Google says it has tapped Center City-based Curalate and two other firms, LiketoKnow.it (of Texas and London) and Polyvore (Sunnyvale, Calif.) to link online images -- that aren't obviously ads -- to products and purchasing, through a mobile retail "discovery" service, which the search engine and online advertising giant calls "shop the look"
Says Google: "90% of smartphone users say they aren’t absolutely sure of the specific brand they want to buy... To help people... in these I-need-some ideas moments, we’ve been focused on building ad experiences... This week we are rolling out a new apparel and home decor experience for our retail advertisers... shop the look."
Shop the look links mobile and online images studded through the Internet and social media -- a picture of a woman in a stylish dress, for example -- to "exact (or visually similar) products featured in the image by tapping through and exploring the relevant products shown in the form of (Google Shopping) ads."
As with Google Shopping, "retailers will be charged on a cost-per-click basis... We're currently testing the shop the look experience in the US on mobile devices. If you’re a retailer and interested in showing your products within the shop the look experience, create a Shopping campaign and ensure you optimize your bids to show on mobile."
"This is a validation, by Google," Curalate ceo Apu Gupta told me. "They sought us out. They saw what we were doing and realized that Google could apply their magic to the content we were sitting on, and we could collectively do something much bigger. We have images that are 'aware' of objects inside them. Google has really great algorithms to apply that adds our images to search terms."
"Google and Curalate are reinventing the way you search on line," Curalate brags in this post by Gupta.
Like a supermarket where you go to buy milk and bread and end up persuaded by displays and pricing to also buy pickles or mosquito spray or ready-to-eat sushi, Curalate helps retailers push product "discovery" to mobile-phone users, Gupta writes. "Increasingly, this will happen through the visual content that appears on all the digital touchpoints that surround you."
For example: "A search for 'patio ideas' may result in an image of a lush outdoor setting complete with chairs, tables, planters, dinnerware and more... Seeing how all the patio furniture fits together provides the consumer with visual inspiration that could lead them to buy related items...
"Brands can now get greater leverage out of existing content, connect that content to Google Shopping results, and drive greater traffic."
Curalate counts Crate and Barrel and more than 800 other retailers as clients. The Philadelphia-based firm, which employs 160, also has offices in New York and Seattle. (corrected)