Visual Search E-Commerce

Visual Search (search by image) has been in limbo, as far as e-commerce is concerned, while companies look for ways to profitably implement the technology. Search engines seem to like visual search, except Bing who provided it as early as September 2009 but dropped it a year later. Google users have had visual search since June 2011 and Baidu the first choice of China’s 600 million internet users implemented it last month. Now Rakuten Ichiba (the largest e-commerce site in Japan) is trialing visual fashion search on its Taiwanese website. Users upload an image of clothing, bags, shoes or accessories and are then offered similar fashion items which they can purchase right away. I spent a while uploading a few fashion images to see how well it works and in my view e-commerce visual search still has a long way to go before becoming useful. Rakuten Fashion Finder, what do you think of it?

Rakuten e-commerce website visual search

Big Brands v Small Brands + QR Code

Independent designers cannot afford prime store locations or big brand marketing budgets but they can be innovative. In Hong Kong, where store rents are astronomical, a group of independent designers are collaborating by recommending each other’s products through a QR Code tag on their designs. Shoppers can scan the QR Code to see recommended items from other designers that would compliment the purchase (video below). The Shop Elsewhere platform also displays a map showing the other designer’s location. A great low cost marketing paradigm with a very simple and practical implementation.

QR Code Shop Elsewhere tag in-store
Shop Elsewhere mobile site screenshots

QR Code Love Padlocks

Cheil Germany have created a clever QR Code campaign (video below) for the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN). DGVN wanted to highlight the plight of the 60 million women worldwide who are are victims of forced marriages.

For several years sweethearts have been attaching love padlocks to the fence between the sidewalk and the tracks on Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne. The agency added 3,500 combination locks to the bridge representing women trapped in a forced marriage. Each padlock had a QR Code which when scanned resolved to a mobile site that gave people the opportunity to donate and then receive the number code to open the lock and ‘free a woman’. Several social media functions were included.

Almost all locks were opened within three days and donations for the UN trust fund to end violence against women increased by 279%. The agency say that 570,000 people got involved on social media channels and media reach was a total of 5.3 million. So successful was the campaign that it is being taken to other love padlock locations around the world.

The Hohenzollern Bridge love padlocks
A QR Coded love padlock

QR Code Turntable

Record label Kontor based in Hamburg, Germany wanted to promote house music producer Boris Dlugosch to the advertising industry. Targeting agency creative directors who are the world’s most phlegmatic professionals was not an easy brief. Normally they either pass promo CDs, USBs and MP3s onto their secretaries or just bin them.

OgilvyAction came up with a nice idea (video below). They mailed creative directors a vinyl disc with a QR Code so it could be played on a ‘turntable’ made from the envelope. The campaign was a success with 71% of the 900 turntable QR Codes activated and 42% following the link to the Kontor online store. OgilvyAction say this was 64% more than the average response and with the bonus that they received great feedback from some of the industry’s most influential people.

QR Code turntable made from the packaging

Toyota QR Code Road Safety Campaign

QR Codes are used for this Toyota print campaign in Peru which is designed to make drivers aware of the dangers of using their smartphones while driving. Images of obstacles in the middle of the road with QR Codes which when scanned enable the download of an augmented reality (AR) app ‘QR Road App’. Using the app makes the obstacle disappear and displays a message “When you use your smartphone, you can’t really see what’s on the road”. The ‘QR Road App’ (video below) was downloaded over 120,000 times ranking it in the top twenty most successful applications in Peruvian history.

An image of an obstacle in the road
Another image of an obstacle in the road with an AR screenshot