April 2, 2015, 4:24 PM

Urban Decay Cosmetics gets a Pinterest mobile makeover

Inspired by consumer delight with mobile favorites Pinterest and Instagram, the retailer runs with visual search technology and reaps a 150% increase in mobile conversion.

Lead Photo

Mobile consumers are very image-oriented. That should come as a surprise to no one. (Especially since every smartphone and tablet has a built-in camera.)

60% of digital traffic at chain retailer Urban Decay Cosmetics stems from mobile devices. But the merchant has been unhappy with the low mobile conversion rate it’s been seeing relative to its desktop conversion rate. So it turned to visual search technology vendor Edgecase to enhance its mobile commerce web site with the hope that making search and navigation a highly visual experience would boost mobile conversion. Which it did—by 150%, says Katherine LaFranchise, assistant vice president at Urban Decay.

“We’re getting mobile customers to the right products at the right time, gamifying search in the process and making it fun,” says LaFranchise, who adds that since implementing visual search and navigation in January, the mobile average order value has jumped 16%, the organic search bounce rate has decreased 10% because shoppers are finding what they’re looking for, and shoppers are viewing an astounding five times more products per visit.

“Our customers gravitate to our Pinterest and Instagram pages, where they post and search for creative makeup looks, and the interplay between our mobile efforts and social mobile apps is helping foster sales for us,” LaFranchise says. “Visual search made a ton of sense for us as a brand.”

The Edgecase visual search technology emphasizes big, high-definition images instead of text when navigating and searching a mobile commerce site. An Edgecase algorithm helps determine what each shopper sees. Urban Decay tagged every single attribute of every single product. So, as shoppers—who are identified by anonymous tracking codes or as themselves if they are logged into their accounts—navigate, filter and search, the visual search system gets a better idea of the kinds of products they are interested in, and leans toward displaying those kinds of products.

“You might simply select a neutral palette and then scroll down to see visual results—on a product page you see simply a big image along with the name and price, and below are smaller images of recommended products most similar to the product above,” explains Lisa Roberts, vice president of marketing at Edgecase. “Also on the product page is a View Similar button so shoppers can start a new exploration that uses all of the underlying attributes from the previous search to show other products that the shopper might not be able to precisely articulate.”

Shoppers can save and share products or looks they create on Pinterest, Facebook and other social platforms, or via e-mail, which they can send to themselves to buy later on a desktop computer if they are more comfortable making a purchase there, Roberts says.

“The premise is that you see the mobile apps and sites that people are gravitating to, like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Tindr, and you look at the amounts of time people are spending with these apps and sites—on Tindr, for instance, some users are going to that app seven times a day for 8 to10 minutes per session,” Roberts says. “The common thread is images. These types of apps are setting a precedent for how consumers use mobile devices to explore and target their interests, jumping from one item of interest to the next and then to the next, and so on. We are trying to break the paradigm that the only way to navigate and search product selection is by text and menus. The emerging new usability standards are very different.”

The cost for Edgecase visual search varies by the size of a retailer’s product catalog and how much work the vendor performs on the underlying merchandising algorithm, Roberts says. The annual cost could range from $25,000 to $150,000, plus a small monthly service fee, she adds.

Follow Bill Siwicki, editor of the Internet Retailer 2015 Mobile 500 and editor, mobile, of Internet Retailer, on Twitter at @IRmcommerce and @MobileStrat360B.

Sign up for a free subscription to Mobile Strategies 360, a new weekly newsletter (debuting in May) reporting on how businesses in all industries use mobile technologies to communicate with and market and sell to their consumers. Mobile Strategies 360 is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes Internet Retailer, a business publication on e-retailing.

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