Here at Harvard we’re fascinated with all things technology and the role tech is playing in changing every aspect of our lives from the latest in robotic surgery to software that enables retailers to target us with exactly what we want, before we even know we want it!

Last week Olivia and I got our trendies on and popped down to Shoreditch to attend BOLD ROCKET’s latest soapbox session – The Future of Retail: Shaping Shopping with Visual Search.

Alex Semenzato founder of #Fashtech, an organisation driving creative partnerships between fashion and technology; and biz dev manager at Cortexica, a company that specialises in visual search technology led the evening’s discussion with a fascinating talk on emerging technologies that are going to change the way we shop, with a specific focus on mobile visual search (MVS).

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We were asked to imagine taking a photo with your phone of a product that somebody is wearing as they walk down the street, and then using this photo to search online for the same or similar products based on shape, colour, design and texture, before buying it online. Ridding us of the awkward moments when you’re trailing a complete stranger, hoping to catch a glimpse of their jumper label, or sheepishly stopping somebody to ask where their coat is from, and if it’s this season’s!

This world is soon to be a reality with the emergence and increasing adoption of MVS, a technology that uses the images captured by a mobile device’s built in camera app to put users on the path to an immersive digital experience — including a route to purchase — linking the virtual and physical worlds.

The discussion explored the many ways this technology will enhance the consumer’s shopping experience, which could include allowing shoppers to identify specific and/or similar items from more than one brand quickly and in one place. We then moved on to explore the benefits that visual search has and will continue to bring to savvy retailers, including the ability for small retailers to build up their own ecommerce platforms, utilise the back-end analytics to assess and respond to customer trends and reduce the labour-intensive cataloguing and tagging process in the warehouse.

As visual discovery becomes increasingly more important in photo-sharing apps such as Pinterest and Instagram, and photo-sharing in general becomes an integral part of the way we now communicate, we can really start to see how MVS and other similar technologies will continue to blur the distinction between the digital and physical worlds and change the face of the retail industry – watch this space!

 

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