Why type in vague search terms and scroll through reams of results when you can snap a simple photo and immediately find exactly what you’re looking for? That’s the premise behind the rise of computer vision search smarts, which are becoming a more common fixture in the online landscape.

Last March, for example, Pinterest launched a new feature called Lens that lets you use a photo of a real-world item to find related themes and pins, or even recipes based on food you see in the wild. The company recently revealed that it now garners 600 million visual searches each month. Ecommerce giant eBay is also now using computer vision search tools to help shoppers find items using photos.

Put simply, visual search is here, and it’s only going to get more prevalent.

Fashion photos

With that in mind, European online fashion giant ASOS is today rolling out its “style match” visual feature to consumers everywhere.

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By way of a quick recap, ASOS is a U.K.-based online fashion retailer that now also operates within France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Russia, and the U.S., as well as shipping globally. Though ASOS grew out of the U.K., only one-third of its annual $2.7 billion annual sales now emanate from the island. More specifically, 12 percent of its 16 million customers are now based in North America. The U.S. now represents one of the company’s fastest growing markets, with sales climbing 40 percent in Q4 2017 — a figure that will only increase when its second U.S. distribution center opens in Atlanta later this year.

In August last year, ASOS introduced its visual search tool through its mobile app in the U.K., and today the company is making it available to shoppers globally. This means everyone will be able to snap a photo of a pair of shoes or a dress they see in the local pub — or upload an existing photo from their camera roll — and find similar items on ASOS.

Above: Sneaker search

The company isn’t divulging any data from its U.K. rollout in terms of how much interest its style match feature has garnered, but it did say that it has seen “strong engagement.” Interestingly, it said more shoppers have used downloaded images than their own photos.

“Style match is still quite new for ASOS,” noted digital product director Andy Berks. “While it is still a little early to share results, we have seen an increasing number of customers using it and sharing their experience on social media. Customers are taking pictures directly from their camera and also uploading from their photo gallery. From our initial beta, we learned that we needed to build filters and refinements into the results page to make it more usable for our customers, so that’s what we’re focused on for phase two.”

ASOS said 80 percent of its U.K. traffic and 70 percent of its sales now come from a mobile device, a trend that is fairly standard across the ecommerce spectrum. And as the company prepares to double down on the U.S. this year with the opening of its new one-million-square-foot warehouse in Georgia, it’s clear that improving its mobile search smarts will be a key component of continued growth.

“We know this [mobile] is where our customers are, and it’s how they interact with us everyday, so we’re always looking for mobile-native ways to make their experience even better,” said Berks.

Berks added that the company plans to boost its existing 900-strong technology team by a further 200 people this year.

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