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How Macy’s combines fashion, mobile technology to target younger shoppers

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November 12, 2014

Macy's Image Search tool

Macy’s Image Search tool

Macy’s is the first United States retailer to use visual search technology from Cortexica, promising to reduce the number of clicks between inspiration and purchase to make it easy for young fashionistas to shop from their phones.

Macy’s use of Cortexica’s findSimilar image recognition technology could help the retail attract a younger, up-and-coming generation of consumers that thrives on the use of imagery. While fashion recognition has been one of the promises of mobile shopping, there have been some challenges on the backend in making it a reality

“In our decision to work with Macy’s, we wanted to work with a major fashion retailer,” said Steve Semenzato, vice president of business development at Cortexica, London. “Macy’s is very into innovation, and we needed an organization that wants to brand itself as an innovator.”

Cortexica, a London-based, image search technology company, powers the new feature available in the Macy’s app.

The possibilities
Through the Cortexia technology, users of the Macy’s app can snap a photo of an item they like and will be delivered a list of similar items.

The technology is not limited to clothing. For example, users can apply a photo of a flower to their search to look for an item of a similar color or containing a similar floral pattern.

However, Cortexica’s expertise is in fashion, with its cloud-based database consisting of 1.5 million images and two million image searches that could help Macy’s promote its own products through the tool.

The software aims to mimic the way the human visual cortex within the brain interprets images seen everyday and can adapt to the low quality or environmental factors of images that sometimes occur when using a smartphone camera, even though these cameras have dramatically improved over recent years.

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Cortexica’s findSimilar software

After snapping a photo, users can conduct their search based on color, texture, shape or pattern.

Macy’s will be using the feature across all categories of products on its app. While some of Cortexica’s clients use the software to match exact items, Macy’s hopes to also use the tool to recommend similar or complimenting items.

The feature is also available to desktop users, who can upload an image from their desktop or the Web.

More for holiday
Macy’s ongoing attempt to appeal to younger audiences repeatedly involves mobile.

For example, Macy’s evolving strategy for its annual holiday campaign Believe this year focuses on the mobile Web with a comprehensive site enabling users to write letters to Santa, participate in a Guinness World Records challenge, download content and purchase related merchandise.

For Macy’s seventh annual Believe campaign to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the retailer is once again making mobile a big focus of its strategy to raise money and help consumers get in the spirit of the holidays. As part of the effort, Macy’s is mobilizing its signature letter-writing program for the first time, enabling children to write letters to Santa Claus with their holiday wish lists from mobile and desktop (see story).

Macy’s has rolled out a browser-based digital wallet solution called My Wallet, available to in-store, online and mobile shoppers, that places users’ credit cards and Macy’s digital coupons and promotions in one place.

As retailers and shoppers prep for the 2014 holiday season, consumers are more willing to make purchases online and are looking for easier ways to keep up with their coupons, causing a turn to mobile wallet solutions to encourage more seamless purchases and savings abilities. Macy’s, a retailer known for its push towards innovative mobile technology, will likely see strong usage of its digital wallet given its simplistic appeal and the expected surge in shopping in the coming months (see story).

Cortexica believes that Macy’s moves towards mobile are the right ones.

“Retailers like Macy’s are having to play the reinvention game to avoiding becoming stale,” Mr. Semenzato said. “That’s why they’re starting mobile now to be mainstream with mobile in the future.

“Major companies are having to do this.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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