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Fashion players turn to tech for differentiation

With competition heating up online, fashion retailers have been scrambling to find ways to keep consumers shopping on their online stores, and some have found their answer in an image recognition technology that allows shoppers to snap or scan images of an item and look for them online.

Although the technology is not new – Amazon introduced an app last year to look up products snapped in a photo with its flopped Fire smartphone, and Google, in 2010, bought, a site that launched a shopping comparison technology that could find products similar to the one a shopper has selected – it has only been recently that the fashion world has played catch up.

Some fashion retailers have now adopted an image recognition technology on their online shops that allows shoppers to download apps where they can browse or look for images of a product they are looking for.

Swedish fashion retailer, H&M, has added the image recognition technology Image Search, a tool that helps customers to simply feed a picture of a style they like to the app and the platform will immediately present one or several similar purchasable products from H&M’s online store.

Image Search is shown as a camera icon in the top right corner of the H&M app and is already available in 13 of the Swedish fashion chain’s markets.

However, a spokesperson for the retailer told Inside Retail that the tool is not yet available in Australia and no indication of when to expect the technology.

H&M’s Image Search was first launched in May 2017 in the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland. In late September, the app became available in a further nine markets: Belgium, France, Italy, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ireland and Poland. Currently live in 13 markets, the plan is to launch Image Search across more H&M markets further ahead.

According to H&M, as with other H&M digital features, such as #HM Gallery and My Style, Image Search takes further steps to combine visual discovery with new technology, to make shopping even more convenient and inspiring for customers.

“At H&M, customers should be able to discover and shop H&M fashion in their mobile devices whenever and wherever they like, including H&M’s followers on Instagram,” the retailer stated. “H&M has more than 23 million followers on Instagram.”

Target tested in 2014, In a Snap, an image recognition app that lets shoppers buy Target items directly off the pages of magazines and print ads without having to scan codes, look up links or search for products online or in store.

Using the camera on the shopper’s mobile device, In a Snap recognises select ads, makes a “snap” sound to let him or her know when it’s ready, and then shows him or her additional info about each product in the ad, making them easy to immediately purchase or consider later.

According to Target, the introduction of the app is another example of its “test-and-learn” approach to continue building omnichannel capabilities that meet the needs of today’s digital-savvy shoppers.

Online shop has an image recognition technology that allows shoppers to input a pair of shoes they may have seen somewhere and the visual search tool will either match the product exactly or bring up look-alikes.

Selfridges, Liberty, Harrods and Urban Outfitters have partnered with Snap Fashion, an iPhone app introduced by a British computer science graduate. The app allows shoppers to take a picture of an item of clothing — whether in a magazine or on the street — and see similar items from high street retailers. has tested Sentient’s technology for its women’s boots section. The software allows users to click on the “visual filter” button where he or she will be presented with a grid of 12 images which the app thinks look the most similar to the one the shopper is looking for.

While still going through growing pains and in its relative infancy as a viable sales channel, image recognition technology has helped retailers continue to make the shopping online easier for consumers.

This story first appeared on sister site, Inside Retail Australia.

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