Only in the U.S. and only for women – for now. Human curators and visual recognition to provide recommendations…. I’ll be interested to see how well it works.
Google Jumps Into Fashion E-Commerce
Aiming to become the first stop for online shoppers of apparel and accessories, Google Inc. launched a fashion e-commerce site Boutiques.com, which uses human curators, visual recognition and machine learning technology to recommend items to shoppers.
The move thrusts the Mountain View, Calif., Internet giant into the rapidly growing online fashion market, an area in which Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc. are stepping up their offerings. It’s a lucrative market, with the online apparel and accessories industry hitting $19 billion in the U.S. in 2009, according to comScore Inc., and growing fast.
Boutiques.com doesn’t sell the items, which come from hundreds of online merchants such as Ralph Lauren, Steve Madden and Juicy Couture, but directs shoppers to sites where they can be purchased. Other sites such as Polyvore.com and Kaboodle.com, also are attempting to make shopping and browsing for apparel more fun.
Munjal Shah, a Google product manager, said the company worked with about 100 fashion taste-makers such as celebrities, stylists, and designers to pick out clothing they like and teach Google’s machine-learning algorithms about their style and tastes. Those partners include Oscar de la Renta and retailer Scoop NYC.
Google is developing ways to direct users of the company’s Web-search engine to Boutiques.com when they search for fashion items, Mr. Shah said. The company already has a standalone product-search service that specializes in “hard” goods such as electronics and draws traffic from the main search engine. The product-search site has grown rapidly over the past couple of years, comScore data show, but still lags behind Amazon and eBay in terms of the number of searches it handles.
Shoppers of Boutiques.com will be able to browse for items a particular expert has selected, such as shoulder dresses or high-heeled shoes, as well as any other goods that Google’s algorithms thinks are similar in some way. Shoppers can also build their own personalized boutique and get recommendations of products that match their tastes.
Boutiques.com is similar to Like.com, the visual search site founded by Mr. Shah for shoppers of apparel and other soft goods. Google acquired the site in August for about $100 million, according to people familiar with the matter.
Boutiques.com currently has the same business model used by Like.com, where merchants pay if shoppers end up purchasing the goods on other sites, or sometimes pay a small cost for each time a shopper clicked on their merchandise to learn more. Mr. Shah said the model could change.
Scot Wingo, Chief Executive of ChannelAdvisor Corp., which helps merchants sell goods on Amazon and eBay, said Boutiques.com is a solid first attempt by Google and one that leverages its core strength in search.
“Amazon is becoming so popular in e-commerce that people are going there to start some of their searches,” he said. “This is Google waking up to that threat.”
Boutiques.com is only available in the U.S. and only for women’s fashion, but is expected to expand in the future, Google said.