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Walmart trials in-house visual search with Hayneedle

Walmart Inc. is testing its own visual search technology with online home furnishings retailer Hayneedle Inc., TechCrunch reported Dec. 18, citing a Walmart executive.

Hayneedle became part of the Walmart group when the retailer acquired Jet.com Inc. in 2016.

According to the report, Hayneedle has been offering the technology on its mobile app since 2017 but only through a partnership with third-party vendor Slyce Inc.

The in-house visual search function that Walmart is trialing was developed by Hayneedle and Walmart Labs, according to TechCrunch. It lets customers take photos of furniture they like and search for similar products on the Hayneedle platform.

The big-box retailer sees potential in visual search because it guides customers to products even if they do not know the name of the item they are looking for, the report said.

"I think in the home industry that's particularly challenging just with the breadth of offering of the products, and the fact that the majority of customers don't really know what they're looking for in terms of home furnishings. It requires, in many cases, a large level of inspiration,” Shelley Huff, vice president of home at Walmart U.S. e-commerce and president of Hayneedle, told the news source.

Huff added that visual search can help the retailer reduce returns and boost overall ratings for products, TechCrunch reported.

Walmart is reportedly also planning to use the in-house visual search technology on Art.com, which the company recently agreed to buy. The online art retailer already has its own visual search technology.

E-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. already offers the same feature on its mobile app after developing a similar technology with Partpic, which the company acquired in 2016.