Executives at the Tommy Hilfiger Group had an idea: Wouldn’t it be great if people attending a fashion show could see something they liked on the runway and immediately buy it?
Meanwhile, executives at the visual-search firm Slyce had a technology: Rather than having customers type in descriptions of products they want to buy, they could submit a snapshot of what they want, and the Slyce software would match up the image with a product for sale.
TommyNow “See Now, Buy Now” is the combined result. Once people at a fashion show take photos of men’s, women’s and children’s outfits they like, Slyce’s software recognizes the outfits and accessories and matches them up with products in stores and online. Customers can order desired items before the show is even over.
The app was launched last spring at the Venice, Calif., “Tommyland” fashion show that accompanied the launch of the Gigi Hadid fashion line. It has since evolved to include all global Tommy Hilfiger collections and is now available to customers in the United States, United Kingdom and 10 other European countries.
This fall, the “See Now, Buy Now” app was expanded to make purchases available through the brand’s global wholesale network and own retail channels, tommy.com, social media, shoppable livestream and chatbots. Installations of the app have increased nearly 300 percent since last season, according to company executives.
The Tommy Hilfiger Group is reinvigorating the iconic brand through a host of technological innovations such as TommyNow and an artificial-intelligence-based conversational chatbot for Facebook Messenger. Founder and principal designer Tommy Hilfiger will discuss how the company is using retail innovations like visual search at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show in New York this month.
“Season after season, TommyNow acts as an innovation incubator, breaking all the rules and disrupting the fashion industry with new, authentic experiences for consumers around the world,” the company says in a release.
The Tommy Hilfiger Group is reinvigorating the iconic brand through a host of technology innovations such as TommyNow.
For Slyce, this is just one of the more innovative ways to create visual product searches. “Tommy Hilfiger came to us with an idea that had never been done before,” says Ted Mann, Slyce’s chief executive. “It was an out-of-the-box idea to let people snap photos at a runway and then get a shopping list of every item the model is wearing.”
And if showgoers don’t want to make immediate purchases — if they want to mull over whether to buy the item or compare how it goes with other fashion pieces they own — they can store the picture and make a purchase later.
Other retailers allow customers to snap photos of fashion they see on the streets. The search will then direct them to a participating retailer’s store or website, where they can view the item or something similar for sale.
Nordstrom allows customers to send photos of handbags and shoes they see friends or acquaintances wearing and then directs them to a specific store or the retailer’s website to purchase the product.
While most fashion searches are for exact matches, retailers can tailor the program to identify similar items. If a customer is looking for a particular dress, for example, and the participating store does not carry that style or it is out of stock, it might suggest a comparable style or color.
Some retailers also are using visual search to create entire outfits, allowing customers to take a photo of clothing items they own and suggesting matching shoes or accessories. Other retail brands let customers scan posters in their stores or take pictures of mannequins and then purchase items on the displays.
“This can be designed for the retailer’s best fit,” Mann says. “Only they can see the possibilities for how to employ it.”
Scan to buy
Fashion is not the only industry that can take advantage of visual search. Mann says about 40 retail chains were expected to be using Slyce’s technology by the end of last year.
Hardware and electronics stores can have sales associates take pictures of parts or items that customers bring into their stores and then direct customers immediately to the location where the part is sold.
“A lot of times, people need a part replaced, but they are not even sure what it is called or where to find it,” Mann says.
Visual search can also be used by stores that offer gift registries. Couples registering at Bed Bath & Beyond can take pictures of items they would like as wedding gifts and have the items automatically added to their registry. They can even see a china pattern at a friend’s house that they like, snap a picture and have it added.
Furniture stores have used visual search to help with home decorating. Customers can either take photos of furniture they want or already have to get suggestions of other pieces that would “complete the look,” Mann says.
Customers also can scan a barcode to find the product. Online supermarket shoppers can scan items at home for replacement and purchase them online for delivery, Mann says. Macy’s also uses visual search to perform catalog scans so customers can scan items in their home and make an immediate purchase without having to log on to the website and type in a product code.
Lauri Giesen is a Libertyville, Ill.-based business writer with extensive experience in covering payment and finance issues.