Google Fashions a New Retail Strategy

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In a big departure from its Net search business, Google ( GOOG) took a deep plunge into women's fashion Wednesday with the launch of Boutiques.com, a highly personalized search and sales site.

Boutiques is a relaunch of so-called visual search shop Like.com, which Google acquired in August. The site attempts to organize goods by styles, colors, sizes, themes that suit a user's tastes.

By partnering with celebrity designers and "taste makers," Google's Boutiques attempts to bring social networking and image-based search techniques to current fashion trends.

The move takes aim at sites like fashion outlet Bluefly ( BFLY) and Amazon's ( AMZN) efforts to expand into customized apparel sales like shoes with its purchase of Zappos.

Unlike most Google sites, Boutiques has no conventional Google search tools or, more importantly, no search ads that would be an indicator of how the company plans to make money off the venture.

Google says Boutiques is an effort to improve on the shortcomings of online clothes shopping.

"Boutiques uses computer vision and machine learning technology to visually analyze your taste and match it to items you would like," Google product manager Munjal Shah wrote on the Google blog.

Google, it should be noted, did manage to get the site up before the crucial retail calendar events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Google shares were largely unchanged in early trading Wednesday.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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