March 7, 2021

What to wear to look good? Google can help with its new style guide

Dr Peter Mowforth

Using a mobile device, visit Google and search for ‘zara pink handbag’. In your mobile browser now click the Google images tag and click an image. Next, scroll down the page and you will find a section called ‘style ideas’ which shows an expanded carousel of fashion pictures of models with that (or similar) handbags. Because the technology is under development this does not work for every image. For those images where it does work, you can see what the models wear with their pink handbag along with related fashion items to get ideas about what might look good on you.Don’t get me wrong. I’m not currently looking to buy a pink handbag. It’s just that this new ‘Style Ideas’ guide has only just been launched so there are only a few fashion items that this works with at the moment. What’s important is that it shows the direction of travel for the research and development of those involved in extending the capabilities of ecommerce product search at Google. The technical approach is currently driven off Product Schema Markup. It’s not just about showcasing individual fashion products that people can buy online, it’s about how that single item can look good with other carefully selected items of clothing such as hats or shoes or even what colours might complement or contrast to help give you the desired fashion ‘look’.

This Style Ideas application is yet another new area being opened up by Google as it takes over niche business areas currently occupied by personal shoppers or software systems that help relay style ideas and suggestions via social networks. Pinterest would do well to be concerned and will need to find some way to up its game if it's not to be squeezed out by new Google developments.Given this new feature, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the big G increasingly joins the dots in what it offers to users. The feature is likely to quickly move beyond seeing related pictures of fashion items (Google Images). We might reasonably expect to see an application where you point the camera at a fashion product (Google Goggles-like) and it not only tells you where you can buy it (Google Shopping) but also what other items of fashion would best complement the look alongside prices and stock availability.With so many of these types of development you can see Google making increasing use of the technology behind Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Big Data to nip, tuck and tweak its algorithms. This process is making its systems ever more relevant to users and, most importantly, to all types of online buyers.How long will it be before I go to put a tie on and the smartphone chirps up telling me that my choice doesn’t match the feature and that I really ought to try the skinny grey one instead. If such a thing happened would I take the advice or would it encourage me to do the opposite? Given the pace of change, I don’t think I’m going to have to wait too long to find out.

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