It seems that every week brings another move by Google to eat more of the online marketing cake. The last couple of days saw Google make two announcements that should make affiliates nervous. A revamped product search launched in time for the holiday season incorporates local availability, integration with Google’s mobile shopping app and enhanced product discovery tools – more on that after the jump. But even more threatening is Boutiques.com: a new way to shop for fashion online.
Boutiques.com takes Google’s traditional CPC business model and puts it on steroids. It does this via the creation of a remarkably glossy and well-presented online fashion store, but with unique underlying technology that allows it offer features with which no other site can compete. Do you want to find a green dress in a particular style? Not only will the site find you hundreds of green dresses, but it will then filter the results by style, silhouette, pattern, size, precise color and more – all driven not by a database of characteristics, but by an image matching algorithm fine-tuned and personalized to your preferences.
Add to that special “boutiques” curated by celebrities and designers – including Kate Spade, Betsey Johnson, Oscar de la Renta and over 30 others – and online styling tools and you have a powerhouse of an online fashion destination.
The technology comes from Google’s recent acquisition of Like.com. Unlike most image search engines that use text meta data as the basis of their algorithms, Like.com is a true visual search engine. It analyzes 10,000 variables in order to match images with each other, much as Pandora matches music tracks. If enough variable are alike, then it assumes the images are alike also.
In Google’s words: “Boutiques uses computer vision and machine learning technology to visually analyze your taste and match it to items you would like… First we partnered with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling us what colors, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our machine learning algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they’ve hand-curated.”
Boiling it down, what this means is that Google is blending the power of its comparison shopping and search capabilities with the stickyness and draw of recommendation sites. Fashion bloggers, e-commerce portals, price comparison sites – beware. And of course, eBay and Amazon: Google is coming for you too.
In other news, on Monday Google announced the revamp of their product search feature to incorporate and enhance local availability, “popular products” and “aisles”.
Product search offers online research for shoppers who wish to buy offline. This is a huge market – up to $917 billion according to recent research from Forrester.
Google wants more of it, and with over 2.5 million downloads of their mobile shopping app that enables barcode scanning, “local availability” links to over 70 retailers including Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma, and new product discovery tools, it would take a fool to believe that Google won’t be successful in their quest.
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