Google is following in the footsteps of ShopStyle, Revolve Clothing, and Polyvore with its latest endeavor: a porthole called Boutiques.com. Just last week rumors started swirling that Google was entering the virtual shop game, hence its upcoming “High Tech Fuses With High Fashion” launch party in NYC. “Boutiques.com will allow Google to better tap into one of the biggest-selling and fastest-growing categories on the Web—apparel, accessories, and footwear—and hedge against the growing threat to search that social media and distributed retailing pose,” says Women’s Wear Daily of the move. But rather than curate shops itself, Google is relying on consumers much in the same way that Revolve Clothing’s new site and the Sugar Inc.-owned Facebook game Retail Therapy operate: they allow consumers themselves to curate their own shops with real, clickable merchandise to buy.
The emphasis here is surely on the fact that these shops can be shared, which creates a new realm of social networking-meets-style curation. Big names like DVF, Isaac Mizrahi, and Marchesa have set up their own Google shops, as has Sarah Jessica Parker (and perhaps in the future if Google gets its wish, Katie Holmes). There’s also a potential for gaming and entertainment to be introduced via each boutique, allowing for a more robust platform that could eventually vie with designers’ own homepages if they’re not careful. As for what sets Google apart from eBay, given the latter’s recent hearty push into the e-commerce and street-style realms? “It’s Google. Isn’t that a lot sexier than eBay? It’s true that eBay has been exploring this area and tried some different vehicles through exclusive relationships. [But] Google owns the world—it owns YouTube, Gmail, and it’s a different platform than eBay,” an executive of a fashion house told WWD. As for whether or not the success of a consumer-made boutique on Google will translate to points or kickbacks of some kind, we’ll have to wait and see. The same goes for whether or not the new launch promises a sleek interface fit for high fashion.