Walmart has built their own in-house visual search technology, and the testing grounds for the same comes in the form of Hayneedle, the home furnishings retailer that joined Walmart by way of acquisition by Jet back in 2016. The new technology has been built in collaboration between Hayneedle and Walmart Labs and has been slowly scaling up on Hayneedle throughout the year. Hayneedle had been giving the facility of visual search on its mobile app since 2017, but it was doing so at launch only via a partnership with third-party vendor Slyce.
To utilize the feature, customers take an image of a piece of furniture they like by snapping a photo in someone’s home or a retail showroom, for example, or even taking a picture of a page in a magazine. The app then utilizes the same image to scan and find similar products from Hayneedle.com — much like how visual search operates on other sites, like Google Shopping or Pinterest. Walmart sees immense potential in visual search because of how it can enhance guiding customers to products, even when they do not know what they are looking for by name.
Walmart aims at augmenting the customer experience, and according to them, the home decor industry is particularly challenging just with the plethora of offering of the products, and the fact that the majority of customers don’t know what they are looking for regarding home furnishings. Walmart is concentrating towards enabling the customer shopping experience a seamless occurrence, giving them more faith in their purchases & their ability to find products, visual search plays an incredible role. Visual search can also assist the retailer with downstream effects, for example reducing returns and augmenting overall ratings for products, commencing to more customer achievement with their purchases.
Walmart had been working on its visual search technology before Hayneedle but was having issues launching it at Walmart’s scale. After its takeover by Jet, Hayneedle discovered there were a lot of techniques — including those in the fields of machine learning and AI — that it could take benefit of from Walmart and Walmart Labs. It could also launch these more swiftly and efficiently because it is a smaller organization from an engineering perspective. In the case of visual search, Hayneedle combined with a team at Walmart Labs that worked on the backend machine learning sections for the new platform. On its side, Hayneedle offered the site’s product archive of over a million SKUs and trained the system. It then combined the visual search technology with its site. This is not the only area where Walmart has visual search in use. The retailer just clasped up another e-commerce site, Art.com, that offers its optical search technology.