Google gets into fashion with Boutiques.com

By Samantha Critchell

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 19 2010 12:15 p.m. MST

This screenshot released by Google on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 shows Google's new Boutiques.com website.

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Google sees an underserved segment of the Internet: the stylish shopper. It hopes to fill that void with the launch of Boutiques.com on Wednesday.

The new website encourages users to articulate their own fashion likes and dislikes — halter top vs. one-shoulders? — while also asking celebrities and designers, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Nicole Richie and Oscar de la Renta, among them, to curate their own favorite picks.

"So far, the online shopping experience has been tailored for hard goods — books, CDs, DVDs, electronics," said Munjal Shah, Google director of product management. Yet, he adds, "soft goods," which include apparel and complementary accessories, is where the bigger piece of retail action lies.

Using music as a comparison model, Shah noted that consumers categorize themselves by genre, for example country or rock. But the fashion customer wants more.

That's where searches on the new Boutiques.com site are further defined by silhouette, color, size and even pattern. Boutiques.com offers thumbs-up or thumbs-down quizzes of trends and then asks users to describe not just what they like or dislike, but also why.

"Soft goods are more emotional. It's not about reviews of the products as much as it is about the mannequin appeal and styling," Shah says.

But Google isn't getting into the sales game — yet. While the site employs recognition software to research options for consumers, retailers, including small, local boutiques as well as big department stores, serve as the sellers. Users will be sent to retail sites to complete their purchases.

Google will make its money from directing people to those e-commerce sites.

Inventory will be updated each evening, so shoppers are offered the most current merchandise.

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