Wayfair Launches Visual Search Feature Aimed At Taking On Pinterest, Amazon

The launch of 'Search with Photo' is more than a fun feature: It also reflects how discovery is changing in the age of intelligent search.

E-commerce home goods purveyor Wayfair has launched “Search with Photo,” an AI-powered visual search feature that lets snap a photo to find Wayfair products that match the décor looks they see and like — a move that reinforces the way intelligent search is transforming consumer discovery of places and products across the board.

Here’s how it works: Prospective shoppers can tap the camera icon in the search bar, which allows them to snap a photo or upload one from their photo library. They can then browse visually similar items on Wayfair’s site, and either purchase them immediately or add products to an “Idea Board” to save for later or share with others.

Wayfair is far from the first to embrace the idea that customers might like to use images of real-world products to search for inspiration or find similar items: the rollout of “Search with Photo” is likely aimed at competing with Pinterest, which recently debuted its own visual search capability, and even Amazon, with its “interesting finds” feature — as TechCrunch reported that the e-commerce giant has its own ambitions in the furniture category.

“What [we believe] sets our application apart is the rich, massive, proprietary furniture and décor data set that we used to train our models,” said Matt Zisow, director of product at Wayfair. “[They] continue to get smarter as users engage with visual search results.”

But in the age of intelligent search, Wayfair’s search update is more than a fun feature — it comes as a tacit acknowledgment that customers have new expectations when it comes to finding and seamlessly purchaseing the products that they want.

Intelligent Search

For every online purchase resulting from a search, Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits — a statistic that reinforces how crucial search is to e-commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses alike.

But search has changed since the (relatively recent) days in which a typed query would result in a list of webpages. Today, search is intelligent, providing structured answers based on voice searches, typed searches, and more. Now, that includes image-based search, too — and retailers of all stripes need to be present at the right moment and across the right search mediums in order to capture attention and drive foot traffic to sites and stores.

As Steve Conine, Wayfair co-founder, explained, “While finding a look you love may be easy, finding the specific products to bring that look to life can be time-consuming and require a lot of searching. Visual search [allows] shoppers [to] search for and find a particular product or style instantly. Combining our… selection with innovative machine learning techniques, Wayfair lets shoppers bring their unique vision of home to life with unparalleled convenience.”

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.