Google is stepping into yet another realm, fashion, with the debut of Boutiques.com, aimed at changing the way we shop for clothes. The new site creates a personalized shopping experience.
Consumers can specify preferences to build a custom boutique with fashion goods. Or they can discover choices based on favorite celebrities, stylists, designers and fashion bloggers.
This is a technology play as much as an e-commerce play. Boutiques.com taps into computer-vision and machine-learning technology to visually analyze consumers' fashion taste and match it to styles they might like.
"Boutiques.com was in progress when Google acquired Like.com," said Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. "In general, I think the site offers a good shopping experience. It was described to me as a kind of 'Pandora for fashion.' It's intuitive, but it has a great deal of technical complexity under the hood."
A New Way to Shop for Fashion
Google Product Management Director Munjal Shah explained Google's approach in the company's blog. As Google sees it, the way consumers shop for fashion is different from the way they buy cameras. Fashion is more about what fits your tastes than hardware specs. But buying clothes online has always been more challenging than buying books, music or other hard goods.
"In fashion, there are lots of choices. If there are, say, 500,000 items in a store, that means there are literally billions of different combinations of outfits you can make with those items. How do you sort through all of this? This site had to be a collaboration," Shah wrote. He added that making Boutiques.com a reality required a partnership of sorts with tastemakers of all types.
"These days, bloggers, stylists and everyday fashionistas are expressing their sense of style online. We invited them to create boutiques so people could shop their diverse styles," Shah said. "But you have a unique and independent style, too, so Boutiques also lets you build your own personalized boutique and get recommendations of products that match your taste."
A New Google Dawn?
Boutiques.com also offers other ways to search for fashion. Consumers can filter results by genre, silhouette, pattern, color families, and sizes. They can also search for items such as "yellow pumps" and find matching outfits. Under the hood, as Sterling calls it, the site depends on hundreds of style rules to suggest items.
Interestingly, for all the innovation at Boutiques.com, Google isn't slapping its multicolored logo all over the site. "There was a decision not to include Google branding on the site. Not even a 'powered by Google,'" Sterling said. "But what's most interesting to me is how different the site looks from typical Google properties and what it might mean for the future of product development at Google."