Amazon updates visual search, AR search and more in challenge to Google

Amazon is introducing new features that make it easier to search for products on mobile and is challenging other product search engines, like Google and Pinterest in the process. The retailer announced a handful of new search and discovery features, including multimodal search (searching with text plus images), an expansion of its AR efforts and a new "Find-on-Amazon" feature that finds similar products to those in a photo you share directly with the Amazon app, among other things.

One of the new features improves upon Amazon's existing visual search engine that lets consumers snap a photo to find matching products. Now, consumers can also add text to these queries to help narrow down the results. For instance, if you were searching for a replacement part for an appliance, you could take a photo of the part, then add the name of the appliance, like "Frigidaire," Amazon explains.

Image Credits: Amazon

This feature is similar to Google's, which launched multisearch last year that lets consumers search using text and images. Google later expanded it to search for products at retailers. It also offers its advanced image search feature Lens directly on its home page.

The retailer's augmented reality feature, which previously allowed consumers to see furniture and décor in their own space, now supports tabletop items, like lamps and small appliances like toasters or coffee makers. You can also move things around from one surface to another as you use the AR tool.

Image Credits: Amazon

Another new feature, the Find-on-Amazon tool, more directly takes on features that Google and Pinterest already offer as it now allows you to search for products using a photo from anywhere. When you come across something you like -- whether that's on social media, browsing the web, checking email or chatting online -- you can now tap on the "Share" button, then share the image with the Amazon Shopping app.

This will allow the app to return visually similar products even if you don't know what the product is called or how to describe it.

The feature takes aim at both Google and Pinterest, the latter which has long pioneered visual search efforts that help consumers find products they like based on photos.

Image Credits: Amazon

Other changes are smaller improvements, including the addition of sales trend data (e.g. "10K+ bought in past month") next to listings, and a better way to search for previously purchased items. Now, when Amazon detects you're looking for a product you've bought before, it will present it at the top of the search results with the date of your last purchase.

Image Credits: Amazon

While the individual updates on their own may be minor, combined, the new tools have the ability to impact consumer behavior and shift more searches directly to Amazon. Before, shoppers may have otherwise used another search engine for product discovery to accomplish similar tasks. These changes, as a result, could then impact Google's ad revenue, as well, as Amazon has already been catching up to the Google-Meta duopoly on digital ad spend.

Image Credits: Amazon

To date, Amazon has kept its search functionality fairly traditional, relying largely on keyword search, barcode scanning and photo-based search that has been hit-or-miss. It had yet to release so many changes to its core search feature at the same time.

Some of the new features were recently launched but weren't officially announced, while others are rolling out now.