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Shutterstock exec: Reverse image search on mobile increases international outreach

NEW YORK ? A Shutterstock executive at Mobile Moments NYC revealed how the newest feature within its iOS application, reverse image search, has resulted in a greater percentage of searches coming from non-English speakers, thanks to the tool?s strictly visual nature.

During the session, ?Artificial Intelligence for the Mobile Visual Search,? the executive discussed Shutterstock?s use of AI in its latest iOS app feature, reverse image search, which enables users to take a photo of anything in their vicinity to search for similar images within the stock footage provider?s inventory. Shutterstock has maintained an increasingly mobile presence over the last year, and is dedicated to adapting its offerings to best suit the needs of its digitally savvy customers.

?Every single week, our marketplace is growing and adapting,? said Catherine Ulrich, chief product officer at Shutterstock.

The Mobile Moments NYC event was organized by Swrve and AppsFlyer.

AI?s helping hand
Shutterstock understands that using text to describe a visual medium can be difficult. It has resulted in a greater margin of error when receiving translations and keyword searches from other countries.

Consequently, the stock photography supplier sought to leverage the massive multitudes of data in its arsenal to better train its search engine and neural networks.

Shutterstock introduced the reverse image search feature to its iOS app earlier this week after an initial rollout on desktop.

To take advantage of the tool, app users can locate the search box on the bottom of the screen and peruse the available options, which include snapping a new photo, uploading an existing one from the camera roll or pulling an image from a storage source, such as Google Drive or iCloud.

Shutterstock will then scan its entire inventory for similar images, which consumers can save for later or immediately download onto their devices.

?Now you can actually use the camera on your phone, which makes it a much more personal application,? Ms. Ulrich said.

Reverse image search has also helped Shutterstock increase its global outreach.

?We?re getting a greater percentage of searches from non-English speakers,? Ms. Ulrich said.

Since consumers do not need to search by keyword or text anymore, the wholly visual medium has made it easier for international individuals to use Shutterstock?s service and receive accurate results.

Additionally, the ubiquity of mobile devices may persuade more consumers to test out reverse image search. If individuals become inspired to purchase a photograph similar to a beautiful setting they are currently experiencing, they can easily pull out their smartphone, snap a photo and browse the available options.

Visual search on the rise
A growing number of retailers are tapping the lucrative potential of mobile search features and integrating them into their platforms.

Several months ago, Best Buy brought an interactive spin to the catalog-browsing experience by incorporating visual search technology into its Android mobile app, allowing users to hover their device over any image and make an instant purchase (see story).

However, with a plethora of big-name retailers already incorporating mobile visual search capabilities into their apps, the technology is likely to evolve in several ways this year, including integrating with messaging chatbots and mobile concierge platforms (see story).

Integrating reverse image search within Shutterstock?s iOS app presented a different set of challenges than the feature?s Web counterpart did. On the Web, Shutterstock tends to receive higher-quality images, a factor that prompted it to adapt its mobile offering accordingly.

?We?ve tried to tailor some of the model to get smart when there are new challenges,? Ms. Ulrich said. ?This gets smarter and better over time as we use it.?