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August 31 2014

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More About Google’s Big E-Commerce Launch

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The rumors—flying since the middle of last week—are true: Google is launching its own e-commerce site, Boutiques.com, which goes live today and will be toasted tonight with a lavish party in New York City.

As reported, Boutiques.com won’t be a transactional site, but rather an aggregator of about 1,000 existing merchants, from Net-A-Porter and Barneys to Intermix and Scoop, offering a total of around 500,000 products at launch. Aggregation isn’t a new concept, of course, so how does Google plan to make theirs different? In a word (and no surprise here): Search. At a presentation for Style.com, the company’s tech team made the case that Boutiques.com, using technology from recently acquired Like.com, will be able to offer more sophisticated image analysis. In other words, the site will be better able to identify the characteristics of products—color, silhouette, shape, and so on—than aggregators using traditional text-based searches. With a running “Love” and “Hate” function, which allows users to weigh in on items, the site also promises to provide a continuously personalized experience. The more you shop, the more it can recommend—and recommend with greater accuracy.

But that won’t be the only personalization. Google has wooed celebrities and designers to open their own “boutiques” on the site. Sarah Jessica Parker has already been mentioned as one participating celeb; we can add Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Iman, Carey Mulligan, Anna Paquin, and Olivia Palermo, all of whom have curated shops. So have designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Derek Lam, Oscar de la Renta, Rag & Bone, and Marchesa. Users, too, can customize boutiques. At their own on-site shops, they can gain followers, drive traffic to their own blogs or sites, and, perhaps, eventually earn incentives.

Several categories of product are currently not available, including menswear, jewelry, plus sizes, and petites. But seeing as Google is already the no. 2 driver of traffic to e-commerce sites—following only the sites’ URLs themselves—it’s probably only a matter of time before e-tailers from every spectrum jump to get on board.

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