Google Boutiques’ Value To Fashion Brands & Retailers
For the past two weeks, everyone has been wondering what Google has had in store for the fashion industry. But, let’s take a step back. Google hasn’t moved into fashion in the past two weeks; they’ve been sniffing around for over a year now.
Do you remember a few months ago when a guy named Tony Wang and his blog, Post.Fashionism, appeared on the fashion scene via Twitter? Wang started reaching out to high profile bloggers such as PR Couture, Bryan Boy, GalaDarling, and even FashionablyMarketing.Me. The outreach said that Wang had been hired by Google to start a test program about the viability of fashion content and Google. Wang interviewed bloggers on his site as well as invited them to Mountain View to speak at Google.
We were very skeptical of Google starting a fashion program (as were many other news outlets). I agreed to a call with Wang to gather more information on what exactly was going on. I am not going to get into all the details of the call, but I can summarize the content of that call: Google wants to have more online users on their services. The more users, the more ads they can serve, the more data they can collect, the more money they can make from the data used in those ads.
With the launch of Boutiques.com, that is exactly what’s happening. Since this call, exactly who Wang is has come to light. He is an experienced retail marketing consultant who has worked for Macy’s, BCBG Max Azria and Rent The Runway. We can’t help feel a little bit duped by the position that Wang has taken in order to build trust and FREE insight from some of the most hardworking individuals on the web.
So, the highly anticipated, fashion-centric, Google-made website, Boutiques.com, has launched. Built from assets it acquired from its Like.com purchase, which included Coutorious and Covet, this venture shows the extent of Google’s obsession with fashion. The latest player in the curation game, Boutiques claims that it “lets you find and discover fashion goods through a collection of boutiques curated by taste-makers.”
Being the fashion-loving-media-savvy-and-oh-so-curious girls that we are, we set up a shop on Boutiques.com. After playing around with the site for a little while, we made a list of pros and cons:
- Fresh design. Its sleek magazine-style design is on trend with fashion sites right now.
- Easy to navigate. The design is clean and uncluttered. The navigation system is straight forward and easy to utilize.
- Easy to set up. Signing up and creating a boutique takes less than 30 minutes.
- Customizable. Google did a nice job of asking questions that helped pinpoint our personal style. After answering a series of “likes” and “hates,” we were pleased with most of Boutique.com’s suggested items based on our preferences. We also like that we can upload our own photos and add our website link to help personalize our boutique.
- Social. We can follow and be followed by other Boutique.com users. We can comment on each other’s boutiques and engage in conversation centered around fashion. Couturious sets are also sliced and diced into the mix for extra interaction. WWD reported that Polyvore, Lookbook.NU and Weardrobe joined within the past few days. Boutiques.com has inked a sweet traffic deal with Polyvore and Lookbook.NU, so we’re excited about the cross community pollination.
- Interactive. We could spend all day clicking on things we “like” and “hate,” taking quizzes that help define our style and browsing through and commenting on other boutiques. Each day, it will offer new product suggestions tailored to our taste, which might tempt us to go back.
- Stylish people are playing. Some of our favorite bloggers and celebrities have already set up shop on Boutiques.com. It’s interesting to see how our tastes are similar or different.
- Portable. There is already an iPad application available for download if you want to take it with you.
- SEO. Product feeds and product inclusion offer transactional link value. Like Polyvore and Kaboodle, we want product manually or physically added to Boutiques, just like we want our products included in Google Product Search or Google Base.
- Bland design. While clean and on trend, the logo and overall site design looks bland, considering it is coming from a company that may be wealthier than God. Where is the guy who draws the uber cool Google logos, surely he could do fashion?
- Overdone concept. Did Google think we really needed another social shopping site–a curated one, at that? So far, we’re not seeing anything that is really different other than some celeb and familiar blogger names. Stylecaster, StyledOn, Polyvore and even Amazon’s A-Store offer better recognition tools and incentives for use.
- Restrictive. Unlike sites like ShopStyle and Polyvore, we can’t create fashion sets that give us that rush of creativity with our social shopping experience. Google does the work for us, but it feels a bit impersonal. It’s going to be hard to get users to abandon other sites to be a part of the Boutiques.com community. There are limited social sharing features; you can email or Tweet about a boutique, and that’s it. Facebook was clearly left off because Google may want to compete with Facebook in the brand/customer engagement and sales arena later on.
- Social Restriction. Since Lookbook and Polyvore are traffic partners, why can’t the assets that boutique users have in all three communities be better integrated?
- No Vanity? Why can’t we have custom URLs like – http://www.boutiques.com/fashionablymarketingme? Is it that hard to do? A little recognition goes along way for 90% of bloggers/writers/stylists out there.
- GREEDY. Our biggest issue with this site is the fact that Google is benefiting from the people who take the time to set up a boutique or click on the links to buy through Boutiques.com. Fashion lovers are curating collections for them and receiving a link to their website (if they have one) tucked quietly into their little boutique. We would have felt more supportive about Google’s venture if they took an Amazon or ShopStyle approach. The former allows you to set up your own shop through Amazon and offers a commission on each sale you make, while the latter allows you to create Polyvore-esque collages and sets that offer pay per click rewards through their ShopSense affiliate program. Why can’t we embed our store to a page or post on our blog or website? If you want to serve ads and drive traffic that makes you money, shouldn’t you wish to monopolize–ooops–maximize every online asset we have?
The Bigger Picture
Boutiques.com has amazing benefits for retailers and online commerce, but for the people using the services (stylists, bloggers, etc.) there are fewer pros than cons. While we love the content curation trend that many brands have embraced over the past year, we can’t help but feel that Google is going to become the Forever 21 of fashion. Will Google copy, knock off and dilute the brilliant creations through technologies that many sites have worked so hard to create? Or will they work on evolving some of the amazing technologies they purchased, truly making them the Fashion 4.0 notable and worthy of our use?
Will Google monetize online fashion content and commerce through true curation or bastardization?