Podcast Episode - Amazon Part Finder

Episode 8: Amazon Part Finder

Podcast Episode - Amazon Part Finder

In this podcast, Justin King discusses Amazon’s new Part Finder technology. It will change the way industrial distribution markets sell parts.

Part Finder, acquired from tech startup Partpic, allows customers to take a picture of a product. Then, instead of just typing in a search, use the picture to run a visual search. This solves significant customer problems, eliminating customer confusion in ordering new parts.

Amazon is constantly looking at how customers buy. More importantly, with Part Finder they are looking at how to streamline the purchasing process, and improve search functions.

Part Finder (part 1)

Place the item you’re searching for on a white surface next to a penny, and scan.

Part Finder (part 2)

Center it in the crosshairs, and then add more information as needed to help narrow down the selection.


  • Search is one of the biggest problems in B2B
  • Amazon’s first major technology disruption – their new Part Finder technology – is in the search field
  • Part Finder will allow customers to run visual searches by taking a picture of a product
  • Being able to search by image eliminates a significant number of search-related problems. It creates the capability for customers to find products in ways that are easy, comfortable, and convenient for them
  • Part Finder requires a good library of data to support its visual search function. Now more than ever, good data and good search capabilities matter


Amazon’s new Part Finder technology isn’t surprising, but it is a game-changer. It will change the way distributors sell parts and will eliminate some common search function issues and customer frustrations. Part Finder technology helps answer the persistent question, “How do we keep solving customers’ problems?” and as its capabilities grow, and its library of data is built out, customers will have an easier time finding the right parts.

Full Transcript:

Hey! This is Justin King, and this is B2B eCommerce Secrets. And today we’re gonna talk about a scary little innovation that Amazon recently released.

So, there was kind of a quiet announcement in the last week or so by TechCrunch, talking about how Amazon has launched a brand new feature of its iPhone app called Part Finder. And Part Finder allows you to take a picture of a fastener, and Amazon will give you the results or the matches to that picture.

OK, so I recently was at Internet Retailer; I did the keynote at Internet Retailer’s B2B eCommerce event, and I talked about this idea exactly: that you can take a picture of a product, and instead of just typing in a search, you can do image search, or visual search, as it’s called.

So a little background on this, so Partpic, who’s a company founded by Jewel Burks, from Georgia Tech; a Georgia Tech startup. Jewel Burks was working for a big industrial distributor, I believe McMaster-Carr. And she was fielding customer complaints, and a lot of customer complaints saying they sent the wrong part to them. And basically she said – listen – people called McMaster-Carr, they didn’t know what the part number was; they tried to describe it to us; we did the best job to try to find the product for them, but often it wasn’t correct. And she thought, wouldn’t it be great to be able to do search, but do search by using an image. To be able to take a picture from your phone and be able to spit back the exact replacement part for this.

In a video for TechCrunch, she talked about how this is going to change the way industrial distribution markets sells parts. Then, just last year I believe, or about 18 months ago, Amazon acquired Partpic. Amazon acquired this industrial, part-finding application. Partpic was the winner of TechCrunch Disrupt, which is a big kinda competition for startups, which really got them on the map. They started with a partnership with a company called National Builder Supply. National Builder Supply was getting into the plumbing, HVAC, kind of electrical industrial space from just building supplies, and they piloted this with Partpic but then Amazon came in, swooped in, and purchased it, and now they’ve incorporated it into their iPhone iOS app.

Listen – this is no joke. This is Amazon looking at how customers buy, and more importantly how do they remove the friction that exists between a customer and the ownership of their product, and the fastest way to do that is search. We’ve talked about the problems with Amazon search in the past, however if they have some kind of visual search, it eliminates those problems. Even Amazon today is not saying, “How do we build an Amazon-like experience?” they’re saying, “How do we solve our customers’ problems?”

So today Partpic is now just focused on fasteners. However, if they build the library of data . . . if they build the library of data, they were using the library of data from National Builder Supply in the past, now if they build their own library of data, their own library of product data that measures products, so it’s gotta give good measurements on the products, be able to look at it probably in some kinda 3D way, to be able to take a picture from all types of angles. If they build that library you can see how they will build this massive capability to be able to find whatever you’re looking for, in the way that you want to be able to find it.

Listen – data, data, data; search, search, search. It’s no surprise that Amazon’s first kinda major technology disruption is in the search field, because search is one of the biggest problems in B2B.