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Macy’s Launches Image Search App

Shopping at Macy’s is a snap—literally. The retailer has rolled out an image-recognition search app, powered by Cortexica and developed by Macy’s Idea Labs Team, which allows mobile users to snap a photo of a garment on their phone and search through thousands of inventory items to find the exact same or similar product available at the department stores. Macy’s Image Search app is compatible with iOS phones, or web users can upload photos and search on their desktop.

Macy’s is the first American retailer to partner with Cortexica, which works with retailers like Germany-based fashion e-tailer Zalando and other smaller stores in Europe to reduce the amount of time shoppers search online for products. Cortexica’s visual search technology, called findSimilar, is a product of a decade of bio-inspired research at Imperial College in London. The software mimics the way the human visual cortex within the brain interprets images that we see every day.

Cortexica CEO Iain McCready said, “This makes image recognition using a mobile device much more robust to real life conditions as it tolerates bright or poor lighting, rotations, small image size and quality, often a problem when taking a picture with a mobile phone or tablet. By searching for products based on color, texture and pattern, as well as shape, the software leverages sophisticated algorithms that make it the most accurate system on the market today.”

Macy’s efforts to make any image instantly “shopable” is a reaction to the growing importance mobile devices play in how consumers search for and purchase apparel. Kent Anderson, president of, said, “When our customers see a look that they like on friends or on a celebrity, they can directly shop for corresponding products from and buy them without a lengthy search.”

The retailer announced the app back in September when the company unveiled its omnichannel initiatives for the year, however the app was tested for three months before the company decided to bring it to the masses in time for the holiday shopping rush. Last year, the company offered a similar app, Macy’s Star Gifts, which allowed shoppers to see, scan and shop using image recognition technology, rather than scanning QR or barcodes.

Photo recognition technology is becoming de rigueur in retail. Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, and Nordstrom have launched similar applications in the last year.