How AI Is Changing Visual Search — And Marketing

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ArtBinder has introduced a new search feature that enables users to now search for artwork by a specific color or color combination. Known as ColorSearch, this feature is one of the latest in a string of new developments in artificial intelligence that are challenging search providers, including Bing, to reexamine how they source image and video results.

Keywords have never been the best practice for visual search. As marketers look to have a presence among the over 1.8 million images being shared across the web daily, they need to think less about keywords and more about stand-alone visual content in order to increase views.

Joe Cecin, President of Nervve (pictured left), explains how new applications such as ColorSearch will soon make keywords obsolete for visual search services and what this means for marketers.

Q: How has Google traditionally used keywords for visual search?

A: Google’s traditional use of keywords has focused on matching a user’s search terms with image tags. Similar to other search engines, this means that when a user goes to conduct an image search, the right combination of words have to be used to find the best results. While Google has implemented more advanced capabilities for visual search, including reverse image search, this is still the most common way its users search for photos.


Q: What is so so wrong with that?

A: Using keywords to search for images reduces the accuracy of results. By translating an image into words, there is heightened risk of misrepresenting the content, because there is no precise way to put an exact image into words. When providers base their search tools on this type of methodology, they commonly flood users with incorrect results and make them repeat their search until they have the right combination of terms to get the desired image. For the average user or business using these tools, this means a significant loss of time, and in many cases, money.

Q: How does using visual markers for visual search results change everything?

A: The best representation of what a user is searching for is found in the pixels of the image itself. By searching by the image source, rather than keywords that align with a photo, users can feel secure that they are getting the most accurate results. As we become a more visually-driven society these kind of tools will only grow more valuable. For users this means being able to see a picture of a friend by a mountain range in Vermont and easily identify exactly where that picture may have been taken.

For marketers, the value comes in monitoring how their brand is being exposed both across traditional channels, as well as social channels. Leveraging the actual images for searching for Gatorade’s logo, for example, the brand can track how many times their logo appeared during last week’s Seahawks’ game, even if it wasn’t specifically tagged in a photo. With digital channels changing the way we think about marketing, now taking the time to track a slew of metrics including SEO, traffic, conversions and click through rates, the way brands analyze their visual content must also be as precise and detailed.

Q: What, in addition to ColorSearch, are the AI developments that are challenging search providers to reexamine how the source image and video results?

A: Advancements in AI are changing how we think about automated technology, with innovations such as Watson showing us how “smart” machines could be incredibly valuable. However, the difference between Watson and ColorSearch is that the latter shows us how AI can be applicable to our daily lives and pushes the standards of what users can demand from digital solutions. The biggest change we can expect from search providers are in speed and accuracy. With new advancements, visual search now has the power to influence everyday consumer decisions, including purchases, instantly. Bing is one search engine making big strides to advance how it thinks about visual search. Introducing the “recipes” and “places to buy” features, the provider now offers direct access to image-based resources, easily showing a user where to buy that trendy pair of boots or directing them to the recipe for that delicious looking Florentine quiche.

Q: What do advancements in visual search mean for marketers?

A: This is a wake-up call for marketers that visual content is key for increased exposure and sales. With the introduction of new visual search tools each piece of visual content broadcasted or shared introduces a new opportunity to directly connect with consumers. From increased website traffic to completed purchases, visual content has become a valuable tool for not only growing your audience, but transforming that audience into actual customers. In order to have the competitive advantage, marketers need to track how their brand is conveyed across digital and social platforms and analyze its impact on their overall ROI.

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Joe Cecin serves as the President & COO of Nervve, and was a founding investor in the company. With over 25 years of business and leadership experience, Joe has had a measurable impact on all stages of a company’s life cycle, from founding/start-up through growth and maturity, to successful exit/liquidity event. He has a combination of operating, finance and transaction experience across several business sectors. Joe earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an MBA from Stanford Business School. Prior to his business career, Joe was an officer in the U.S. Army with a Top Secret security clearance. He served with the 25th Infantry Division, and was Airborne and Ranger qualified.

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