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JCPenney embraces on-the-spot purchasing capability of visual mobile search

JCPenney is bolstering its mobile strategy by teaming up with visual product search platform Slyce, following in the footsteps of Amazon, Macy’s and other retailers who are leveraging image recognition to enable customers to snap photos and view similar items.

JCPenney has had a relatively quiet start to 2015 in terms of mobile, and is likely aiming to keep up with its fellow major retailers by ensuring that its products are easily searchable via mobile devices. Slyce predicts that visual search options will become requisite for brands in the near future, as it ultimately provides instant answers to time-strapped consumers that could be swayed to visit a competitor’s mobile application or site if looking for an item takes too long.

“Integrating visual search technology enables very frictionless movement from real-world consumer desire to on-the-spot purchase and this is undoubtedly becoming a ‘must have’ feature for major retailers,” said Mark Elfenbein, CEO at Slyce, Toronto, Canada. “We’re currently speaking with a number of Fortune 500 retailers and this technology has now transitioned from a luxury to a priority.”

Real world application
More brands are becoming enticed by the real world application that visual mobile search capabilities offer. If a consumer happens to spot an interesting apparel item or furniture piece, he or she can simply whip out their smartphone, snap a photo and search a retailer’s inventory for the same piece or similar products.

Macy’s was 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 (see story).

Users were also able to search for similar styles, patterns or colors.

Slyce offers instant purchase abilities on mobile

While JCPenney has not yet revealed the specifics of their contract with Slyce, if it emulates the models Macy’s and Amazon have rolled out, the brand may propel itself to the top of the mcommerce sector.

“Slyce powers both 3D and 2D image search for its retail partners,” Mr. Elfenbein said. “This means the image recognition technology can either be used to take a consumer from snapping an image of a catalog page directly to applicable items on the retailer’s mobile commerce site, or it can be used to directly, or closely, match items from a retailer’s product line from any 3D images snapped in the real-world.”

JCPenney is attempting to ramp up mobile focus after leveraging a second-screen mobile game and familiar live moments during the Academy Awards television broadcast in February to build brand engagement and aid charities (see story).

Growing brand interest
The instant purchase ability as well as instant gratification it offers for consumers makes Slyce’s platform attractive for brands seeking to retain their stronghold in the tight mcommerce space.

Slyce currently powers mobile search for high-end retailer Neiman Marcus and surf-and-skate brand Tilly’s.

To use the Tilly’s functionality, consumers open a mobile website on their smartphone, snap photos of desired items within any of Tilly’s seasonal collection catalogs, and purchase the item directly at the moment of impulse (see story).

“We expect high-levels of engagement from users on any of our deployments, as our technology makes the experience of shopping so much more intuitive,” Mr. Elfenbein said.

“In addition, as evidenced in previous deployments, we see that visual search becomes a driver for new users to download an app and begin shopping with their mobile devices.”

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