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Cortexica’s Chief Executive Discusses the Impact of Fashion-Finding Technology

Every picture tells a story, but London-based Cortexica is making strides to turn that photo into a sale with its fashion recognition technology, FindSimilar. Founded in 2009 with the intent to improve and streamline visual searches, FindSimilar technology is capturing the attention of tech-savvy Millennial shoppers and their favorite e-tailers and fashion websites.

The premise is similar to other recent fashion-finding start-ups like ASAP54, Snap Fashion and Style-Eyes: A person uploads a photo of a garment or accessory they like and it is compared to a database of images of similar products. Like the human eye, which picks up 10 to 20 characteristics of an object, the visual search matches these key points–be it print, color or type of garment–with a database that shares those points.

Cortexica is taking it a step further by making its FindSimilar technology available to retailers, brands, digital agencies and other fashion-centric entities who want to implement the search technology into their own online and mobile applications–and more importantly search their own database of products. The company can “teach” the technology what to look for based on the client’s needs.

Additionally, the FindSimilar technology has an advance shape algorithm designed to pick up shapes, which has elevated its ability to search for footwear and accessories.

Cortexica’s chief executive, Iain McCready, spoke to Sourcing Journal about the company’s visual search technology and how speedy searches result in satisfied shoppers.

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SJ: Who can benefit by incorporating the FindSimilar technology into their online and mobile sites?
IM: Anyone in the fashion business can benefit from the technology. Online retailers like an Asos are probably the first guys with the most interest in picking up the technology since they are already steep in the online and mobile marketplace. We also have the aggregators like ShopStyle. Brands are a little slower to adapt, mainly because many work through many aggregators themselves. And then we have sites with a social element like Trendabl.

SJ: Do consumers expect a unique shopping experience, even online?
IM: Fashion bloggers and street fashion are so visual. And their influence is so strong and has really changed how people look at fashion. We try to take people on that inspirational journey.

What we are moving toward is taking those street style photos and separating each individual item, be it bags, tops, pants or shoes and show the user relevant styles. If you find something you like, we can hopefully show you that item, as well as similar items. And we can take it a step further by filtering items by price range and other purchasing factors. We can point out shapes, which most apps cannot. The more users are engaged, the more sales it will result in. The fashion industry, I think, wants to go that way. People have been dreaming about this for a long time.

SJ: It sounds like a personal shopper at your fingertips.
IM: Yes, and Millennials have grown up with social media in their hands. They’ve become so accustomed to sharing and asking for opinions–and all in a speedy and seamless manner. They’re just used to it, so that’s why a Google search for a dress with blue flowers doesn’t cut it. It can be difficult finding something similar to what you want. We aim to reduce the friction in their searches, which will result in more sales. It’s more successful.

SJ: What are some other benefits?
IM: The analytics and information are insightful. We can track unique and repeat visitors to sites and see what kind of fashion they are taking photos of. We can see their interaction, what they share, view and what they actually purchase.

SJ: How might this impact fast fashion manufacturing?
IM: There is potential to speed up that process even more. By knowing what consumers are searching and what their reactions are to towards items on the street at that very moment, you could take that information and immediately apply it to design.

SJ: Why did Cortexica decide to provide the technology as a service to others, rather as a consumer-facing app?
IM: About two years ago we came to the conclusion that we could provide more value for fashion worldwide by being independent and concentrating on developing our platform. Now people recognize our technology. We learned that companies don’t want to rely on another a company’s app and that often those other services don’t live up to their expectations. Plus, we have an advantage of being able to teach the system what the client wants and expects to find in the search results. And that is quite important because what you or I might think looks similar, a retailer or brand with a distinct point of view may not.