Wayfair takes on Pinterest with its own visual search engine for home furnishings

Pinterest and Google’s recent moves to leverage visual search technologies in order to connect consumers with products have not gone unnoticed by those in the e-commerce business. One company, Wayfair, is today taking inspiration from these efforts with a new feature for finding home furnishings that allows consumers to take a photo of something they like, then see related styles on Wayfair’s website.

Using either a camera or their photo library on web and mobile, online shoppers can take a picture or upload a photo they’ve already saved to see if Wayfair has something similar.

The feature may make the most sense for discount shoppers, who find inspiration from high-end home furnishings but want something more affordable — a market Wayfair serves. In many cases, customers are interested in mimicking a particular look — but don’t necessarily have the funds to pay for the craftsmanship offered by pricier furniture stores and brands, or even Wayfair’s own more high-end selection.

A similar visual search feature has also been available on Amazon.com’s mobile app for some time. However, it may be under-utilized as many Amazon shoppers come to the site with a particular shopping query already in mind and ready to be typed in the search box. In fact, to address the lack of features for product inspiration and discovery — and to further challenge Pinterest — Amazon launched an online gift shop called “Interesting Finds” last year, with a curated selection of products and “boutiques” customers can follow.

Wayfair’s new feature takes a nip at Pinterest, as well, as users don’t only have access to visual search capabilities, they also can leverage Wayfair’s existing favoriting option and its “idea boards” to save the items they liked from the search results.

Despite the competition in the visual search space, Wayfair believes it’s better positioned to compete in the furnishings market because of its large data set — including its 8 million SKUs — which will allow it to be more effective in this particular vertical.

“Our ‘Search with Photo’ feature is one application of our proprietary computer vision system,” explains Matt Zisow, Wayfair’s Director of Product. “We developed that system using a deep convolutional neural network approach that others, including Google and Pinterest, have used to develop similar applications. What sets our application apart is the rich, massive, proprietary furniture and décor data set that we used to train our models, which continue to get smarter as users engage with visual search results.”

The launch also comes at a time when Amazon is making its own moves in the furniture category. For example, the company has been pitching furniture retailers in the U.S. to list their products on its marketplace — hoping to sweeten the deal by eliminating the requirement for nationwide delivery.

The new visual search feature works across Wayfair’s product selection, and is live on desktop, iOS or Android by tapping the new Camera icon in the Wayfair.com search bar.