While reading an article on WSJ.com about Google’s new fashion e-commerce site, Boutiques.com, I learned that the company is developing ways to direct Google searches to Boutiques.com when people search for fashion items. According to Google product manager, Munjal Sha, the company worked with close to 100 fashion celebrities, stylists, and designers to educate Google’s machine-learning algorithms to select apparel items according to their style and taste. Fashion partners included big names like Oscar de la Renta and retailer Scoop NYC.
This is an interesting approach for Google to take in order to compete with sites like Amazon.com and eBay for shoppers. According to ComScore, online apparel and accessories shopping has reached a whopping $19 billion in spending for the U.S. market alone in 2009. This is a sizeable market to tap into, but will creating yet another website for shoppers to sift through various options be effective? After visiting boutiques.com and finding a pair of jeans for just under $1,000, I’m unsure that I’d want to use Google search to find the perfect pair of shoes I’ve needed to walk around the streets of San Francisco.
As a consumer, I want to find real opinions from real people to help me evaluate a product. In my case, I want to know what shoes work in my local city weather conditions, and which will be most comfortable to wear. I’m not really interested to learn which thousand dollar pair of designer shoes Oscar De la Renta likes. If Google were really interested in reaching online shoppers, they would consider working with independent influencers to get real life opinions about their new site, and find out what the everyday US shoppers think about the site.
At Ivy, we communicate with fashion bloggers, Mom bloggers, and college student bloggers whose daily readers comprise a large portion of online shoppers, and whose collective influence would be far more powerful on consumers than a fashion icon. Afterall, do shoppers really care what Oscar de la Renta thinks or what designs he produces when they are looking to make a practical purchasing decision? Not only can working with independent influencers be beneficial for selling products, but they are also a great resource to conduct market research. They are publishing their opinions every day, and for the most part, they don’t get compensated to the extent they deserve for this. They do it because they are passionate, are experts in their field, and they share this expertise with the world every day on a regular basis. Their readers come back every day for evaluations, information, and practical life advice about what to purchase and where. And if they write about what you are trying to sell – there’s no reason you should not go to them for a ‘real life’ expert opinion.
So even though expert analysts may think that Google has a great start to compete for online shoppers against Amazon – I wonder what everyday shoppers really think?