Google expands visual search in latest shopping push



  • Google yesterday unveiled several search-based features, including two aimed at helping people shop for everything from cars to clothing. As part of its virtual “Search On” event, Google touted its AR Autos feature and an upgraded visual search tool that matches items to products sold online, per a company blog post.
  • AR Autos soon will let customers look for a vehicle in Google Search and see it in a 3D or AR rendering. Google users will be able to instantly see how the vehicle looks in different colors and zoom in to inspect features like dashboard buttons. Car buyers can see vehicles in different virtual backgrounds, or overlay an AR version against a real-world setting like a driveway, the blog post notes.
  • Google Lens, the company’s image-recognition tool, lets people tap and hold an image in the Google app or Chrome browser in Android to find it in online stores. For clothing items, the search results include style suggestions in images from websites and social media platforms like Pinterest. The feature will also be added to the Google app on iOS soon.


Google’s various shopping-oriented features are significant to mobile marketers in different ways. For car makers, the AR Autos platform will give them a chance to create 3D and AR renderings of their vehicles to provide a more immersive view of key features. The experience can help to showcase cars, trucks and SUVs before prospective buyers visit a dealer lot, especially as many people seek to limit in-person contact during the coronavirus pandemic. Dealers and automakers are investing in digital marketing tools to engage those consumers as online-generated sales surge, CNBC reported.

The updates to Google Lens mean that mobile marketers need to optimize their websites for visual discovery by the search giant’s algorithms. Google Lens has expanded to identify 15 billion items, an increase of 15 times in the past two years, which means that a broader variety of brands and retailers can showcase their products in visual search results. Because the update is focused on helping people find products to buy from online stores, mobile marketers must work to ensure their product catalogs stand out. It’s also possible that Google will eventually let marketers buy visual search criteria the same way they can bid for keywords in Google Search to show up at the top of search results.

For Google, the expanded search features are another sign of how the search giant wants to become more of a destination for shoppers amid growing competition from Amazon, which has become the first place most consumers visit when they’re in the market for a product or service.

Google’s expanded shopping-related services include last month’s update to shopping results to help people find local businesses, and check for services like curbside and in-store pickup. Before that, the company’s Area 120 tech incubator debuted Shoploop, a video shopping platform. Google also added more shopping features to its Google Pay payment app and created a section in its shopping site to show clothing and accessories from multiple online stores. Last year, the company redesigned Google Shopping to include features like price-tracking, which followed efforts that brought new ad formats to the Shopping tab.