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What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Visual Search From Amazon to Pinterest, the entire e-commerce ecosystem is making the switch.

By Jennifer Spencer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

MoreISO | Getty Images

E-commerce businesses live and breathe by keyword searches, but new technology is causing the industry to think outside the written word, and all in the name of efficiency. When you're searching for a Roomba or a smartphone, a keyword search works pretty well. But if you're looking for something specific and unique, like a particular article of clothing or a coffee table, it's much more efficient to search by picture. That's why visual search is making such a huge splash in the retail industry. It taps into the idea that sometimes words fail, but a picture says it all.

Keyword failure was the genesis for the entrepreneurial tech company, Syte, which is one of the major providers of visual-search technology. The company's co-founder, Lihi Pinto Fryman, was working in a completely different industry when she found herself looking for a particular red dress online and couldn't find the words to describe it. She thought about how ludicrous it was that searching by picture wasn't yet a "thing." So, she and her team made it a thing, and four years later, Syte delivers this feature to some of the world's largest retailers.

Syte is not the only business building out visual search capabilities. Earlier this year, Amazon announced its commitment to implementing visual search onto its site to increase clothing sales, and Pinterest is making a killing by creating shoppable content for advertisers based on visual search. Certainly, the fashion and home-decor industries are seeing the biggest transformation as a result of this technology, but the idea of searching by picture is also impacting the whole e-commerce ecosystem in a number of remarkable ways.

Related: 4 Ways to Make Visual Search Work for Your Customers and Your Company

Raising Customer Expectations

While not every e-commerce site sells something that can be enhanced by visual search, the technology is said to evolve customer expectations. "Think back to the best digital experience you've ever had," Pinto Fryman recently blogged for HubSpot. "Whatever it was, you remember it. And now you compare every business's digital experience to it. That is exactly what visual search is going to do for your business, whether you use it or not."

Visual search helps customers find exactly what they're looking for five times faster. This instant gratification is going to become the norm, and e-commerce businesses everywhere will have to adhere to that speed if they want to stay relevant.

Making All Content Shoppable

According to a 2017 study by the Martech Zone, 1,440 WordPress posts are created every minute, not to mention 3.3 million Facebook posts, 500 hours of YouTube videos and 149,513 emails sent. That's a whole lot of content, and if you're going to take the time to create content that grabs eyeballs, you can go even further by making that content shoppable, thereby increasing your ROI significantly.

"By embedding elegant images into the content that direct users to the products they want to buy, your content literally comes to life," expands Fryman in her HubSpot post. "Ultimately, visual search will help your team see the true impact of the content you produce."

Related: Why the Evolution of Visual Chatbots Is a Boon for Entrepreneurs

Streamlining SEO

SEO is a fact of life for e-commerce companies, and it takes extreme diligence to tag every single item in your catalog. Tagging an item incorrectly or not specifically enough can result in the loss of potential sales. Visual search not only streamlines this process, but it also creates more intricate tagging automatically.

As Pinto Fryman explains in the aforementioned blog, visual search "features deep tagging, an image-to-text feature that tags images automatically and makes them interpretable for search engines like Google, as well as textual search engines on websites. Deep tagging can create a rich set of tags for an image within just a few milliseconds."

To Sum It Up....

Innovation is a funny thing. For every new invention, there is a ripple effect that reaches far beyond the creator's original intent. Visual search will certainly become a necessary investment for visual industries, but it will be very interesting to see the new standards and spinoff features that it will inspire in the years to come.

Jennifer Spencer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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