London, UK-based PIXSTA emerged today to offer a new challenge to Google's dominance of search, in the form of the most sophisticated and accurate image search engine in the world.
Based on cutting-edge academic research into contextual image retrieval techniques, PIXSTA enables image-to-image search - unlike the text-to-text or text-to-image capabilities of search engines currently in widespread use.
PIXSTA also revealed today that it has successfully monetised its patent-pending technology. To refine the platform and prove the business model, it has over the past 18 months developed a revenue-generating advertising network for the online fashion retail market.
PIXSTA already has live deployments in place with media partners including Handbag.com, ElleUK and the News of The World's Fabulous Magazine and advertising partners including Monsoon, OASIS and Dorothy Perkins.
The advertising ecosystem is similar to Google's adwords model, but based wholly on images rather than text.
From a random starting point, users click on an image of an item of clothing, shoes or jewellery to return further images of items that are similar by colour, shape or texture. Clicking on any of the displayed items re-submits that item as the search term.
When the user ‘discovers' the item that they want to purchase, they click through not just to the retailer's home page but directly to the product landing page to purchase their chosen item.
The near-universal applicability of the PIXSTA AdImage platform means it has the potential to radically redefine the entire online advertising model, wherever the product or service being advertised has a visual element:
- For the advertiser, customer acquisition costs are lowered, with lead-to-customer success rates in excess of 6% already recorded. The value of a PIXSTA AdImage click is therefore considerably higher than an adword click.
- For media brand owners, PIXSTA AdImages represents a new opportunity to monetise their site. In particular, PIXSTA delivers an advertising solution that is perceived as content rather than advertising, and enhances the editorial content through an engaging level of interaction with the visitor.
- For the consumer, much of the risk in browsing - measured typically in wasted time - is eliminated, because they have already seen the item they want to buy along with its closest alternatives available elsewhere online. In addition, they can see all the products from various retailers presented in a homogeneous way, like in a shopping mall, with no need to visit numerous individual sites.
More partnerships, with both media brands and advertisers, are planned and can be set-up directly on PIXSTA's website. Further online advertising networks for items such as shoes, mother and baby clothes, art, antiques and home furnishings will be launched in the future.
Any such application requires only a feed into the PIXSTA AdImages database from an online retailer and deployment on a relevant ‘destination' media owner's site.
The contextual visual search technology employed is the result of five years of academic research by PIXSTA co-founder Dr Daniel Heesch. His research has resulted in sophisticated algorithms that enable any image to be compared with any other, to determine their similarity in terms of shape, colour, texture and more.
The PIXSTA AdImage platform is sufficiently sophisticated to enable its use in facial recognition applications, or could, equally, be used as a standalone image search engine.
Quotes: Alexander Straub, CEO and co-founder of PIXSTA [and of dot-com success Mondus back in 1999], said:
"Being able to use an image as a search term means we have absolutely stolen a march on the likes of Google, whose image search still relies on text search terms."
"We have a real-world solution, which doesn't require a huge leap in user understanding or a massive change in their behaviour. It's working now and already generating revenue."
"When searching online consumers prefer to say "I'm looking for something like this", rather than attempting to describe what ‘this' actually looks like - not for nothing is a picture worth a thousand words. What we're doing is making the phrase a reality, with benefits to retailers, publishers and users. Everybody wins."
Nicole Bremner, Director of online fashion retailer Brittique, said:
"The PIXSTA promotion on [News of The World's] Fabulousmag.com was 'fabulous' - we sold out of all but one pair of shoes in a few minutes and now have a waiting list, awaiting more stock. We're looking forward to running similar promotions in the future."
Lara Kelly, News International's head of e-commerce, said:
"Our PIXSTA deployment was the first time a publisher had tackled the difficult task of fully integrating and cross-referencing from magazine to e-commerce site."
"The final product is a fully interactive experience for readers and online users to enjoy, driving traffic and transactions."