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October 16, 2013

Mobile Image Recognition

The market is ripe for image recognition apps

In 2011 the eCommerce industry exploded to an unprecedented $6 billion and now boasts an annual growth of 21%. However eCommerce & mCommerce battle various significant problems from low conversion rates (only 3% of visitors actually make a purchase) to difficulties with providing relevant search results due to large product ranges.

In the last few years a few big players have been focusing on image recognition and augmented reality features, helping retailers capitalize on the mobile phone’s potential to enable consumers to make impulse purchases. The idea is simple – the consumer snaps a shot of an image with a mobile phone and the power to instantly own it is right at his fingertips. Shoppers can take photos of products to learn more, get rewards or purchase on the spot.

Current brand-consumer communication shortcomings

Printed ads in brochures, magazines and billboards present static information, this model relies heavily on the buyer retaining the information and there is no direct push-to-action. QR codes are a move in the right direction, but have their limitations – they require expensive real estate on the page, disrupt the graphic idea and redirect to a single source of content.

How image recognition changes the game

While reading a product review the consumer can receive additional information by scanning the product image as opposed to a bar-code or a QR code, and without having to search anywhere else. The product can be purchased immediately, which saves the customer precious time. The manufacturer is interested in publishing magazine reviews which in turn helps the publisher. The magazine or printed ad becomes a virtual store, enabling the purchase and bringing in sales profits. Image recognition can also allow users to snap photos of items in the real world and match the photo with similar products currently for sale online. Take a picture of a drink with your phone and get drink recipes you can mix with that particular bottle. Interactive advertising for example can take many shapes. A concert poster can distribute tickets or sell the artist’s CDs, redirect to a webpage or display event location in Google Maps. Simply scan a product to find the nearest retailer offering it. Snap a product in a furniture catalog and have it delivered to your door the next day. The technology uses are countless and exciting.

Image recognition and your business

The idea is not new – apps such as Google Goggles have users ‘search’ visually using smartphone camera pictures, and Amazon Remembers is an app offering a similar service for iPhone. We are witnessing a significant shift from term searching to image searching. User demand and behavior are macroeconomic drivers that point to a progressively visual and mobile web. The major business benefit of image recognition technology embedded in a mobile app is the enablement of the impulse buy at the time of buyer interaction with a product. Empowering the consumer to purchase at that particular point in time prevents future forgetting about the product. The opportunity offers online retailers the chance to bring content to life and tap into mobile revenue channels, influence conversion rates, improve consumer engagement, push up click through rates and significantly increase average basket size.

Today’s technology making it possible

Nowadays there exist platforms allowing the recognition of a wide image range, from products to buildings. Until not so long ago image recognition, required for most augmented reality apps, has been limited by device capabilities. Today cloud architecture allows recognition of millions of images, as well as multiple images from one screen, while the mobile is only responsible for feature point extraction and content rendering.

Problems along the way of image recognition

Some existing solutions based on image recognition tend to work well with some simple products but have trouble with more complex or creatively presented images. The approach may also prove too fiddly for some shoppers. It is a fact that barcode scanning apps already offer deal comparisons and other bargain hunting tricks but none has really taken off yet.

The future of image recognition mobile apps

Image recognition technology and apps create a connection between the physical and the digital world and successfully link the product to the client. Many brands have recognized this and are looking into ways to gain mind-share at a previously overlooked key purchase point. Does your business model need rethinking? Could you see an image recognition app helping you and your clients give and receive better service? Call us today to chat about what an image recognition mobile app can do for you!

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