Google’s Boutique in Beta Launch

Discussion
Nov 18, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Over the past year, according to the company, Google brought together
the best computer and fashion “nerds” within the organization “to
create a new way to browse, discover and shop for soft goods online.”

The
result of that collaboration is Boutiques.com, a website currently launched
in beta, that lets users explore women’s fashion through a variety of
pages linked to boutiques organized by celebrity, designer, retailer, trends,
bloggers and other influencers. Visitors to the site also have the option of
creating their own personalized boutique.

A piece on the official Google blog said, “We partnered
with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great
items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did
this by telling us what colors, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved
and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand
their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our machine learning algorithms
use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style
of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they’ve hand-curated.”

The
site offers a number of features, including advanced search, inspiration photos,
complete the look function, visual search and an iPad app.

A New York Times piece calls Boutiques.com’s ability to analyze consumer preferences and deliver
what shoppers are actually looking for a “game-changer.”

According
to the article, “Search engines tend to give you stuff you don’t
really want. … But, as two experienced online shoppers found when they tested
the site earlier this week at Google’s New York office, if you ask for
cobalt blue shoes, you get them. And if you refine your preferences with a
click or two, you get even more specific styles.”

The search technology used on Boutiques.com was originally developed by Like.com,
a company acquired by Google last year.

Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president
and retail analyst at  Forrester Research, told the Times, “I’ve
always been impressed with Like.com. I was just floored by the technology back
then, and it’s evolved since. They’ve just honed the algorithm.”

Boutiques.com
is currently only available for women in the U.S., but Google said it plans
to expand it in the future.

Discussion Questions: Has Google created a new level of science to shopping
for fashion online? Will it be a “game-changer”? What do you see as the most/least
exciting elements of Boutiques.com?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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10 Comments on "Google’s Boutique in Beta Launch"


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Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I took boutique.com for a test drive on launch day and loved many of the features. First impression: Look! designers, not “designers”! I like the style segmentation and drill-down on color stories for each and, rather than creeping me out, the customization features make me WANT to get algorithymed to death (hey, looks like Google may know what I want more than I do).

To me, therein lies the opportunity and the future of fashion e-tailing: striking the balance between choice and editing/curating. Amazon and Zappos are fun to shop or tedious, depending upon your shopping style–I lean toward the latter, especially with Amazon. Prime shipping is the only thing that keeps me slogging through the over-assorted Amazon “jumble.”

Fantastic first pass and follow-up iterations will be fascinating to watch.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 5 months ago

It’s all in the algorithms baby!

Anybody can throw a bunch of product online. But what Google brings to the table is the unique ability to connect the dots for consumers based on geography, previous search information and click through behavior and probably a bunch of other stuff we don’t even know about.

Add in the idea of curated collections that are segmented against specific tastes and preferences and it adds up to a very powerful online proposition.

Game changer? I think so.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 5 months ago

Reminds me of the early days of Amazon when they rocked the industry with these types of innovations. The definition of “retailer” keeps changing and innovation continues from all directions.

Rick Moss
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

I think this is very smart, from multiple angles. There are so many ways for Google to monetize this with tie-ins from designers, retailers, celebs, publications and others who want to assert influence, the head reels. And each of these angles offers value to the shopper.

Consumers can really make the experience feel like their own. I particularly like the “Which is more your style?” quiz which displays looks and, through trial and error, narrows down the consumer’s tastes. In many cases, I’d say it will teach the consumer what she likes.

What I find most thrilling here is the coming together of the Google-generation digital intelligentsia and the fashion establishment. I realize the courtship has been going on for years, but it seems like the whiz kids are finally running with it. Only criticism I have is that a user may feel overwhelmed with choices, but that’s probably my 50-something brain talking. I’m sure young women will eat it up.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

Google has initiated a very smart approach to the boutique gift purchasing and I’m highly confident that it’s Beta launch will be a huge success.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 5 months ago

The site is compelling, visually rich and easy to use. They seem to be using their images.google.com technology and applying it to retail. This makes sense since “browsing” is fundamentally a visual exercise.

While Google has had enormous successes (the search engine obviously, GMail, the YouTube acquisition and monetization, news.google.com, etc…), they have also had mixed results in their social efforts. Google has often been too “nerdy” too focused ,on the technology and the algorithms, not the end user. This retail attempt seems much more balanced and may have a very bright future.

Sufficiently advanced technology should be in the background, not the foreground. Good move Google, I look forward to seeing more of your efforts in the retail space.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 5 months ago

Doug is right; this has the potential to be a game-changer and a huge disruption to the current model of read a magazine, see a show, find something you like, and then go searching for it. The heuristic modeling also addresses the tedium of going to a store or website and digging through quantities of merchandise you don’t like to find the few items you do. This aspect alone shortens the I want/I find/I buy cycle, which is a major challenge for all retailers. Looks like another home run for Google.

Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 5 months ago
I found it telling that the celebrities had far more followers than either the designers or the retailers. For example, Ashley Olsen has over 300 followers (on day 3!) than the most popular designer, Marchesa, at 189 followers. To give perspective, Isaac Mizrahi has 38. This breakthrough retail experience brings more than sophisticated, personalized algorithms to shopping (which is plenty right there). It heralds the first mass point-of-sale shift from shopping designers to shopping celebrities. Sure, we’ve seen celebrities from Liz Taylor to Martha Stewart tout their branded wares at retail. However, what’s different here: speed and curatorial capability. Speed is critical to fashion. Witness the fast-fashion business models of H&M and Zara. Lessons here: speed from runway to rack counts;fast in-and-out merchandise counts too. But the net brings something that brick-and-mortar retailers don’t: the speed of celebrity. Look at Kim Kardashian. Olivia Palermo. The people who are getting their 15 minutes of fame now have a great merchandising outlet for their lifestyle through boutiques.com. In the boutique.com business model, designers will become subsumed by… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 5 months ago

We are witnessing the beautiful relationship between fashion and technology being taken to another level.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 5 months ago

This is a clever search approach for fashion apparel, but as a male boomer I find myself looking for the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Can it be applied to fishing tackle, or kitchen equipment, or power tools, or DIY supplies, or auto parts?

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