Google goes fashionista with Boutiques.com

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Boutiques.com Beta

Boutiques.com Beta

This evening New York’s  fashion cognoscenti joins Google to celebrate today’s launch of fashion retail venture Boutiques.com, an aggregator of over 1000 fashion retailers, including Barney’s, Intermix and Net-a-Porter (which is notoriously careful about who it works with). 

The roll-out of the beta site confirm rumours of the involvement of bloggers including the UK’s very own Susie Bubble, who has curated her fantasy boutique using Boutiques.com plentiful supply of fashion goodies, alongside fellow bloggers, fashion insiders and celebs too – as diverse as Ashlee Simpson Wentz, Carey Mullighan and Sarah Jessica Parker. As every profile includes the user’s personal website address, and users can like and share boutiques as well as products, there is a motivation is to drive traffic to their own website. Style.com reports that users are able to curate their own boutiques too – and an initial play seems to confirm this – although the process feels a bit confusing.

Savvy Google’s acquisition of Like.com means that Boutiques.com incorporates a fairly sophisticated (kinda freaky) image analysis tool, which means it can theoretically search the nuances of garment detail, and, with its fairly sophisticated aesthetic, gives it a leading edge on competitors such as ShopStyle.com.

It also incorporates, however, the slightly tedious ‘Stylyzer’, a ‘this versus that’ method of establishing the user’s personal style, during which you click which of two options is more your style. It should be fun, but in practice is yawnsome, although perfectly timed to complete just as you’re about to give up (although maybe that’s just me). They have at least updated this function since I last had a play, to include a ‘skip this style’ option, as otherwise you’re often stuck with the best of two bad options. Once (finally) completed, the user is encouraged to share favourite silhouettes, colours, patterns etc, to drive Boutiques.com recommendations straight to their inbox.

The user then adds a love and hate comment to products sent their way on a daily/weekly basis, improving Boutiques.com’s ability to refine future recommendations. I’d be interested to know how the algorithm deals with what happens when a product is simply ignored – if we are honest, how often would a innocuous dress really provoke a reaction of  HATE if it is just not that interesting but inoffensive? This system relies heavily on the user being willing to participate and engage, and the predictability of their behaviour, which is quantifiable to a point, but ultimately not an exact science plus no-one likes to feel obviously pigeon-holed.

I am not flippant. I can see how likely it is that Google’s Boutiques.com venture has every chance of success. While I’m cynical about its features, Like.com has been drawing significant crowds and Google.com is already a key driver of traffic to e-commerce sites, and one of the most visited sites in the UK (and in top handful in the US). if it even draws a tiny percentage of its fashion-interested browser to its site, it will do well.

Between ASOS Marketplace and Google’s Boutiques.com, it seems November is the month for extreme fashion retail ventures – ones which will undoubtedly make a difference to the online retail map. Whether you can truly compare, one being a curated space for independent boutiques and sellers, the other one being an aggregator of product with edits by insiders, remains to be seen. I feel that there’s a lot of testing of both concepts before making an informed decision, but my personal, gut reaction is that ASOS Marketplace sings out to me as being the more refreshing and unique addition to our shopping options.

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