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Zalando’s image recognition app makes shopping easier

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September 5, 2014

Zalando 185 shotEurope’s largest online retailer, Zalando SE, is testing an image recognition application that allows users to photograph people’s outfits and get recommendations for similar clothing items.

The Berlin-based retailer announced its plans for testing the new feature in the mobile app this week. Founded in 2008, Zalando aims to expand its brand and will be filing for an initial public offering within the next few months.

“We are constantly looking for new technological approaches and innovative solutions in order to support our more than 13.5 million customers in Europe when shopping online at Zalando by offering them different opportunities to access our broad assortment,” said Carsten Ernst, product manager of iOS for Zalando. “Besides the classic text search and our barcode scanner feature, customers are now able to search via image recognition and find clothes similar to a desired colour or pattern.”

Image recognition app
The mobile app lets users search, browse and buy from Zalando’s inventory of clothing and shoes, as well as create a wish list and use a barcode scanner to find specific items. The app was developed to function as a mobile version of the Web site, with all of the same features.

The new image recognition technology is currently being tested for German iOS customers and encourages users to snap photographs of people on the go and receive suggestions for similar clothing items. Android users and other markets will follow after the initial testing phase.

With the success of inventory identification apps such as Shazam for music and Asap54 for fashion, Zalando hopes for customers to experience a simple and convenient way of shopping for products they are sure to appreciate.

“The fashion industry has made great strides in terms of catering to consumers with mobile devices,” said Nick De Toustain, sales director at LTU Technologies. “Whether via native apps or mobile-optimized web pages, it’s now easier than ever for consumers to engage with fashion brands and retailers, greatly expanding their reach.”

Zalando 400 shot
Zalando’s image recognition

Shopping going mobile
Zalando recently communicated that the number of visits coming from mobile devices is 41 percent, and the share is steadily increasing. With simple step processes for completing purchases, many shoppers are taking advantage of mobile shopping’s convenience and ability to quickly display recommended items.

“Consumers are asking the retail industry to answer their demand for better ways to engage on mobile devices,” said Michael Langguth, co-founder of Poq Studio. “Retailers like Zalando that embrace the opportunity that mobile presents, and look for innovative ways to engage with customers will be well placed to take advantage of this shift in consumer behaviour.”

Zalando’s announcement arrives on the heels of Amazon’s recent mobile tool, Flow, which allows users to take a photo of a desired object and then be presented with a database of similar products available on Amazon. Tools such as Flow seek to upgrade barcode scanners on smartphones and use technology to match the item’s identifying traits with the app’s inventory.

The fashion industry is becoming steadily more reliant on mobile devices and marketing.

“Fashion is inherently transient and driven by consumers and designers’ ever-changing idea of what’s trending – or ideally “hot” and not yet a trend,” said Gregg Aamoth, co-founder of POPcodes. “Mobile, whether referring to a device or the rapidly changing consumer shopping behavior that it enables, is definitely hot and viewed as a long-term trend. As such, it’s become very fashionable to incorporate ‘mobile’ into existing marketing and merchandising strategies.”

Some debate still lies as to whether mobile retailers will be able to compete with brick-and-mortar shops. However, image recognition software has the ability to infiltrate social channels and support higher mobile conversion.

“For all their wizardry, mobile devices have their limitations in comparison to the in-store experience,” LTU Technologies’ Mr. De Toustain said. “While you can’t use your iPad to try on clothing, there are clever ways of virtualizing the measuring/sizing process so that you can simulate the in-store experience on your mobile device.

“The big win for the fashion industry will be when they effectively virtualize the in-store experience. It’s a work in progress.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Alex Samuely is staff writer on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York. Reach her at alex@mobilemarketer.com.

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