Google is more forcefully throwing its hat into the online shopping space with Boutiques, a venture that analyzes users’ tastes and allows them to browse selections from fashion insiders.
In launching Boutiques, Google draws a distinction between shopping for electronics and other hard goods and shopping for soft goods like clothing and accessories.
In a blog post announcing Boutiques, Product Management Director Munjal Shah said the site has been in the works for 18 months with the ultimate goal of finding a new way to browse, discover and shop for soft goods online.
The site allows users to create their own “boutiques” or browse boutiques curated by tastemakers such as celebrities, stylists, designers and fashion bloggers. These tastemakers curate up to 50 items they like by answering questions about colors, patterns, brands, silhouettes and style genres they prefer (or don’t).
Other features include advanced search filters, inspiration photos, and an iPad app. Users can “follow” and be followed by boutiques on the site.
According to Google, machine learning technology visually analyzes a users’ taste to match it to items he or she will (presumably) like in the future. And, anecdotally at least, users are keen on the concept: What started out as several hundred boutiques had grown to several thousand within hours of launch, Google says.
Boutiques is currently only available for women’s fashion in the U.S. Shah told ClickZ there is no specific timeline for expansion.
Meanwhile, rival shopping discovery site ThisNext has announced a growth milestone, hired a new top editor, and added new content.
ThisNext hired magazine vet Mary Alice Haney as its editor-in-chief. Haney is in charge of running a new so-called Tastemakers program as well as setting the editorial strategy. Tastemakers will also provide content for ThisNext properties StyleHive.com and StyleDiary.net.
The company says its audience has doubled over four months to 6.5 million monthly visitors. It has added fashion, beauty, home décor and women’s style experts to provide daily recommendations to users.
It has also revamped its home page. ThisNext.com was redesigned to prominently feature the Tastemakers as well as to bring more clarity and simplicity to the site, according to CEO Matt Edelman.
“Our previous home page lacked focus, and it was based on a design that hadn’t been updated in a couple of years,” he said. “The page featured products that were being discovered and recommended by our community, but not in an intuitive way – visitors didn’t really know what we stood for, why they should care about coming back.”
Now, at least according to Edelman, ThisNext and Boutiques have something in common. He says they are “the first ‘shopping’ sites…that provide women shoppers with an editorial overlay to the shopping experience.”
Edelman argues this will be a major trend going forward because women want to know why they should buy something in addition to what they should buy. In the coming year, ThisNext will implement further changes to make shopping more personal and social, he says.
Edelman conceded that Boutiques will be a “very big competitor” within search results. For its part, Google says its search function – including precise colors and patterns as well as visually similar items – is part of what makes it such a strong contender in the online shopping space.