If we’ve learned anything about social media platforms over the years, it’s that they evolve over time. Just think about the current Facebook that we log into every day (sometimes multiple times a day!), it’s a very different place from the one we first experienced over 15 years ago. Even Instagram, which has a much shorter history has undergone huge transformations in its life.
For Pinterest and Google, one of the more recent additions has been the ‘Lens’ feature. You may have heard about Pinterest Lens and Google Lens, but what does it actually do? Let’s explore both solutions in this guide!
Towards the end of 2020, it was revealed that 459 million people were active on Pinterest each month. While some people look for decoration ideas, others create boards based on their favorite hobbies and pastimes. If you haven’t heard of Pinterest (where have you been?), it’s an image-sharing platform where users ‘Pin’ images to their own boards. For example, you might have a board for home renovation ideas, recipes, or something related to your hobby.
While Pinterest started as an online tool, it’s now something that people use in the real world thanks to the Lens feature.
Essentially, the idea is that you activate the camera on your mobile device and point it towards a real-life object. Rather than your phone’s camera, you’ll open the Pinterest app and tap the search button.
Tap the camera icon and focus your camera on a particular real-life object - take a picture and Pinterest will load up similar ideas and inspirations on the app. For example, you can take a picture of a coat and Pinterest will show similar designs. Foodies can even photograph a particular ingredient, and Pinterest loads recipes using that single ingredient. Suddenly, you can explore new dishes and move away from the same 10-meal rotation (we all have one!).
We’re in a world where artificial intelligence (AI) is used in many different ways. Some use it to automatically optimize their ad campaigns while others use it for customer service purposes. Pinterest has implemented this technology to their platform to automatically identify real-world objects and associate these objects with posts on the platform.
Back in 2017, this was a big step for the company where users enjoyed the new feature immediately. Around two years later, the feature was expanded, and Pinterest Lens can now identify 2.5 billion objects in the fashion and home niches. We know what you’re thinking - I want to download the app and try it now. We don’t blame you, and it really does work. Whether you want to scan a duvet cover, a set of nails, food, art, tattoos, or a wedding dress, Pinterest knows what the item is and will show similar products within seconds.
Remember back in the day when a song was on the radio and we wanted to know what it was before it finished? Sometimes, seemingly knowing our desperate situation, the DJ would tease us and not mention the artist or the song title. Other times, it was a song on a TV commercial. Shazam and similar apps have ensured that we never go wanting again. Now, Pinterest is resolving a similar problem.
At a friend’s house and want a similar throw to the one they have balanced over the back of the sofa? While some will ask to take a picture (while secretly opening Pinterest and finding similar products online), others will wait until they leave the room before opening the app. Either way, you’ll find similar products and add them to your inspiration board before your friend has any idea of what happened.
We aren’t suggesting that you be sneaky and lose friends over Pinterest Lens, but it shows the possibilities that the feature generates. With Pinterest Lens, you can also turn pictures into a Pin or add the picture to your camera roll.
Soon enough, you’re seeing Pins with the same product and you could even find a Product Pin where you can buy the item (just make sure you hide that throw when the same friend comes to your house!).
Pinterest is quickly becoming a marketer’s dream (as well as a customer’s dream) because of the many shopping features. Businesses can upload a Catalog, add shoppable posts, and ensure that their products are seen when people scan something similar.
Lens Your Look is a feature that shows customers similar products after scanning a particular item of clothing. For example, scan a scarf and you’ll see similar scarves that can be bought instantly. Shop the Look helps customers to buy the products worn and used by influencers and companies.
From a business perspective, you can work with influencers and benefit from Pinterest Lens as fans have easy access to your products.
It’s not unusual for Google to get inspiration for new features from what else is happening in the market, and perhaps this is what led the global giant towards Google Lens. Similar in name, similar in purpose - however, Google goes beyond Pinterest since it is a wider service in general. While Pinterest has probably reached the ceiling with Lens due to the purpose of the platform itself, Google covers more aspects of life and can offer more with Lens accordingly.
Just as we saw with Pinterest, the idea is to scan real-world items around us using the camera on our devices. This time, you head over to the Google Lens platform rather than using the Pinterest app. Google summarizes Lens in one well-written sentence:
‘Explore what’s around you in an entirely new way’
Firstly, let’s deal with the similarities with Pinterest because you can also scan clothing with Google Lens and find similar products online. Alternatively, it could be a piece of furniture, home decoration, or something else around the home. You could be in a mall, at a friend’s house, or even on business premises - just take a picture.
The obvious difference is that you’re taken to what is essentially the Shopping tab on Google Search rather than similar products on Pinterest. Once again, this is important for businesses because you should have your products readily available for people who scan something similar. This allows customers to take a picture and search Google rather than typing a long-winded description into the search bar.
We mentioned that Google Lens has more features, and one additional feature is the scan and translate system. One of the downsides of going on vacation to another country has always been the language barrier - many Americans dream of going to Europe but worry about Italian, German, French, and many other languages. Do you really need to weigh your suitcase down with language guides to each?
With Google Lens, simply scan the foreign language and Google translates for you. This could be a train ticket, road sign, menu, or grocery store sign. Even if you don’t need a translation, you can scan text to dial a number, look up the definitions of words, or add an event to your calendar. In some cases, you might just want to scan the text so that you can save it and access it again later.
Additional features include:
Pinterest is continually adding features to help users find products that they encounter in their real-life - these images aid the inspiration process and help users to build boards. Meanwhile, Google has created Lens not only to compete with Pinterest but to go one step further with homework help, animal identification, learning more about monuments and landmarks, and more. All this information is already on Google, Lens just points people towards it using AI and the cameras on our devices.