Pick a Picture

Katherine Bennett - September 29, 2009

Bing has brought a whole new meaning to the quote, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In fact, they may change the way search results are displayed on all search engines if their new search “prototype” turns out to be a winner. Recently, at Tech Crunch50, Bing announced the launch of Visual Search (it’s still in beta).

Bing’s Visual search beta actually shows the searcher thumbnail images of certain products or items that they are searching for. When a searcher scrolls over the picture of the item the name of the item appears in the search query. At present, Bing only has a little over 40 categories or galleries as they call them that utilize visual search.

Visual search can be a great help in the decision making process when shopping. Let’s use digital cameras as an example. On Bing Visual Search, when a searcher clicks on digital cameras over 1500 pictures load. The searcher can scroll, in order to see pictures of all the different cameras. If the searcher hovers over a camera (see screen shot below) the name of the camera will appear in the search query box. Once, the searcher finds what they’re looking for they hit enter and regular text results appear.


It may seem overwhelming to view thousands of pictures. However, Bing already thought of that. To the left of the images are “narrow down” options. If a searcher only wants to view cameras by megapixels, optical zoom, brand, etc. Bing can do it. Let’s say a searcher, clicks on the mega pixel option and selects “5 mega pixels”. The cameras rearrange and only 5 mega pixel cameras are displayed in the image results. The Visual Search feature comes to the rescue when a searcher says, “I know what it looks like, but I don’t remember who makes it.” Problem solved.

What about travel destinations? Bing’s Visual Search comes to the rescue again. In fact, Bing will list destination images in alphabetical order and will allow the searcher to narrow down the results.

Visual Search by Bing is definitely an innovative way to search, and if it catches on, it will definitely change the way searches are done. More importantly, it will impact how marketers advertise on Bing.  If you want to take Bing Visual Search for a test drive
click here. It does require that you download a program call Silverlight. Bing has tapped into something cool, which has significant implications for the future.

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