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Shoe Carnival finds mobile visual search is right size for footwear

Shoe Carnival continues to ramp up in mobile commerce, most recently by investing in mobile visual search technology, enabling customers to point a smartphone at an item of interest and find it in the retailer’s inventory.

The news follows Shoe Carnival’s launch of a test of mobile wallet offers to connect with shoppers via beacons. As one of the largest footwear retailers in the United States, Shoe Carnival clearly recognizes that mobile is a must-have for engaging today’s shoppers.

“Visual search works incredibly well for shoes as well as the wider fashion vertical as it enables shoppers to search far more intuitively than they could using text,” said Mark Elfenbein, CEO at Slyce. “Shoe styles can differ in a multitude of ways that make it hard for people to accurately describe using a text based search.

“Therefore, being able to snap an image of a pair of shoes that have caught a user’s eye, whether it be in the street or on the pages of a magazine and then instantaneously have numerous attributes of that example matched against a shoe retailer’s entire inventory makes for an intuitive and seamless process,” he said.

Harnessing inspiration
Mobile visual search technology has been gaining steam over the past year with a number of the biggest retailers, including Macy’s, JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Toys R Us, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus.

However, the technology makes sense for some mid-size retailers as well since consumers are making a mobile such an important part of the shopping journey. Mobile is driving a desire for instant purchase capabilities, something that visual search technology can help support.

The feature highlights the way retailers can tap mobile to translate a consumer’s inspiration into a sale, eliminating delays that can prevent a purchase from being completed.

Shoe Carnival, which operates 400 stores in 34 states and Puerto Rico, is partnering with visual product search platform Slyce for the strategy.

Committed to mobile
The retailer has made a commitment to mobile.

In September, Shoe Carnival, in partnership with SIM Partners, recently optimized its store location pages for mobile, driving a 200 percent increase in on-page interactions, and began testing mobile wallet offers to connect with shoppers via beacons (see story).

“Shoe Carnival, although smaller in scale to a Slyce partner such as Home Depot for example, is still significant in size,” Mr. Elfenbein said. “Slyce has seen strong interest from retailers that have over 100 store locations or a national presence.

“The technology is able to be adapted for numerous different use cases, from the real world, snap-to-buy experience to the activation of visuals within a brand’s retail outlets, and therefore, different retailers will be looking to provide a different experience to their customers,” he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York