The dual trends of visual search and 3D/augmented reality represent a vast, untapped gold mine for brands and businesses
They spend nearly half their waking hours streaming content on phones and other screens. They sprinkle their text chats with memes, video messages and emojis. They demonstrate a distinct preference for Instagram and YouTube – two of the planet’s predominant video/audio-first platforms – over other forms of social media. And they consider gaming a productive activity. It’s safe to say that millennials, Gen-Y and Gen-Z aren’t just digital natives: they are visual natives.
The first generations to grow up with camera-fitted handsets as standard, they interpret their environment in ways that are fundamentally distinct from their predecessors, and take forward humankind’s ancient instinct to think, work and communicate ‘in pictures’.
Millennials, Gen-Y and Gen-Z are also the tribes driving the rising online phenomenon of visual search. For the uninitiated: visual search allows users to take a photograph of a real-world object (using tools such as Google Lens, Snapchat Camera Search, Amazon Stylesnap, Pinterest Lens or Bing Visual Search) and instantly receive information about that object. Powered by artificial intelligence, visual search comes integrated into the algorithms of popular social media platforms, e-commerce ecosystems and search engines, acting as a seamless extension of the lifestyle an emerging user demographic lives and loves. Visual search is a growing use-case not just for generic search, but also – in good news for businesses – for searches driven by commercial intent.
Visual search is also heavily reliant on 3D and AR technologies when it comes to creating immersive ‘wow moments’ for users and fans. The favorite social hangouts and haunts of millennials, Gen-Y and Gen-Z – from TikTok, to Pokemon-Go, to everything in between – come laden with fun innovations and multi-sensory experiences that have been designed on 3D and AR frameworks. Pokemon-Go, for instance, makes use of the camera to convert real world environments into a creature-filled universe. The next generation’s demand for 3D- and AR-enabled visual search – one that’s out of the box, more personalized and less invasive – is therefore easy to understand. Indeed, studies confirm that 62% of Gen Z and millennials prefer to use visual search over other search types, and that 71% of them are more likely to use augmented reality as compared to earlier generations.
62% of millennials and Gen-Z prefer to use visual search over other search types, and 71% of them are more likely to use augmented reality
The 3D and AR sector is projected to balloon to $36.26 billion by 2026, a compound annual growth rate of 24%, and active users have already broken the one billion barrier – representing one in seven of the world’s population. Growth in the domain is being organically fanned by the huge size of the existing smartphone userbase. In this context, hands-free web based AR – such as the mobile-first offering from Enhance – has an easier growth curve to climb (given that smartphone users already own the required hardware) than versions of AR that require lenses, headgear and other equipment. Adoption figures are expected to continue to escalate as 5G further catalyzes R&D in the 3D and AR terrain.
Bake 3D and augmented reality ‘stories’ strategically into the 8 billion visual searches that take place every month, and things suddenly morph into a jaw dropping opportunity for brands and businesses to engage a visual generation of decision makers and shoppers that, estimates indicate, already command a purchasing power in the vicinity of $4.4 trillion.
For sectors from automobile, furniture and décor, fashion, equipment and machinery, right through to lifestyle, real estate, architecture and healthcare, now is the time for brands and manufacturers to take a closer look at 3D and AR, to connect with a new generation of customers and prospects in their native tongue: the language of the visual.