JCPenney adds visual search

JCPenney (NYSE: JCP) has partnered with Slyce to power visual search for the chain's m-commerce.

Details of the partnership or program have not been announced, but Toronto-based Slyce uses visual search technology that enables consumers with the ability to take a photo of a product with their smartphone and then search for that product or a similar one online based on the image.

"Slyce powers both 3D and 2D image search for its retail partners," said Mark Elfenbein, CEO, Slyce, reported Mobile Commerce Daily. "This means the image recognition technology can either be used to take a consumer from snapping an image of a catalog page directly to applicable items on the retailer's mobile commerce site, or it can be used to directly, or closely, match items from a retailer's product line from any 3D images snapped in the real world." In other words, to purchase products at the moment they discover them—in the real world and online.

Slyce powers mobile visual search for several leading retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Tilly's. Macy's was an early adopter of visual search technology, having announced a partnership with Cortexica in November of 2014.

But JCPenney has been slower to pursue mobile initiatives, although it did launch a new mobile platform and app in 2014, and reported planned enhancements for 2015.

"We continue to see strong growth in our online traffic, especially in mobile, where our new app is helping create a better digital experience," CEO Myron Ullman said during a conference call with analysts. "Of note, when we look at the number of transactions, we saw a mid single-digit increase in transactions in the fourth quarter, and positive low single-digits for the full year."

Comparable store sales growth at JCPenney brick-and-mortar stores increased by 3.7 percent for the fourth quarter and e-commerce increased 12.5 percent. JCPenney did not break out sales or activity from the mobile channel, unlike other retailers such as Target (NYSE: TGT), which reported that mobile accounted for more than 40 percent of digital orders during the recent holiday season.

But the retailer has been actively using mobile to drive engagement during events such as the Accademy Awards with an Oscar night campaign that let viewers play to win money for charity.

Slyce recently bought mobile coupon app SnipSnap, and while elevating its m-commerce game is a priority, integrating a digital coupon makes sense within JCPenney's existing promotional strategy. SnipSnap uses proprietary image-recognition technology for scanning and interpreting coupons with a mobile device. The SnipSnap app lets users take a photograph of a retail coupon and turn it into a digital, mobile format, which can be easily searched, retrieved and shared with other SnipSnap users on their smartphones.

For more:
-See this Seeking Alpha transcript
-See this Slyce announcement
-See this Mobile Commerce Daily story

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