How Bing Visual Search Can Promote Brick-And-Mortar Discovery And Deals

By updating the 'search by image' feature in Bing, the Microsoft search engine is offering another way to anticipate consumers' needs beyond text.

The introduction of Bing’s visual search is the latest step tech companies are taking to move beyond the written word to help consumers find the exact things they’re looking for.

While voice-activated searches through virtual digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s own Cortana, are only starting to take off among consumers, the reliance on image search through Google, Pinterest, and e-commerce players like Wayfair, is firmly established in how people access and share product info.

Bing’s Search Advance

As OnMicrosoft and other observers have noted, the new Visual Search feature gives Bing a point of differentiation from its larger rival Google, at least for the moment. In any case, it will help the Microsoft search engine keep pace as its other Internet of Things offerings converge.

In a Bing blog post touting its update of the “search by image” capability its had for years, the company imagines someone looking for kitchen decoration inspiration. As they search for related images, one picture captures their attention.

By clicking on a thumbnail at the bottom of the search screen, they can slide through results to get to the “Detail View.” From there, they see a lighting fixture within the image. The Detail View now comes with a magnifying glass symbol — aka the visual search button — in the top left of the image that allows the user to highlight it and search for that item.


“Clicking the visual search button displays a visual search box on the image,” says Bing. “You can click and drag this box to adjust it to cover just the object of your interest. You can also simply draw a box around the chandelier if that’s more convenient.”

Beyond Keywords

While this feature has obvious benefits for e-commerce, it can also help brick-and-mortar brands promote their discovery through Bing Maps.

For example, by aligning their paid search to suggest an item is available at a store near the Bing user, retail brands can expand their omnichannel strategy to allow for purchase online and in-store pickup.

The idea of moving paid search beyond keywords has been Bing executives minds for a while.

“Paid search is advancing beyond just figuring out the best keywords to drive traffic to your site,” Christi Olson, Microsoft Bing Ads Evangelist, told GeoMarketing last year. “It’s looking more broadly at the intersection of keywords and audiences. It’s thinking about user intent, it’s thinking about what is a consumer trying to do in that backend, and while keywords are a part of that, it’s no longer just the words and phrases that you choose.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.