American Marketer


How luxury retailers can win brand share with mobile image recognition

August 15, 2013

Stephen Shepherd is general manager of LTU Technologies


By Stephen Shepherd

Luxury brands have always been at the vanguard of mobile marketing. Affluent customers own the latest mobile devices and want to use them to interact with their favorite brands, as well as research and buy products.

It is no surprise, then, that luxury retailers have pushed the boundaries of mobile marketing – from the Four Seasons holding “digital ice cream socials,” to Burberry embedding scannable QR codes into coats and bags.

So what is next for luxury brands looking to launch the latest mobile customer experiences?

It's a snap
Mobile image recognition (MIR) is set to take the luxury industry by storm, taking the place of QR codes in some instances.

Luxury brands have used QR codes with great success in advertisements, in stores, or on product tags to allow consumers to get more information about their products.

Burberry, for example, embedded QR codes inside $5,000 handbags so shoppers could scan them to arrive at a video showing how the bag was handcrafted.

But MIR goes one step further than QR codes.

With MIR, instead of scanning a generic QR code to get more information about a product, consumers take a photo of an actual product they see in a shop or in an ad to instantly get more information about it.

For example, say a customer sees a Swatch brand watch in a shop that she would like to know more about. She can snap a photo of the watch and then open it in Swatch’s mobile shopping app. The MIR technology recognizes the model of the watch based on pixel-level characteristics such as color, shape and size, and immediately brings up a Web site, video, article or any other information that Swatch wants to provide.

Brands in Europe and Asia, such as Adidas and L’Oreal, are already experimenting with MIR in campaigns and in-store, but the technology is only now just catching retailers’ attention in the United States.

Still, U.S. retailers that want to get ahead of the competition can begin rolling out MIR campaigns now. Here are a few strategies to get started.

Find the right MIR partner. You cannot roll out an MIR app if you do not have a high-quality technology partner.

Find a mobile app development partner that already offers robust MIR capabilities, such as Shopgate, or find a MIR partner yourself which will work with your existing mobile marketing initiatives.

To work effectively, MIR technology must analyze images at the pixel-level, recognizing color, form, patterns and design, and then compare the captured image against your entire product catalog to find a match in a matter of seconds.

Prepare your inventory. Succeeding with MIR requires extensive prep work of your product image database. If you invite customers to take a photo of it to get information about any product they see in a store or in an ad, you must ensure a photograph of each item is stored in a referential database.

Otherwise, the MIR technology will not be able find a match for the captured image in the database. You can upload catalog and advertising images to the database, as well as take new product photos, but ensure that all the referential images are high quality.

Launch a mobile app. The best way to roll out MIR is to embed it into a mobile shopping app.

Work with your mobile app development partner to create a new app, or add functionality to a current one, that embeds MIR into the entire experience.

Your app should allow customers to easily take photos of your products in catalogs, in-store, in ads, or on billboards to get instant access to more information, interactive content, and a link to buy the product.

Link to innovative content. MIR is not worth much unless consumers are taken to compelling content after snapping a photo.

Make sure that that information customers reach when using MIR is useful, exciting, engaging or entertaining.

Instead of just offering consumers standard product, try videos, interactive games, or social content. And never forget to make it easy to buy.

Your MIR technology should lead to engaging content, but always include a “buy now” button so that customers can purchase the item immediately on their phone should they choose to.

Use MIR everywhere. The biggest benefit to MIR is that it opens up your mobile marketing initiatives to the whole world – instead of being linked to strategically-placed QR codes.

MIR lets consumers take photos of your products wherever they see them – in a catalog, in an ad, on a billboard, or in a store.

Whether a customer sees a skirt she loves in a catalog, on a mannequin in a store, or in a magazine ad, she can snap a photo of it to get instant access to information and a “buy now” link.

Leverage the use of MIR as widely as possible by creating a large database of product images, as well as extensive content linked to those product images.

For luxury retailers, the time is now to start implementing MIR. When your discerning customers see an item they like, make it easy for them to get more information and engage with your brand by simply snapping a photo.

Stephen Shepherd is general manager of LTU Technologies, New York. Reach him at