Visual Search & Direct Mail: How This Duo Is Shortening The Path To Purchase

As marketers, we are always keeping our eyes out for new/better ways to connect and engage with customers. The latest trend to capture our attention here at SG360° is visual search, and particularly what using visual search in combination with direct mail can do for brands. 

To best understanding these opportunities, its best to first start with what visual search is.

I’ve Got 99,000 Results and What I Really Want Isn’t One of Them

One of the biggest problems plaguing text-based keyword search is the immense difficulty of finding a specific item.

Target Visual Search In App
Target is just one of many retailers using visual search to bridge the gap between offline discovery and online search. Photo credit: Target.

With results being only as good as your ability to describe what you’re looking for, 74 percent of consumers find keyword searches ‘to be inefficient in helping them find the right product.’

Visual search, however, aims to solve this problem. Simply put, visual search is the usage of an image, rather than words, to tell a search engine what you’re looking for. What’s returned are highly-targeted results, specific to the provided image.

Brands from Target to Amazon and The Home Depot to Wayfair have quickly picked up on how they can use the visual search component known as Search by Camera to shorten the path to purchase.

By incorporating image recognition technology into their mobile apps, they’ve enabled customers to automatically search their online product catalog by simply pointing their phone’s camera at an offline object.

It’s this growing application of visual search that has us excited.

From Interest to Action in An Instant

While visual search was first used to ease customer keyword search woes, brands are now using the technology in their marketing to shorten the path to purchase. Direct mail, with its continued ability to capture attention and spur engagement, is a natural channel fit for achieving this goal.

The benefits of combining direct mail with visual search technology are three-fold:

  1. Reduce the time to purchase by reducing the steps in the path from inspiration to conversion. Fewer steps means shorter conversion times and higher conversion rates.
  2. Reduce the competition by entering the consideration funnel before keyword search occurs
  3. Facilitate product discovery by creating personalized pieces that feature products that correspond to previous purchases or browse activity. 

Using direct mail to fuel a visual search experience requires nothing more than including the appropriate call to action on your direct mail piece and making sure the images used are tagged in your visual search platform. 

Target Holiday Catalog CTA-2
Target tagged their 2018 Kids’ Gifting Catalog into their visual search engine and used a call to action to make it instantly shoppable. 

Target, an early adopter of visual search, put an emphasis on the technology during the all-important holiday shopping season – made even more important this past year by the absence of Toys ‘R’ Us.

Described by Target as a ‘cool, techy twist’ to their 2018 Kids’ Gifting Catalog, Target used visual search to capitalize on the excitement of the holiday season and the fear of missing out to create a seamless shopping experience.

By tagging the images used in the catalog, they made each page instantly shoppable. As Target put it ‘As you flip through the catalog, just open the Target app, tap the scanner and center over any page and voila! The full list of toys appears, letting you instantly add your faves to your cart.’

What’s even more interesting is the ways in which direct mail and visual search can be used for retargeting. Email and display ads can only get you so far. Direct mail is an ideal ‘non-traditional’ way to get in front of this audience and visual search is just the tool to create a conversion experience.  

For Retail and Beyond

Using direct mail to power instant digital experiences via visual search is clearly a natural fit for retail, but the opportunities don’t stop there. A few use cases already coming to light include:

  • Grocery stores can use the combination for list building, recipe ideas (to further spur list building) and to provide coupons.
  • Hotels and travel agencies can deliver travelers directly to a booking page.
  • Real estate brokers can use the combination to instantly provide listing details or book a showing.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Have visual search embedded in your mobile app? We’d love to talk more about ways to use direct mail to drive instant digital experiences for your customers. Contact us today to get the conversation started.

Related Articles: 

Take Your Customer Acquisition to the Next Level with Direct Mail (Infographic)

3 Ways to Use Direct Mail As A Catalyst for Digital Engagement

Want More From Your Abandoned Cart Recovery Program? Add Direct Mail.

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