UPDATED 13:24 EDT / NOVEMBER 17 2010

Google Gets Fashionable with Boutiques.com, Search & Shop Personal Style Clouds

Google launched Boutiques.com in beta today, a mix of fashion retail, recommendations, and of course, search.  I took a good amount of time exploring the new service, which is decidedly unbranded as a Google tool.  It’s clear Google’s after the fashion retail industry here, dipping a toe into areas already dominated by Gilt, Net-a-Porter and, more directly, sites like Couturious, an extension of its Like.com acquisition.

Boutiques offers you a personalized shopping store that recommends items based on your taste.  It incorporates purchasing suggestions based on your settings and your social interactions.  You can follow other users’ boutiques, save and share individual items you like, and search your personal store, or the entire site.

When you join the website, you’re immediately invited to take a style quiz, narrowing down your tastes through a series of “vs.” images.  Based on this, Boutiques will determine your style type, which could be Classic, Edgy, Street, Romantic or Boho.  Delve a little deeper into your preferences, and you can mark silhouette styles, colors, shoe type, individual designer brands, and more.  This latter settings process is quite similar to Net-a-Porter’s, with the extra benefit of adding both likes and dislikes.  Boutiques also gives you a jump-start for setting your preferences, by grouping designers based on your determined style type.

I was happy to see this last feature, though that’s about as simple as Boutiques makes it to set your preferences from a settings standpoint.  The registration process as a whole could have been more expedient if I could import set preferences from other networks—I was even surprised to see that I couldn’t register an account with my Google credentials.

In their defense, the fashion tech industry hasn’t reached the point of standardized data-sharing amongst networks, and the larger social outlets with streamlined portability options aren’t fashion-centric.  This is an area I’ve been pulling for in terms of growth and adoption, though services like Kaboodle have taken an early stance on freeing individual taste across the social web.

After you’ve taken the time to mark all your settings, you can customize your storefront with fashion images from the site, or those you want to upload.  These custom options are designed to encourage influencers to run their style suggestions through Boutiques, which ultimately pushes clicks through to a higher rate of sale conversions.  This is a method most fashion-oriented sites have used for some time.

Check out the boutiques to follow on the site, and you’ll see that some are by famed fashion bloggers and celebrities.  Others are from users just like yourself.  The custom options listed above are extremely limited, however, so you’re sure to see plenty of redundancies here, and it’s not the ideal marketing platform for a fashion professional.

Instead of hand-selected recommendations for each boutique, each store’s items are “inspired” from their style markings.  Browse through this virtual boutique and bookmark items you like, in turn building the preferences around your own boutique.  Click through any of these inspired items, and you’ll be promptly redirected to a third-party, online retailer.

What’s missing is highly custom content from throughout the industry, hitting a very small mark of fashion tech as a whole.  Boutiques is helpful in filtering shop recommendations, but loses a lot of prospect on deep engagement with the consumer and the development of their style, outside of its relevance to their pocketbook.  Fashion is a highly branded industry, and Boutiques will need to do more on this end.

That being said, it’s not a bad idea, particularly if Google intends on some revenue sharing for its influencers.  An affiliate program, AdSense integration, Google Apps  & Checkout integration—these are all opportunities for Google to build on this little fashion retail experiment.  What this could really do is enable more fashion individuals to montize their personal cloud – isn’t that what Google (and competing platforms) is ultimately trying to do?

The design of the site is individualized for each user, and this is a practical way in which Google is applying a larger social system to personal cloud needs.  The flow of personal clouds is a chance for Google to play middleman, collecting ad revenue as it better facilitates brand interaction through the archival and retrieval of personal cloud data.

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