Visual shopping is the area I anxiously watch for the next break through. My latest discovery is Modista, a website built by two Computer Science Ph.D. students at UC Berkeley which allows you to browse several kinds of products from multiple merchants. The selection is limited to shoes, purses, eyeglasses, and watches and functionality is somewhat basic but there is something appealing in this simplicity.
Modista is essentially a matrix of products aggregated from different merchants and arranged by similarity. X-axis offers same items by shape while Y-axis - same color. Clicking on a product in the matrix makes your new selection current and populates the matrix with new similar products. The whole shopping experience is somewhat similar to browsing real store shelves where a virtual store assistant is constantly feeding you with look-a-like products.
The site works exceptionally well with shoes and a somewhat worse with other product categories. You can narrow your search by price, color, and a few other product specific characteristics (like size for shoes) and also add your selections to a ‘favorite’ list. This is pretty much it.
While Modista is one of the more elegant implementations of visual shopping, they are not the first nor the most advanced solution. That title probably goes to like.com who were the pioneers in this niche and grew tremendously every since (judging by my monthly reports). Besides the entire social aspect missing at Modista, like.com also offers some advanced shopping features like an ability to upload an image of your own product, or select a certain area on the product photo and base your visual search on that area alone.
I loved the easiness and visual aspect Modista brings to online shopping however when I showed Modista to my friend, the answer was ‘it causes flickering in my eyes’, so your mileage can certainly vary. ;-)