Scrolling through my WhatsApp messages, I am struggling to find a day where I haven't used an emoji, screenshot, photo or meme in one of my chats and I am most definitely not alone. Visual usage (video and image) continues to grow rapidly with Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends 2016 report showing the daily number of photos shared in 2015 was in excess of 3 billion.Meeker highlights “we are evolving from simple social conversations to more expressive communication” and has transcended from our engagement with social channels. Millenials and Generation Z, in particular, are craving this and Google’s latest ‘Shop the Look’ experiment seeks to bridge the gap between search and visual discovery.What is Shop the Look?The experiment was announced last week and looks to bring outfits posted by bloggers into their search results. Working with partners such as LIKEtoKNOW.it, a user searching for something broad, like ‘cocktail attire’, could potentially deliver a stream of bloggers’ outfits and then upon tap, users can shop for the same or similar product. Upon first glance, the experience is more comparable with being on a fashion blog or browsing my favourite Instagram accounts; it feels natural and more 'human', somewhere I'd be happy to spend time engaging with the results rather than cutting loose and visiting another site or app. Whilst Google Shopping ads can deliver a similar experience, they can feel a little sterile – especially in the early stages when searching for the perfect outfit.
Why are Google experimenting?Pinterest and Instagram have boosted their advertising offerings and both deliver at inspiring their engaged audiences. In their blog post, Google themselves state they want to help people in their ‘i-want-some-ideas’ moments. They are initially launching this experiment with apparel and home décor retailers – directly competing with the two social media platforms mentioned.From personal experience I see Google as a functional service so the ability to deliver inspirational content, should it be successful, will prove to be a useful addition to Search. Weaving into existing functionality isn’t asking users to alter their search behaviour or sign up to another platform which should help to maximise uptake. As you'd expect, this is currently only available in the US *roll your eyes emoji* but if it comes over to the UK I will be most definitely be jumping on board and recommending it to our clients.Sharan Cheema, Client Services Director