A Very Different Shopping Site For Women, From Google

Earlier this week Google launched offline product inventory for Google Shopping/Product Search. And this morning the company is going live with the decidedly un-Googly

On the surface Boutiques may resemble other “social shopping” sites such as Polyvore or Stylehive, among others. But the underlying technology, I’m told, is much more sophisticated than comparable female-centric shopping sites. (There’s also an iPad app.)

Boutiques is a highly visual, social and personalized shopping destination built on sophisticated machine learning and visual recognition technology. Munjal Shah, CEO of, the company Google acquired in August and which built, likened it to Pandora for apparel. There’s an elaborate taxonomy and structure (“apparel genome”) behind the presentation of content on Boutiques.

Like was already building when the acquisition happened three months ago. Google presided over the completion of the effort (that’s probably not exactly accurate but mostly true). That may explain in part why the site looks like it does and lacks Google branding — though not entirely.

The apparel content is from both large and independent retailers, though the focus is on e-commerce. The site is directed toward women exclusively. It makes me wonder if Google thinks it’s a male-centric brand somehow.

The decision not to include any reference to Google on the site was a very conscious one and extremely interesting. In addition, search is present on the site but not the focus or center of the user experience. It’s about browsing and inspiration — attempting to replicate the in-store experience to some degree.

Boutiques is built around collections of fashion picked by “taste makers” (celebrities, designers and fashion bloggers). Individual users can also create their own “boutiques.” And any boutique can be followed by any user. More followers equals greater exposure and “ranking” prominence for individual boutiques. Shah anticipates that most people will shop and browse existing boutiques. However some percentage of users can be expected to create their own.

Creating your own boutique is one way to personalize the site experience. And when they do, users are asked to respond to a series of questions indicating style preferences and choosing between different looks:

The site is quite complex but offers an impressively intuitive user experience, given the technical complexity of what’s going on behind the scenes.

When I started asking about the future, Google wouldn’t comment specifically about integration of Boutiques content into general search results or Google Product search. But over time we can probably expect some degree of integration.

Another observation: this is yet another social site from Google. We saw local recommendations tool/site Hotpot go live earlier this week. What’s also interesting is that Boutiques is a branded content destination in a way that is perhaps equaled only by YouTube among Google properties.

I also asked whether the look and feel of might have an impact on other Google properties eventually. Of course that’s too speculative for Google to respond to. But it’s intriguing to consider how the “culture” of the site might impact Google’s thinking about future product development. Specifically I’m thinking about local, travel, music and other verticals.

This is a very different “look” for Google — and one that holds interesting possibilities for the way Google presents content and user experiences going forward.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Google: Acquisitions | Google: General | Google: Google Shopping | Google: Personalized Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Jesse

    Is anyone else alarmed by the fact that this website, made by Google:

    - Has no descriptive title tags
    - Makes liberal use of nofollow to trusted external sites
    - Is set to noindex

    I’m at a loss for what to say…

  • Vanessa Fox

    Nah, Google is much more than the core search term, and those product teams outside of core search don’t know anything more about SEO than anyone else on the web. It’s just evidence of the fact that the core search term doesn’t give product teams and special “inside” advice.

  • Jezza

    Has anyone noticed that the site has no record of facebook. i wonder why? ;)
    You can share with twitter but not with the largest social network in the world!

  • http://mauricewalshe mauricewalshe

    Its very similar in look to Net A Porter and ASOS.

    And Vanessas right even a small size’d company such as google has intenal groups that work at cross purporses or compete against each other – a sign of tomay internal fiefdoms – probaly why wave failed

    I used to work fro British Telecom and the SE divison then on its own had more developers than Google has staff and the different parts of SE used to compete against each other. (though google seems to have surpased BT in its beurocracy in 10 years)

    When i was one on of the major early web projecst in 94 the other devloper and I where a bit miffed that our customer assumed that we worked out in the sticks at BT Labs

  • Tony Adam

    Just like Vanessa said, this was exactly the case at Yahoo!. The core Search team did not interact with the Product teams and they don’t get special advice. It would become very obvious when many properties within Yahoo!’s businesses did not rank within Yahoo! search.

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