Online fashion giant ASOS now lets you search for garments using photos


ASOS is the latest online company to embrace computer vision as the fashion giant begins rolling out a new visual search tool to help fashionistas find garments and accessories using nothing but their smartphone camera.

ASOS, for the uninitiated, is a U.K.-based British ecommerce company that sells everything from shoes, shirts, and bags, to jewellery, accessories, and everything fashion-y inbetween. Hitherto, users could search manually by category or through keywords, but with the latest update to land on iOS it’s now possible to take a photo of an item of clothing in the real world — alternatively, capture a screenshot from the web or use an existing snap on your camera roll — and search for items just like it on ASOS.

Users will now see a little camera icon in the search bar, which they tap to set the visual wheels in motion.

Above: Asos: Image search

Above: Asos: Image search (shoes)

Above: Asos: Image search (results)

Visual search

In its domestic market, ASOS noted that 80 percent of its U.K. traffic comes from mobile devices with shoppers spending on average 80 minutes per month in the mobile app. And this is why the company is seeking new ways to help people unearth goods more easily. “We know this is where (mobile devices) our customers are and it’s how they interact with us every day, so we are always looking for ways that are mobile native to make their experience even better,” said Asos’ digital product director, Andy Berks.

Computer vision has emerged as a key focus for online companies around the world. Just a few weeks back, eBay announced a couple of upcoming new image-search features that help you find items using photos. This followed a few months after Pinterest launched a new feature called Lens that allows users to snap a photo with their mobile camera to find related themes and pins, or recipes based on food they encounter in real life.

Visual search isn’t new in the fashion realm either. A.I. chatbot company Mode.ai recently launched a Facebook Messenger bot that lets you submit a photo of a piece of clothing to find similar items, places where you can buy it, and who has worn something like it (e.g. celebrities).

ASOS claims 15 million active customers globally, a third of whom live in the U.K. with the rest spread across the U.S., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, and Russia. Just this week, the company revealed it was investing $40 million on a second distribution center in the U.S., a market it sees as having major potential for growth, though at present the U.S. represents just a little more than 10 percent of the company’s $1.8 billion global revenues (as of its last financial year).

Suffice to say, the U.S. will be a major focal point for ASOS moving forward, and although its latest image search feature is limited to iOS in the U.K. for now, a spokesperson confirmed to VentureBeat that it will be landing in other markets in the coming months. An Android incarnation will be landing at a later date too.

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Author: Paul Sawers

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