Foresight 11: Why brands should optimize for visual search + an organization dedicated an ethical Web 3.0

A bi-weekly newsletter diving into the concepts, people and brands shaping the future of retail and entertainment.

Welcome back to Foresight!

Facebook’s new virtual reality app, Horizon Workrooms, seemed like the only tech news everyone was talking about last week. Coming off Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with The Verge on his vision for the metaverse that was discussed in Foresight 10, Horizon Workrooms launched in beta last week allowing workers to join colleagues around a giant “meeting table” and write on a virtual whiteboard. This demo has all the details. The future of remote work is bright!

Given this very visual world we’re headed for, this week we’re discussing why brands should be optimizing for visual search and how this feature fits within the larger e-commerce ecosystem. 

Going back to Foresight 07, we talked about the need for a set of shared regulations that any company in the metaverse must adhere to. OASIS, a group who wants to promote a renewed focus on safety, privacy and inclusion in Web 3.0, is looking to do exactly that. To learn more, read below and tune into OASIS’s Brand Safety Exchange podcast.

Questions or comments? Reply to this email—let’s chat!


Why brands should optimize for visual search

As we work towards a more visual future, it’s no surprise that tech companies like Google and Amazon are making a massive effort to ensure their services are accessible via your camera to enable visual search. Google has been our go-to source for search for over a decade now through screens and voice, but with the human brain processing visuals 16,000x faster than text and 90% of the information transmitted to the brain in visuals, it seems that visual search will in-fact better resonate with consumers. Thanks to AR navigation becoming increasingly popular on smartphones, Google Lens has trained its systems to scan and read your environment to identify virtually anything using its visual search capabilities. This could look like taking a photo of a plant and Google Lens instantly identifying its variety and providing options on where to purchase it.

Social platforms have become heavily involved in visual search which allows us see more broadly how this feature fits within the larger e-commerce ecosystem. The discovery aspect plugs into a visual storefront, which directly converts a consumer into a customer and if the user shares this experience with a friend on social media, the digital medium turns into a direct sales funnel. It’s evident that AR capabilities can impact the consumer journey every step of the way—from brand awareness to checkout and even post-purchase. Brands embracing a visual search strategy will certainly reap the benefits. Based on recent data from Shopify, “businesses are seeing conversion rates of 50% to 250% from trials being able to embed those experiences directly on the retailer’s website.” The challenges? Industry models training from the same datasets, generating “fake” images and fraud detection are all issues that need to be considered before mass adoption takes place. Data scientists and engineers will be tasked with replicating the real world in the cloud for the algorithm to understand what building you’re looking at, for example, Starbucks. This is fundamental when using Google Street View. For businesses to directly present relevant products and information to you, a virtual search function will need to identify your view and know exactly where you are based on the replica inside the database. Lisa Buyer, metaverse, SEO and social media advisor and CEO of The Buyer Group, feels strongly about brands focusing on visual search as it will be much less expensive longterm to optimize now than trying to buy your audience as paid media in the future. “Today’s smart CMOs have their third eye on the opportunity of getting found in the metaverse, including optimizing for visual search.”

This organization wants to ensure ethics are top of mind as we enter the metaverse

Could the metaverse be a chance for a do-over? Tiffany Xingyu Wang, co-founder and president of the OASIS Consortium, thinks so. With over 40% of US internet users experiencing online harassment at some point, we can’t enter Web 3.0 without putting a considerable amount of resources into the potential “dystopian nightmare” many people are concerned about. OASIS, an organization of thought leaders across social media, gaming, and dating created to accelerate the development of ethical standards and practices for the metaverse, formally launched last week slowly putting themselves on the map in recent months with a podcast emphasizing safety for emerging social platforms. 

Today’s social platforms were built without safeguards and we only saw companies take action once the problems were already too big. It’s essential that companies get this right from the start as Wang comments that “while harassment has been ugly on existing social platforms, it may feel even more personal and threatening in life-like environments.” This will demand dedicated personnel—not only a workforce devoted to trust and safety in the metaverse, but also “chief trust officers” to indicate that trust and safety are C-level priorities. A diverse workforce will also be fundamental as policy cannot be inclusive if everyone involved in the creation looks the same. The group aims to publish white papers, hold events and ultimately “release a consensus document of shared standards later this year, with a goal of having companies across the industry commit to adhering to those values.” As the future of social emerges, Wang believes an ethics rulebook for building the metaverse couldn’t come soon enough. “We need to think about it now, we can’t repeat history.”


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