Google boutiques.com - a content-based approach to shopping
Last week in New York, Google launched its online fashion marketplace boutiques.com, which allows users to tailor searches to their own personal style and takes a content-based approach to the whole experience. By Jo-Ann Fortune
With weekly magazines dedicated to shopping seemingly thriving in the UK (IPC puts Look magazine's weekly readership at 585,000 between July 2009 and June 2010 and retailers keen to associate their brand with celebrities and high-profile fashion bloggers, the story behind the clothes has never been more important. It brings to mind Simon Sinek's quote that "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" or, in this case, who you do it with...
So Google has enlisted the help of style icon celebrities such as Olivia Palermo, the Olsen twins and Carey Mulligan and fashion bloggers including Jane of Sea of Shoes and Alix, aka The Cherry Blossom Girl and Susie Lau from London-based Style Bubble, to tell that story. These taste-shapers 'curate' their own boutiques, based on their favourite pieces as well as their personal style - the sum of their preferred designers, shapes, patterns and styles-, allowing those inspired by their style to join them on a virtual shopping spree.
The inclusion of fashion bloggers alongside the 'traditional' celebrities just goes to show how far this new breed of public personality has come. Stylist.co.uk this week disclosed how three female fashion, beauty and celebrity bloggers make between 35k and 80k a year each, revealing that the brand they build from their blog is worth much more than the blog itself. "I capitalised on the name I was building to start working as a stylist and consultant," said Laetitia Wajnapel from Mademoisellerobot.com, while celebrity blogger Zoe Griffin explained how she works as a consultant, "charging an hourly rate to write blogs for fashion and beauty brands".
The weight such names throw behind brands they are associated with now seems as important in the fashion world as that which film stars, models and TV personalities add through endorsements. And engaging such names as editors, rather than as mere inspiration, further strengthens the relationship between the personality and brand or venture.
As well as acknowledging the influence of high-profile style bloggers, Google has also addressed the needs of the huge number of online fashionistas who want to get social with their style, creating their own content through leisure blogs, Polyvore.com collages and Lookbook.nu creations.
By answering multiple-choice questions, presented via images of celebrities, models, bloggers, magazine covers and designer pieces, users can create their own personal boutique that can be shopped, shared and commented on.
Based on an advertising model, small-print on the portal states that "Boutiques.com charges merchants to include products on this website in most cases". At the moment it is only available in the U.S., but there are already British retailer presences on the site, including ASOS.com and Topshop.com, and Google state that they "plan to expand in the future", encouraging designers, stylists, celebrities and retailers interested in participating to get in touch.
Jo-Ann Fortune is fashion and retail editor at iCrossing
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