Google Shares Insights Into Browsable Search Results For Fashion Apparel

Google Shares Insights Into Browsable Search Results For Fashion Apparel

Google wants to make it easier for consumers to find the fashions they want.In a blog post Thursday, Google’s Stephanie Horton, director of commerce marketing, said to make online shopping even easier “and more fun, we recently added more browsable search results for fashion and apparel shopping queries. So when you shop for apparel or accessories on Google — like chunky loafers, a lime green dress or a raffia bag — you’ll scroll through a visual feed with various colors and styles, alongside other helpful information like local shops, style guides and videos.”
Horton also shared recent consumer research and search data relating to fashion trends this spring. Horton said some of the top trends right now are Y2K fashion looks, with “products like bucket hats, hobo bags and ankle bracelets” trending as well as the “iconic Clinique ‘Happy’ perfume, Prada crochet bags and linen pants.”

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Regarding the consumer survey, Google found that most fashion, beauty and home shoppers “spend up to two weeks researching clothes or beauty products before they buy them. Many, though, are shopping online just for fun — 65 percent say they often or sometimes shop or browse online when they’re not looking for anything in particular.”
Google’s survey also showed that 60 percent of shoppers say they often or sometimes find inspiration for purchases when they are not actively shopping. For example, 39 percent of respondents seek a specific look or outfit after spotting it on someone else or seeing it online. The poll found that 48 percent of respondents have taken a screenshot of an item they liked, and 70 percent said they searched or bought that item afterward.
The company said this is where its Google Lens app can help. “Just snap a photo or screenshot, and find exact or similar results to shop from,” Horton said.
And to help shoppers try on before they buy, Horton said Google’s AR Beauty was launched “to help users make informed decisions while shopping for cosmetic products online — so you can discover and try on thousands of products from brands like MAC, Estée Lauder and Charlotte Tilbury.”
Consumers can search, discover and try on cosmetics from “a variety of brands carried at Ulta Beauty right in Google Search,” she stated.

Google Introduces First Physical Store in NYC

Google Introduces First Physical Store in NYC

While physical retail races to meet the surge of online shopping ignited by the pandemic, Google — one of the biggest technology companies on Earth — is diving into brick-and-mortar.
On Wednesday, the search giant revealed that it is opening its first store in New York City.
The location, housed on the ground floor of Google’s New York City headquarters building in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, was once a post office as well as a Starbucks. On Thursday at 10 a.m. ET, the space at 76 Ninth Avenue will begin its new life as a key Google touchpoint with the public.

Naturally, the store showcases Google’s array of hardware products. 
PAUL WARCHOL/Courtesy photo

The company worked with architect Suchi Reddy of New York-based Reddymade on a design that’s intentionally clean and minimal in overall aesthetic, to allow the devices to shine. “We did this using the same design principles we use in creating our products, in terms of making sure that the product is helpful and is beautiful, has a sensorial tactile feel to it,” said Ivy Ross, vice president of hardware design, UX and research, in a press briefing on Tuesday.

The shop achieved LEED-certification, thanks to a focus on sustainability for materials such as the flooring, which was made of recycled bottles; energy-efficient lightbulbs and plumbing, among other materials. The company also hired local craftsmen for the furniture.

Google has dabbled with physical retail before, but primarily through pop-ups and other events. Its version of permanent retail now is purpose-built across some 5,000 square feet to showcase the tech company’s ecosystem, from Pixel smartphones and Nest smart home devices to Fitbit trackers and everything in between — including third-party products like smartphone cases and other accessories that work with Google gadgets.

The aesthetic was designed to spotlight Google’s technology and innovation. 
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In a video played during the virtual preview, Ross elaborated on the ethos: “So we really wanted to create a space that was [a] calm and quiet canvas, where you could come and experience all of our products and the different ways that they interact,” she said. “And also to really show our products in context, because we designed them thinking about how they might fit into your life and your home.”
There are walls filled with product — color-coordinated Nest gadgets set in museum-like displays, for instance — and the store carries exclusive Google merchandise that is only available to Chelsea shoppers.

The Nest wall 
PAUL WARCHOL/Courtesy photo

But as plentiful as the merchandise is, the goal isn’t necessarily to push sales. The site acts more like a showroom or experience center, rather than a tech shopping mecca. Multiple stations were designed to let people try out the technologies, and there’s not even a checkout; instead, employees are equipped with devices that can ring customers up. Of course, tech support for Google devices or troubleshooting help is also available onsite.
There’s a natural comparison to Apple’s growing fleet of “genius”-equipped stores, from some of the design elements down to upcoming live sessions. Google plans to hold workshops and classes, as well as other events by local artists and businesses that reflect the neighborhood. From a content standpoint, the programming smacks of Today at Apple.

But there are key differences.
What Google does well is experiment. The company is big on testing, learning and iterating, and it applied the approach to Google Store Chelsea. It built out a full-scale mock-up of the environment in its Mountain View, Calif., retail hangar and, to ensure the experience would be as immersive as possible, it examined every detail, from the store layout to the technology used on the premises.
The testing carried over to Chelsea, explained Jason Rosenthal, Google’s vice president of direct channels and membership. “We’ve had the store open over the course of the last several weeks for Google friends and family,” he said, “so that we can test drive the experience.”
The result is something that’s distinctly Googlesque. Contextual areas set up like living rooms, kitchens and other familiar vignettes encourage visitors to get hands-on with devices and learn how they can fit into their lives. “Discovery boxes” dot the space, offering up diorama-like 3D boxes that feature one or more products and explain their functionality or how some gadgets work together.

Some of the settings were created to resemble home environments, so people can imagine how the tech fits into their daily lives. 
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An entertainment “sandbox” lets visitors play games. 
PAUL WARCHOL/Courtesy photo

A “discovery box” inside the Chelsea store. 
PAUL WARCHOL/Courtesy photo

An attention-getting nook called an “imagination space,” set under a massive lighting feature, offers a rotating lineup of content that gives people “an insider’s view” of services like Google Maps or other nascent Google ideas, Ross said.
They give the public an opportunity to glimpse work that’s in development — “either things that are up and coming or things that you might not usually get [to see],” she added. The company also dedicated three “sandbox” areas, so consumers can check out different features. One darkened space lets consumers try out the Pixel phone’s Night Sight by taking photos in low light in environment.
Google also included some sound-dampening to ensure voice assistant features work well, plus translation powers so people can utter a phrase and hear it back in as many as 24 different languages.

Google’s “imagination space.” 
Courtesy photo

As for hardware gadgets, another distinction from Apple Stores is Google’s use of new physical security technology that lets people play with live devices without cables locking them down. Because playing with dummy devices that don’t turn on or are tied to a desk can hardly be called fun or immersive.

Altogether, it casts the place as a sweeping playspace for all things Google — which is hardly surprising for a company whose campus resembles a playground.

Googlers take time to play chess. 
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Google workers pair work with a swing on a campus bench. 
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But one thing the company seems serious about is getting retail right. It set up a system so it can directly take customer feedback to improve this store and maybe even future ones — although when asked, Google declined to confirm whether it will open more locations.
For now, its sole focus is on Chelsea. According to Rosenthal, the store was years in the making, building off of learnings from years of hosting pop-ups. Finally, the new shop “really gives us a chance to provide an immersive experience around our entire portfolio, help our customers in a really human-to-human experience that, we think, will provide a great introduction to the Google portfolio.”
The choice to open in New York wasn’t random either. “We have a long history in the city,” he explained. “We have over 11,000 full-time employees in New York today. And so we really think of Google Store Chelsea as just a further investment in our commitment to New York and are excited about finding a great consumer interface to New Yorkers and visitors — and really the surrounding business community in the neighborhood.”

Some branded merchandise will only be available at the Chelsea store. 
PAUL WARCHOL/Courtesy photo

Google may be the latest, but it’s not the only major tech company enchanted with brick-and-mortar retail. Apple opened Apple Via del Corso in Rome a couple of weeks ago, and it’s currently in prep mode for its upcoming Tower Theatre store in Los Angeles. On July 1, Microsoft will begin selling products at its “Experience Centers” in London, New York City and Sydney.
Meanwhile, Samsung is amping up physical retail on two fronts: The South Korean electronics giant recently revealed new appointment booking for shoppers in India, while in the U.S., a new deal with Walmart will equip 740,000 associates with Galaxy XCover Pro smartphones. The new “connected associate” initiative will allow workers to clock in through their mobile devices and access schedules, inventory management, Walmart barcode scanning and even push-to-talk features.

Another look at Google’s store interior. 
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These moves come as large retailers across fashion and other sectors reexamine their outposts, weighing whether to use them more like local fulfillment centers, reinvent them as showrooms or shutter them in favor of e-commerce channels. That begs the question of whether there’s still a place for physical stores in a post-COVID-19 world.
At least as far as Big Tech is concerned, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.
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What 2021 May Bring for Big Tech

What 2021 May Bring for Big Tech

Big Tech had a big year in more ways than one, paving the way for what could be a consequential 2021 for the world’s largest technology companies. Or so antitrust advocates hope.
In a year when quarantines and stay-at-home advisories kept people at home — and on the internet — lawmakers and regulators across the political spectrum woke up to the extent of technology’s impact on the public, with seemingly renewed resolve to tame the sector’s excesses.
The “era of self-regulation is over, and congressional action is required,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., at a New York Times event in December.
Cicilline is the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee that wrote a 449-page report released in October that characterized Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google as companies that were once “scrappy, underdog start-ups that challenged the status quo,” but have now become outsized monopolies, akin to the “oil barons and railroad tycoons” of yesteryear.

In the past couple of months, Google and Facebook have been slapped with lawsuits from dozens of states, with the Department of Justice going after Google and the Federal Trade Commission zeroing in on Facebook over antitrust or predatory behavior. Officials have also been looking into Apple and Amazon, whose respective App Store and e-commerce marketplace have drawn other litigation and inquiries in the U.S. and abroad, especially Europe.

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It’s part of a heightening swirl of scrutiny leveled at tech giants over a range of issues, from anticompetitive moves against emerging rivals to questionable policies around data privacy and disinformation. Nor is it restricted to only the U.S. tech titans — the Chinese government also has gone after its largest tech companies in recent months, particularly Alibaba, which may have as much to do with politics and centralized control as it does with consumer protection. Late last month the government fined leading tech companies, including Alibaba and, for allegedly misreporting prices and false promotions.
Underneath it all, the underlying concern is the same — that tech companies have grown too powerful and are wont to abuse their market positions.
One reason platforms have grown to such gargantuan proportions is because of protections such as Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, which legally shields them from liability over the content posted by users.
While various politicians believe Section 230 should be revised, there’s no consensus on what changes need to be made. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a late-breaking “poison pill” tying a much-needed $2,000 stimulus package — demanded by both President Trump and House Democrats — to a blunt repeal of the law, for which the President has also repeatedly called.
This roller-coaster ride will continue into 2021, but whether it slows or ramps up under a new administration is an open question.
The administration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris sits atop a Democratic Party keen on reining in Big Tech, but the president-elect and vice president-elect have been historically friendly to the sector. Their campaign raised massive funds in Silicon Valley and their transition teams include several members from tech’s ranks.

There are high stakes on what happens next. Chase White, an analyst at Height Capital Markets, believes “Biden will largely let the DOJ and FTC take the reins on Big Tech antitrust enforcement,” he said in a note. The DOJ and FTC will likely rely more on court decisions than consent decrees, he contended, which — depending on how they rule — risks setting legal precedent in favor of tech companies.
That would “make pursuing other cases tougher going forward and embolden the companies,” he added.
As for data privacy and misinformation, or Section 230, both sides of the aisle want to see change, but can’t agree on what that should look like.
All of these matters strike at the heart of how online platforms operate, which has far-reaching implications. But for retail specifically, the data privacy question may have the most direct and immediate impact.
“From a technology perspective, there’s always questions about data protection and privacy and what the big technology providers are doing, as they’re creating new customer experiences and new forms for people to interact with,” said Carrie Tharp, vice president of retail and consumer for Google’s cloud division.
She knows that scrutiny over how companies handle privacy and data isn’t going away, but perceptions may hinge more and more on transparency and what consumers are willing to tolerate for the sake of convenience.
“For me, I really see technology companies like Google stepping up and saying, ‘We want that to be in the hands of the end user, of the end customer’.…As we talk about some of these customer experiences we have today, that’s providing value to you as a person, are you willing to share that information?” Tharp continued.
“I think we’re going to continue to see this evolution of people wanting to have understanding and transparency of all this cool technology, and the technology companies rising to that occasion,” she said.
The notion that Big Tech will step up in this and other ways is an optimistic point of view, and one that officials like Cicilline clearly don’t share.
Meanwhile, according to recent reports, companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft seem to be hedging their bets by working to seed candidates in a variety of agencies — including the U.S. Commerce Department, Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs, the State Department and the Department of Defense.
Their success is being determined in real time right now, and it will become even clearer in the weeks and months ahead.

Google Grants $6M to ‘Innovative’ Diversity Projects From Newsrooms

Google Grants $6M to ‘Innovative’ Diversity Projects From Newsrooms

Diversity in news, from who is covered to who is considered an expert, has long been discussed as vital, but a series of newsroom projects are getting funding from Google in an effort to bring truly diverse coverage closer to reality.
As part of its “innovation challenge” this year, the Google News Initiative asked newsrooms to apply with their ideas for closing the gaps in news coverage, which often leaves out the perspectives of different groups of people, be it those identifying as BIPOC or LGBTQ. While the challenge was actually unveiled in late February, before the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life and business along with it, the application deadline was extended to September. All told, Google received 215 applications and ended up selecting 33.

“When we finally closed the application, we were impressed by the number of applications and the quilt of application that we got,” said LaToya Morgan, Google’s head of media presentation. “I read every application and really, it was hard to say no to anyone.”
Other people on the selection committee were Nancy Lane, chief executive officer of the Local Media Association; Donna Ladd, cofounder of the Mississippi Free Press, and Alberto Mendoza, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
Among those projects selected by the group is one from Vox and two from Gannett. Vox, which operates its namesake site, New York Magazine and Recode, among others, is set to create a “comprehensive, inclusive open-sourced style guide and editing resources designed to deliver lasting change.” Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., is set to create something called the “diversity dashboard,” which will use geo-location to show newsrooms which communities are being covered, the topics being covered alongside census data. “The goal is for newsrooms to avoid gaps in coverage and build trust,” the description of the project reads. It’s also creating a database dubbed “Pass the Mic” of expert sources from “underrepresented communities,” including women, people of color and LGBTQ people, that will include the ability to nominate others for inclusion in the database.

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Tackling and automating diversity in sourcing for news stories is one of the more “practical” ideas that Morgan, who stepped into her new role at Google over the summer, is excited to see come out of this challenge. Next City in Pennsylvania was also selected for funding with a tool to track diversity of sources, as did another group of machine learning and tracking tools created by The Lenfest Local Lab, the Brown Institute and The Philadelphia Inquirer and a separate tool created at Ryerson University in Canada.
Aside from Vox and Gannett, most of the projects receiving funding from Google are coming out of smaller newsrooms and organizations. The Educational Video Center in New York is getting funding for its idea to “distribute and monetize youth-produced documentary films” from its archive in an effort to get more youth voices into the public conversation. The Houston Defender is getting funding to simply help in its shift to a more modern, digital publication, and away from a reliance on print, allowing its coverage to better reach the Black and Latino communities it covers.

With the extended application period afforded by the delay in closing this year’s innovation challenge, Morgan said she was able to spend a lot of time doing outreach or “demystifying” what Google was looking for from applicants. 
“In many conversations I had, people saw this as us asking for suggestions on new technology or AI,” Morgan said. “It’s not just tech we’re looking for or the next whizbang idea. Sometimes, innovation is just transforming a business. And do that from where you already are.”
This being the first time Google is giving away money for news projects specifically focused on diversity, Morgan seemed to have her work cut out for her. 
“We did a lot of groundwork, just to make sure people and newsrooms working in diverse communities knew this was a thing,” Morgan said. ‘We’re giving out money, but it’s hard to give it out if people don’t know it exists and aren’t encouraged to apply.”
For More, See:
Google to Pay Some French Publishers for Content
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The New Yorker Goes Beyond Tote Bags With New Online Store

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