cups where the “Colts 35 Anniversary” logo is scanned through smartphone camera and an image overlay of the Colts horseshoe prompts a spin. The tech behind this experience was built as a Progressive Web App, which means there was no native app download required to use this image recognition tech–just a quick text sent to a short code activated the web-based experience! The experience (which was actually built on the Lumavate platform!) gets Colts fans of all ages excited about their city’s team.
While more simple image recognition and visual search options have been available for a while through Facebook’s automated tagging options, apparel, home decor, and sports companies are realizing that visual could be a major tool in their mobile strategy for getting their mobile experience in front of customers.