Macy’s is ready to pick your brain this holiday season.
This story first appeared in the November 11, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The retailer today will unveil a new app that allows customers to snap photos of outfits they like, upload them and have the same or similar items identified from its existing inventory and made available for immediate purchase.
The app, which will be available on the Macy’s Web site, was created by the Macy’s Idea Lab in San Francisco in partnership with Cortexica, a company that specializes in mobile image recognition and uses proprietary software called findSimilar. Cortexica, which has offices in London and San Francisco, also works with Kate Bosworth’s recently launched Style Thief app. Macy’s is the first major American retailer to use this technology, according to Cortexica, who said the company is also working with German e-tailer Zalando, as well as some smaller stores in Europe. Other U.S. retailers are also embracing shopping apps including Lord & Taylor, which allows shoppers to buy from its catalogues after scanning an image from a catalogue, as well as Neiman Marcus, an early adopter of mobile shopping.
Steve Semenzato, co-founder and vice president of business development for Cortexica, said the app will fulfill the “retail fashion industry’s appetite to have consumers find what they’re looking for in a single click.” The company described it as the Shazam of fashion. Shazam is an app that immediately identifies music and the artist by “listening” to the song.
The software mimics the way the human visual cortex inteprets images by searching for products based on color, texture, pattern and shape. For example, Semenzato explained, a consumer can take a photo of a flower or a flowered shirt and the app will search “against inventory we’ve ingested to match the two” and suggest shirts or dresses with a similar pattern. “It gets you to inventory that is similar if not exactly the same.”
That includes snapping photos of higher-priced merchandise at competing retailers to find a similar, more-affordable option, he said.
The app has uploaded, or “ingested,” thousands of items in 84 categories and updates the inventory on a daily basis, Semenzato said.
He said Macy’s tested it over a three-month period before deciding to move full-steam ahead for holiday.
According to Kent Anderson, president of Macys.com, “When our customers see a look that they like on friends or on a celebrity, they can directly shop for corresponding products from macys.com and buy them without a lengthy search,” he said.
Macy’s and Cortexica are holding a press conference in New York City today to unveil the technology.