As an avid online shopper and someone who loves fashion, I have always found Google’s product search to lack any sort of aesthetic appeal. Pictures are small, filters are too basic for power shopping and for the fashion-focused crowd; the overall design is unappealing. While product search’s format may work for searches for electronics, it doesn’t work for people looking to buy clothes, handbags or shoes. Generally, Google has lacked a proper visual search option for soft goods shopping experience. Which is why Google bought Like.com, a visual search engine and network of fashion-focused shopping sites. Today, Google is finally stepping foot into the world of fashion, e-commerce, visual search, personalized shopping and designer recommendations with the awaited launch of Boutiques.com.
Simply put, Boutiques.com melds the best of what Like.com had to offer within a fast Google search engine. Boutiques.com combines elements of shopping personalization engine Covet.com; street style social network Weardrobe, and visual styling tool Couturious.
The site serves as both a search engine for all things fashion and provides a personalized shopping experience through collection of boutiques curated by celebrites, stylists, and designers. Users can also create accounts and post their own boutiques. Like.com’s CEO and founder Munjal Shah, who now is an employee of Google and helped lead product design for Boutiques.com, walked us through the site’s interface. I’ll address both of the components of Boutiques.com below.
Search on Boutiques.com is similar to search you’d find on Like.com, but on steroids. You can search for a particular item and filter by color, silhouette, pattern, size, style, merchant, and more. Next to your search results (which will be in a view all mode by default), Boutiques.com will feature looks that match your search from Weardrobe and Couturious. So if I searched for a turquoise dress, Boutiques will show me user contributed looks including a turquoise dress from Weardrobe as well as professionally styled looks matching my search from Couturious. And the site will also surface outside styling options from Polyvore (which Google does not own).
Shah compares the element of Boutiques on the site to Pandora, where you can create your own stations and receive personalized music recommendations based on your preferences and actions. On the site, you’ll find mini Boutqiues of clothing, shoes, styles, handbags and more curated by designers and celebrities. Users can also create their own boutiques with their picks as well. And all items in boutiques are able to be purchased (like any search engine, you’ll click-through to the merchant site to purchase the item).
Users can register with Boutiques.com and begin to follow certain boutiques from celebrities and designer and other users for recommendations. Using Covet.com’s personal styling tool that asking you a number of questions to determine your style, Google will also recommend similar boutiques to you. Users can comment on boutiques as well.
As of now, Google has accumulated a who’s who of celebrities and designers to curate their own personalized boutiques. There are over 30 designers who have sponsored boutiques at launch, including Tory Burch, Isaac Mizrahi, Kate Spade , Lulu Guinness, Marchesa, Oscar de la Renta , Rag and Bone, Rebecca Taylor, Tracy Reese, Betsey Johnson, Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston Heritage, Nicole Miller, Anna Sui and Badgley Mischka.
Celebrities who have curated boutiques on the site at launch include Anna Paquin, The Olsen Twins, Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, Carey Mulligan, Elisabeth Moss, Iman, Jane Krakowski, Kelly Osbourne and Rashida Jones.
Shah says the iPad has become a go-to device for shopping and browsing the web, so it made sense to launch a companion iPad app for Boutiques.com. The free iPad app will contain all of the same functionality as the site.
Similar to Like.com’s business model, Boutiques.com will make money on a cost-per-click basis where online merchants will pay Google by the number of clicks a user makes into the products on their sites.
Like.com, Weardrobe, Couturious and the other sites in the visual search engine’s network will eventually be retired, but there isn’t a set timeline for this says Shah.
Boutiques.com is certainly a different direction for Google, whose e-commerce and shopping options have not been much to talk about. The other interesting addition to the site beyond just search is personalization and a social aspect through the ability to follow. I’m also curious whether Google will add any other social shopping features (such as integration with Facebook or Twitter) down the line. In the end, the search capabilities, which is Google’s bread and butter, are impressive and no doubt will make the site appealing for online shopping. And Google just boosted its general product search earlier this week.
Another important thing to note about Boutiques.com is that it seems to appeal to women. One shopping for this demographic represents a huge market and one the eBay has been pushing hard as well.
But Google’s edge is in its ability to collectively source products from retailers all over the web rather from a single e-commerce platform. As Shah says, in the end “Google’s vision is to help people find and shop for all the world’s products.”