Image Recognition And the Potential for Mobile Shopping


With the rise of mobile and seperately visual social networks like Pinterest and Instagram, image recognition becomes more relevant to E-commerce. Not only can it help target those social networks which are a perfect fit for mobile screens. This technology can also help bring the cameras of smartphones into the mix.

Curalate, an image recognition tech startup, just raised $27.5 million in a series C round. The startup calls itself a “visual commerce platform used by hundreds of the world’s most loved brands.” TechCrunch:

Since Curalate is a suite of visual commerce tools rather than a single product, what the company actually does can seem a bit nebulous. Here’s a quick breakdown of what Curalate offers:

  • Like2Buy – Turns the one link in a brand’s Instagram profile into a gateway to buy products from any of their Instagram posts.
  • Fanreel – Pulls in user-generated images to a brand’s website and applies image recognition to tag products to show so they’re easy to buy.
  • Visual Insights – Generates analytics about which of a brand’s products are being shared in images on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and other networks so businesses know what’s hot
  • Reveal – Makes images on a business’ website shoppable by tagging the products in them and linking them to detail and purchase pages.
  • Ads – Allows brands to buy ads on Instagram and Pinterest using additional proprietary targeting options. (..)

There are plenty of tools that take care of part of the visual commerce process, but Curalate’s strategy is to roll them all together in an easy to buy monthly SaaS subscription.

Google is working on Cloud Vision API, an image recognition as a service for developers, which is not yet public. Google is also working on bringing dedicated chips to Android handsets for efficient image recognition. In October of last year Apple aquired Perceptio, a small AI tech startup specializing in image recognition.

There is certainly going to happen a lot in this space over the next years.

Zalando has been toying with image recognition since at least 2014 and uses technology by Cortexica.
Zalando also used “basic image recognition” for making Instagram images shoppable. (Which is mainly a failed attempt for other reasons.)

Given the facts that..:

  1. image recognition holds a lot of potential in general and for fashion specifically (hold your smartphone camera at the TV, a fashion magazine etc. and get the clothes captured),
  2. Zalando is on the verge of transforming into a pervasive fashion platform trying to cover everything fashion
  3. and that Zalando has a lot of cash in the bank thanks to its IPO is surprising that Zalando is not aquiring startups in this field.

Amazon has image recognition in its main mobile apps since 2014. It bought an image recognition startup in 2009. With X-Ray Amazon shows what can be done in a vertically integrated offering today beyond just image recognition. (The latter being more about getting information from the outside in. While X-Ray is a combination of already internal but separate parts and metadata to create context and opportunities for shopping.)


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