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  • Philipp Derksen

Microsoft's Trojan horse for online shops

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

Microsoft has started to implement its Bing image search in the Edge browser. For online retailers, the feature could become a Trojan horse in their own shops, creating a backdoor that leads directly to their competition.

Users of Microsoft's Edge browser may have noticed a square icon at the top right of the screen recently. It is a button for visual search that appears when you move the mouse over an image.

Microsoft recently started rolling out its own Bing image search in the Edge browser. The software giant is gradually activating the feature for more and more users - also in Germany. This is good news for the topic of visual search as the most widely used browser in Germany after Google Chrome and Firefox will encourage more and more people to search with photos and cameras. Visual search is becoming more and more of a learned cultural technique.

For the majority of online retailers, however, this is bad news. With the image search button, Microsoft opens a back door in their own house through which many potential customers could take a direct route to the competition.

The movement toward visual search is here, and it is unstoppable. More and more people are using the services of Google Lens, Bing, and Co. Visual search works simply and intuitively. A click on the camera icon uploads a product photo or an Instagram screenshot. And with the new Bing feature, all it takes is a click on a product image to immediately receive dozens of suggestions of stylistically identical or very similar products.

Using significantly more information than a keyword search, a visual search delivers hits that are much more precise. As we all know, a picture says more than a thousand words. Visual search allows us to find things we can’t name or are unable to describe in words.

Now, Microsoft is implanting a visual super-search directly in every online shop via their browser interface, going much further than Google did with its Lens image search in the Chrome browser. If you are looking for a certain designer chair in an online shop, all you have to do in the Edge browser is move the mouse over an image and the visual search icon appears directly on the image, which opens a direct window to a competitor's shop (see picture). Results of the visual search are displayed in a frame directly next to the user's own offers. In the future, this will give users a permanent tool to find products that are cheaper or available elsewhere. Bargain hunters will have it more easily, and there will be more of them.

How can retailers counter Microsoft's visual search coup? Image search cannot be switched off in Edge, so there is only one option: beat Microsoft at its own game - and integrate visual search technology into your shop. Offer your customers the added value of an intuitive product search and use the advantages of visual search for your own benefit.

For online retailers, the time is now to engage in the topic of visual search. The technology might still be in its infancy, however, some big players are already using image search very successfully. And even though the rest of the industry is catching up in leaps and bounds, you can't do it on your own.

There is a benefit in taking the right partner on board. Not only does visual search help customers find products more easily and intuitively, but it also significantly increases the quality of product recommendations and the customers’ overall navigation within the shop.

Product suggestions based on visual search technology are much more likely to correspond to the image that people have in their minds at the moment of the search. Conventional searches may already fail when it comes to wording: Are customers looking for a "sideboard" or rather a "chest of drawers"? Are the sneakers purple or crimson? While text-based search grapples with words, visual search literally reads the customers' wishes from their eyes.

Tests have shown that this technology also accelerates the purchase decision: the conversion rate with product recommendations based on visual search increases two and a half times. Visual recommendations were used three times as often as behavior-based product suggestions.

Another good reason for visual search marketing: it does entirely without cookies. Before the foreseeable end of third-party cookies next year, visual search offers retailers an efficient route to personalization without collecting the customers’ personal data. The majority of online shops do not have a sufficient database to make well-founded purchase recommendations to new customers. Companies that have been using our solution for some time confirm that they sell their long-tail much better with it, making visual search a highly efficient means against slow sellers.

Use visual search software to make your own shop more attractive with intuitive user guidance and better recommendations. It is the best way to counteract the migration of customers via Edge’s visual search. The better the shopping experience, the lower the risk that people will flee to the competition. Offer visual search yourself and use the full power of product images. Customers who have learned how to use visual search in your shop will click the Edge button less often.

The original article was published in German in the Internetworld Magazine.


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