Munjal Shah is the CEO and co-founder of Riya, the company that owns and operates Like.com, the photo-likeness search engine.
PeC: What differentiates Like from the many other search engines available?
Shah: “Like is the only search engine that lets you search by photo. With every other search engine, you have to specify what you are looking for in words. The usual query is always linguistic.
“However, some things are very hard to describe in an unambiguous way. Describe a rug pattern to me: It’s likely that: a) You probably don’t have the right vocabulary; b) Even if you did, you wouldn’t likely type a lengthy description into a search engine; and c) Even if you were able to do so, it’s likely that your attempt to describe the rug would be nothing like mine.
“At Like, we call submitting your query by clicking on a photo a visual search. There is no other visual search engine on the web today.”
PeC: How do consumers benefit from using a visual search engine such as Like?
Shah: “For the first time, consumers don’t have to convert what they are looking for into text. The greatest benefit will be experienced when looking for items that are largely aesthetic and hence hard to describe in words. This is true for things like clothing, vases, carpets, flowers and landscapes.”
PeC: Describe the various ways consumers can search for products at the site.
Shah: “Today you can search our index of items. In the future, you will be able to upload or email a photo — including ones taken with a camera phone — then use our browser toolbar to search for matches for that image.”
PeC: As a business owner, how can I sell products on Like?
Shah: “You just need to email us on the link at the bottom of our site which says, “Add your items to Like.” We will set up a cost-per-click or cost-per-action relationship with you.”
PeC: If my products are identical to another merchant’s products, will the least expensive product be shown as the only sales option? For instance, if Bealls, Bluefly.com and Nordstrom each offer the same men’s dress shirt, does a consumer see all three options on screen, or just the least expensive one? Is this an environment where the lowest-priced item gets the more prominent position?
Shah: “Nope. The likeness-search algorithm shows items by similarity rank. If two merchants have the item, both will show up in rankings that reflect how similar each photo is to the one uploaded or used for the customer’s search.”
PeC: It appears that consumers check out at the retailer’s site, not Like’s site. If that’s the case, how do you make your money?
Shah: “We implement a tracking system with the retailer, or use an affiliate manager like Commission Junction, so we know if the person bought something. On average, we get about 15 percent of sales but this varies. There is no listing fee to add your items to Like.”
PeC: Like’s initial launch carried a narrow group of products. Will that expand?
Shah: “We recently expanded the list significantly to including many clothing items [belts, hats, gloves, blouses, blazers, coats] and some home items like rugs. We will continue to add more and more items.”
PeC: Are the products found on Like new or used?
Shah: “Today all are new, but we may add eBay — in which case it will be mixed. We will ask that the items for sale are clearly delineated [as to which is which].”