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Google is fast developing into a true online jack of all trades, breaking free from the shackles of search and analytics with the advent of Boutiques. This foray into the world of online fashion is a bold move to steal traffic and sales away from well established internet fashionista brands. Boutiques currently only caters to the US market and is limited to women’s fashion but diversification will no doubt soon follow if the concept proves to be a success.
Boutiques is founded on ideals of personalisation and, following in the vein of another of Google’s recent developments, (see previous
I thought I’d give it a try, so getting in touch with my inner cross dresser, I indicated a penchant for daisy dukes and vest tops, and sure enough, those clever chaps at Google determined my style to be ‘street’. After going into a bit more detail about my preferred heel height and dress length Google had supposedly sussed out my look and was helpfully suggesting that I invest in a few slinky $300 DKNY numbers.
Boutiques can be used in the same way as other online fashion retailers, but this would be missing the point. The entire raison d’etre of the shop/social network hybrid is to encourage interaction with others users, presumably to court the coveted holy grail of ‘advocacy’ that so many business seek to achieve through social channels.
The site adopts a networking system similar to that of Twitter whereby users can follow celebrities, brands or styles and be followed themselves. In a smart move, this will open up the possibility to closely monitor what the stars are wearing, which could be an attempt to emulate the USP of the British online fashion retailer ASOS (As Seen On Stars). Google has been somewhat left behind in the social whirlwind of late and has clearly rethought its strategy after its Wave project crashed and burned. Social shopping is being touted as the next big thing in social media. With Facebook’s places rumoured to be on the verge of linking up with businesses to offer deals and Groupon’s innovative ‘group buying’ system gaining credibility, Boutiques appears to be the search giant’s take on this new, emerging ‘medium within a medium’
If the big G can leverage users to treat Boutiques like a social network as well as just a browse-buy interface then there is a real opportunity build a thriving fashion community. In this environment, users can market to each other, whether unwittingly or intentionally, introducing that element of human engagement, elevating commerce above a mere transaction and turning into a social experience.
How do you think Boutiques will fare? Do you like the idea of social shopping? Comment and discuss!