Target will use Pinterest’s image search technology in its registry and app.

Target Corp. is integrating visual search technology into its app to let shoppers use photos to search for products.

The retail chain is using Pinterest Inc.’s visual search technology, which the social media platform calls Lens. The tool allows shoppers to take and submit a picture of what they are searching for, and the app will surface search results of similar-looking Target products.

Visual search is handy for when consumers are not sure how to describe a product, Target says.

“This Pinterest partnership quite literally helps us shorten the distance from when our guests have an idea to when they’re ready to make a purchase,” says Rick Gomez, chief marketing officer at Target. “Plus, as we start to understand what shoppers are really looking for, it’ll help us better anticipate—and plan for—the latest styles and trends. We look forward to unlocking new potential, together.”

The tool will first go into Target’s baby and wedding registry app and then into the Target shopping app. Target did not specify a timeline for when it will integrate the tool.


Visual search capitalizes on two major trends: mobile shopping and limited attention spans, says Trevor Legwinski, chief strategy officer at site search vendor SearchSpring. It’s also easier for mobile consumers to search with an image than to type, he says.

“The camera offers an appealing alternative search tool for mobile shoppers, who prize speed, convenience and ease above all else,” Legwinski says. “Additionally, the ability to search through photos taken on a mobile phone will help Target better catch consumers in the precise moment of discovery–those few fleeting seconds where they see something that captures and holds their attention.”

Pinterest debuted visual search with Lens in its own app in February. Of Pinterest users that have used Lens, consumers average three Lens searches each day, says a Pinterest spokeswoman without revealing any more specifics. Top interests consumers are using the visual search tool for include beauty, fashion, home, art and food, she says.

Pinterest also integrated Lens technology into in the Samsung Galaxy S8 and its Chrome extension, a Pinterest spokeswoman says. Target, No. 20 in the 2017 Internet Retailer Top 500, is the only retailer licensing Lens in this exclusive and multiyear deal.


In exchange, “Target will significantly scale their media investment with Pinterest to reach more consumers who are interested in their products and drive them to purchase,” says the Pinterest spokeswoman. “Target has seen strong results advertising on Pinterest and we believe a scaled investment in media will deliver an even greater return and more sales.”

Using a vendor for this technology instead of building it in-house allows Target to be more nimble and able to jump on hot trends, SearchSpring’s Legwinski says.

“New capabilities like image- and voice-based search can be costly to develop and maintain, and online retailers increasingly see enlisting third-party specialists as the preferable route,” Legwinski says.

Other retailers, such as Neiman Marcus (No. 41) and Wayfair Inc. (No. 16) and marketplace giant eBay Inc. have launched similar visual image search tools on their e-commerce sites.