What if your eyes were search engines? No more scouring the web to find the brand-less t-shirt you saw on Instagram. Gone are the days of guessing keywords to Google the sneakers you saw someone wearing on the street. With the advent of visual search, these problems become obsolete. Simply take a picture, and your search engine will direct you to the appropriate page to purchase the product… the whole world will know where you are and what you’re looking at, but who needs privacy anymore, right?


(^^Live footage of me attempting to capture some stranger’s pants)

The Importance of Visual Search

First, I am going to throw some scientific facts at you to really home in on (English lesson of the day: it’s not hone in on… crazy, I know) why visual search is so influential. As you may know, the human brain processes visual data better than any other type of data. But what you probably didn’t know is that the human brain can process an image in just 13 milliseconds and 90% of all information transmitted to our brain is visual. Holy smokes.

 If those few facts don’t create a special place in your heart for visual search, there is plenty of market data that may. Warning: more stats coming your way. Get ready.

  • Pinterest has over 600 million visual searches per month.
  • The visual search market is expected to grow by $26.65 billion in 2019.
  • 36% of consumers have conducted a visual search.
  • 74% of customers say text-based keyword searches are inefficient in helping them find the right product online.
  • By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.
  • 45% of retailers in the UK now use visual search.
  • 62% of Millennials desire the ability to visually search over any other new technology and are comfortable using visual search as part of their digital shopping experience.

*Drops Mic*

Visual Search Leaders

Pinterest Lens

Pinterest Lens was one of the first platforms to implement visual search and has become more and more advanced throughout its 2 years of existence. Since Pinterest has such a large and diverse archive of photos, including anything from room decor to apple pie recipes to motivational quotes, their visual search capabilities are extensive.

Unlike some other visual search platforms, Pinterest Lens doesn’t just provide you with a picture of a product, it shows you images of how that product fits into your life. Just bought a new sweater and need some outfit inspiration? Pinterest can help.

After learning about this new feature, I was a little skeptical. So, I decided to try it out. To be completely honest… it was a little creepy. My search results were pictures that reflected what I was looking at, wearing and doing.


If you’re looking to purchase a product, Pinterest Lens might not be the best option. The platform is better for gaining inspiration for mood boards, interior design, outfit ideas, etc. Rather than directing you to a site to purchase an item, Pinterest Lens simply shows you images similar to the picture you searched (it is possible for a result to have a link attached that directs you to an online retailer, but that is not the main function of the platform). With that said, it’s definitely still mind-blowing and unreasonably fun.

Snapchat Visual Search

Snapchat visual search is much more commerce-based, since the new feature is in partnership with Amazon. Users can scan a physical object or barcode by pressing down on their screen, which then directs them to identical or similar products offered on Amazon. While Amazon dominates online retail, they still don’t offer everything. A lot of items I visually searched for are not available on Amazon (some products I searched for are offered on Amazon, but I was just given blatantly wrong results), so instead I was shown options that were related to the product I was looking for. Some trials were eerily accurate, while others were pretty disappointing.

^^ Similar Match – these shoes aren’t offered on Amazon, so the results make sense.


^^ Blatantly Wrong – confused because Apple Watches are sold on Amazon…?


^^ Exact Match – I mean… that’s pretty freakin’ cool. 

Google Lens

Google, Google, Google… the search giant has done it again. If you thought the last two platforms were impressive, buckle up. The precision of Google Lens is unbelievable. Remember the items I couldn’t find using Pinterest or Snapchat? I could (for the most part) find them on Google. No surprise there.

Google Lens lets you search text, identify plants and animals, discover books and media, and scan barcodes. There is also a function that lets you shop for a product, similar to Snapchat/Amazon visual search. There’s another function similar to Pinterest Lens that provides you with image results that imitate the image you searched.

Let’s say your friend posts an Instagram of a delicious looking hunk of mac and cheese and now you want mac and cheese for lunch (this happens to me a lot). Take a screenshot, upload it to Google Lens, and receive recommendations on restaurants nearby that offer something similar. Now let’s say you go to said restaurant, but their entire menu is in Russian – do not fret! Scan the menu and Google Lens will provide you with a translation. I kid you not.

Now for the moment you have all been waiting for… let’s see Google Lens in action.

There are still improvements that need to be made to visual search, but that can be said for any new technology. Visual search is the next phase of the ever-evolving search world. The good news is if you haven’t already begun implementing visual search into your web platform, it’s okay…94% of retailers are in the same boat. You aren’t too late – heck, if you start the move toward visual search right now, you’ll be early.