Trade Me has today rolled out a new shopping method allowing users to find items by using their smartphone camera to take photos of what they want.

The search method, compatible with Apple and Android smartphones, uses artificial intelligence built into the Trade Me app.

Photos are fed into the company's machine learning algorithm which spits out a keyword, category and colour and almost instantly pulls up a similar listing.

Trade Me head of apps, Nick Parfene, said the company hoped the technology would make it easier and more convenient for consumers to shop.


He said using a camera to shop was a natural evolution given so many consumers already had frequent interactions on their smartphones.

"Many mobile interactions begin with a camera nowadays, for example, the way people use SnapChat, Facebook or other platforms. Looking things up on Trade Me historically has relied on typing and taking a picture of an object is far shorter."

Parfene said comparing listings and the price of items would be quicker with the technology.

Trade Me began experimenting with machine learning around three years ago. It rolled out an earlier version of camera shopping on android phones a couple of years ago which it took learnings from and tweaked the technology today.

The shopping feature is the third iteration of innovations it has been testing with artificial intelligence, machine learning and processing image technologies.

Each day the online marketplace clocks more than one million searches on a mobile device. Parfene said the company expected to increase it sales revenue as people find the shopping experience easier.

"We think people's buying habits and behaviours are going to continuously evolve, more and more people will start relying on products like cameras or voice interactions to make life easier," he said.

Nick Parfene, head of apps at Trade Me. Photo / Supplied
Nick Parfene, head of apps at Trade Me. Photo / Supplied

Parfene said the tech was an exciting development for Trade Me, and would get better the more people used it.


A number of retailers and online auction websites overseas are already using similar technologies, and The Warehouse here has its own similar pricing camera scanner available through its app.

"More and more companies are looking to leverage the fact that people have a smartphone in their pocket to augment the shopping experience."