Google is starting to turn its handy image search tool into a way to shop.
In some instances, tapping on an image result will now pull up a shoppable list of products featured inside the photo. So if, for example, you’re looking at a picture of a model wearing sunglasses and holding a handbag, Google may be able to display links to buy the bag and glasses, or at least a pair that’s similar to them.
There are a bunch of constraints on how this works right now, but the implication is that this will eventually expand in a big way. At the moment, the shopping suggestions will appear in mobile searches and inside the Android search app. And they’re only supported for a few categories of products: handbags, sunglasses, and shoes.
More categories and platforms will be added this year
Other clothing will be added in “the next few months,” as will home and garden products. The shopping results are formally being called “similar Items.”
Google says the feature relies on machine vision to analyze the products and pick out similar items. But it’s not clear how much that’s a factor, because the feature also depends in a big way on web developers, who need to specifically add metadata to a site before its images can offer up these suggestions. Search Engine Land points out that Google has actually been accepting this data since December.
Either way, the addition makes plenty of sense. Google says “price and availability information” was a top request from image search users. And the addition starts to make image search seem a lot more like Pinterest — which itself is often an image search tool with attached shopping information. In much the same way, this opens the door for Google to bring in more revenue, as it’ll likely take a cut of sales its image search refers.
Google plans to expand the feature to more platforms later this year.