December 1, 2010

Google's New Fashion Site: Boutiques.com

Google’s latest fashion site: Boutiques.com, launched November 17th to much anticipation. The site is a chic, social shopping site crafted from Google’s $100 million acquisition of Like.com in August. With 1.3 million monthly uniques, Like.com “developed technology that lets users understand visually what terms like “red high-heeled pumps” and “floral patterned sleeveless dress” mean and created algorithms to understand whether those pumps complement or clash with that dress.” (Source) Boutiques.com mirrors Like.com’s digital design, allowing users to employ a visual product search filtered by color, silhouette, pattern, size, style, designer, and price. Using this visually interactive platform, shoppers are able to compare trends and brands within one interface. Such aggregation allows online shopping to be accessible and a complete solution to finding desired products.

Within Boutiques.com, users are able to curate their own unique collections from products they’ve pulled and can share their collections with other users. Shoppers can browse “Celebrity Boutiques” which showcases the signature looks and styles of featured celebrities, like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Carey Mulligan. Revered fashion bloggers have also set-up shop and have their own boutiques spotlighted. Google doesn’t sell products directly on site, but rather drives shoppers to online retailers to make their purchases.

Similar to the search engine model, Google profits by implementing a cost-per-click or cost-per-action pricing model when it comes to driving purchases and clicks to retailers and brands’ e-commerce sites. Retailers that wish to be part of the site need to apply to be included. The site has received some criticism for this “pay to play” search environment. One critic states, “Now we’re talking about a company that controls 80% of Internet traffic, so to say, and they run a “shop” where they ask brands to pay for inclusion in what essentially is a pay-to-play search engine.”(Source)

While Boutiques.com has its critics, PGR is excited about the opportunities that may exist for our clients. PGR’s clients have seen great success with other social shopping sites like Polyvore, which encouraged user engagement with the brand and also drove revenue. Google Search has also been an instrumental tool for generating revenue for one of PGR’s direct response clients. This combination of fashion and search along with personalization, social sharing and the efficient pricing model is sure to be a success.

How will other social shopping sites evolve to match Google’s offerings? Or has Google done it again by improving user experience to such a high degree that it leaves others behind?