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Voice, Search & Discoverability in Fashion

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It's still early days for retailers to fully get their head around how voice recognition technology will effect their business. However, there are a few delivery channels and methods in play already that we can recognise as being the building blocks to what is just around the corner.

Behaviour. "Hey Siri, what should I wear today?" "It's currently clear and 12 degrees in Ringwood. Expect mostly clear skies starting in the morning. Today's high will be 22 degrees, and the low will be 12".

As we observe people interact with Siri and the like, our behaviour with devices is evolving with voice-led questioning over typing. Another scenario is looking for something online. The example below is a broad query, and the results are recommending online stores that have targeted keywords such as red cocktail dress, silky red mini dress, party dresses etc.

"Hey Siri, find me a red party dress to wear"


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The same applies to visual search where our behaviour is going from typing a question into Google to, show me products that are in this image or similar. A very exciting technology in use and very successfully by Pinterest. They rolled out Pinterest Lens, whereby using the camera in the app delivers you content based on the objects it picks up in the image.

Stepping up a notch, the Amazon Echo Look is the latest in-home smart device to hit the market. Echo Look is your digital wardrobe and stylist. Instruct Echo Look to take a photo of your ensemble, and the device will keep a record of each outfit and then give you the option to get a second opinion from "stylists" based on current trends and how it looks. The Echo Look app will also recommend new products to buy from Amazon as it learns your style and items currently in your wardrobe.

Now, this feels very new and futuristic, but it's no doubt this is how we'll be interacting with technology very soon. The question to be asking is "how can I ensure my brand's products are ranked favourably in the recommended options?"

SEO. If you haven't been prioritising search engine optimisation, do it and yesterday. By optimising your product images, it will boost visibility across search engines and knock out the competition.

There's a shift happening in SEO land also, where the keyword-focused approach is moving to a topic-driven model in content marketing. That's exactly what you're doing as an eCommerce business, marketing and optimising content - product images, meta descriptions, and blog posts for greater discoverability. Incorporating topics, keywords, and tags in your SEO strategy will ensure significantly higher organic reach and relevance.

The balance to strike is in organic and paid. Amplify discoverability of inventory organically and then back it up with paid advertising on the platforms high engagement. The most popular search category on Pinterest is fashion, then home decor and coming in third is art. A whopping 90% of weekly Pinterest users' purchase decisions are influenced by images they've seen and interacted with on the platform.

 
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Advertising on Pinterest has huge advantages. Particularly when using the Pinterest Lens, users are shown content relating to objects in the image, and brand's advertising on Pinterest will have their products appear based in the results based on product relevance.

Pulling it together. The main things you need to do is be ready for when voice goes mainstream. If selling on Amazon wasn't on your radar or it seems a threat, look at it from a different perspective. Amazon is a search engine and to reach a wider audience, you need your brand to be discoverable. Selling through Amazon when Echo Look is showing product direct from its inventory means you have access to that audience.

Integrating visual search to your eCommerce store, not as tricky as it sounds and will make a big difference to your conversion rate. There is technology in Australia that you can access very economically and has proven accuracy.

Prioritising SEO is a big one. Given there is so much change happening in the industry, now is a good time to rally your teams and take a birds eye view of what you're currently doing, what's working and what could be improved. Evaluate and consider advertising on social platforms that are visual over text based.

Lastly, bring in the experts. For eCommerce search engine optimisation contact Ian Hopkinson, founder of Mad Scientist Digital in Melbourne and to integrate visual search into your biz contact Mahendra Harish from Okkular Technology.


Written by Saskia Fairfull, founding member of the Independent Fashion Advisory Board(IFAB). Connecting tech startups with fashion businesses.

Saskia Fairfull