New site to find items worn by celebrities

  1. Read this in today's Wall Street Journal.

    Starting today, a new Web site called Like.com (Like Visual Search - Find things by Appearance with our new Likeness technology) displays recent photos of about a thousand celebrities (mostly female), with a focus on their purse, jewelry, shoes or watch -- but not their clothing. Beside a close-up of the celebrity item, Like.com shows similar products with different price tags and/or different brands, along with a link to buy the product online.
     
  2. One of the magazines I buy does that all the time-it might the fashion issues of People. Will have to check out that site-thanks Coach!
     
  3. I haven't tried out the site yet. LMK what you think.
     
  4. Shopping Site Offers a Way to Raid a Celebrity’s Closet
    By BOB TEDESCHI
    New York Times
    November 13, 2006

    For fashionistas in lower tax brackets, reproducing the latest hip look from Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton can mean endless clicking through online retail sites and hit-or-miss searches on Google or shopping engines like Shopping.com.

    Now a new search site, Like.com, offers a shortcut for the budget-minded wannabe. The site, rolled out last week, relies on artificial intelligence technology to search images on the Web, and serve up goods for sale that visually match items on a shopper’s wish list.

    Visitors to the site search for products in one of two ways. First, they may type in “red strappy shoes” or silver earrings and receive pages filled with images that match the description, along with prices and links to the product pages of the Web sites where the items are sold.

    Or users may browse through selected items in the wardrobes of about a dozen celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Simpson and choose, say, a pair of the dangling silver earrings Ms. Johansson wore to the premiere of the Woody Allen movie “Scoop.” The site then searches for similar earrings, returning more than 8,000 pairs ranging in price from $40 to $8,000.

    Analysts and retailers say they are impressed by the new site. Some executives at competing search engines, like Ask.com, play down its claimed innovations, saying the searches are not precise enough. Still, there appears to be general consensus that whatever its strengths and weaknesses, there is nothing on the Web quite like Like, at least at the moment.

    “There are a lot of technologies out there doing image searches, but this is the only one doing it in a retail setting, and pulling in the shopping comparison piece,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester Research, a consulting firm. “This is really new and innovative, and it’s one of those buzzworthy sites that’ll generate a lot of traffic.”

    The site’s technology is limited at the moment to searching for items within four categories — watches, shoes, handbags and jewelry — which happen to be among the fastest-growing retail segments online.

    How good a search engine is Like.com? “It works good enough,” said Munjal Shah, Like.com’s chief executive. “We’ve found that this is an application where the failings of the technology can turn out to be an asset. People will look at an error and say, ‘I didn’t know there was another item that was close, but with a different design.’ ”

    “So there’s a serendipity factor here,” Mr. Shah added. “And it’s also still orders of magnitude better than the alternative.”

    Google’s “Froogle” shopping search engine does not allow users to choose items from a celebrity’s wardrobe and find similar goods, but searches for “red strappy shoes” returned many of the same items that turned up on Like.com, with few mismatches. (Google did not return calls or e-mail messages seeking comment.)

    Apostolos Gerasoulis, an Ask.com executive vice president who oversees the company’s search technology, said Like.com’s approach is “interesting,” but he also said image search is “still in a primitive stage.” He claimed that the image-search technology on Ask.com, which is owned by the Barry Diller company IAC/InterActiveCorp, would produce a more refined version of image-based shopping search.

    “We are looking at this, yes, but we can’t afford to go out with a product without having the best quality,” he said.

    Like.com also faces the steep challenge of competing with more generalized search engines and a long list of fairly well known shopping search sites like Shopping.com, Shopzilla, PriceGrabber and others. Mr. Shah said he would spend money on traditional forms of marketing, “but I’m a big believer in viral,” or word-of-mouth marketing.

    Like.com represents a fall-back plan of sorts for Mr. Shah, who originally used the technology behind Like.com to create Riya, which helps users organize their digital photos. That service has been popular among users and investors, having attracted $19.5 million from venture capitalists including Bay Partners and Leapfrog Ventures, but Mr. Shah said it had a doomed business plan, because there were not enough ways to make money from it.

    So Mr. Shah and his team, which is based in San Mateo, Calif., took a new approach with the same technology. Riya’s service analyzes digital photos for multiple attributes, including shapes, colors and textures, among many others, and assigns to the image a detailed signature. Then when someone requests “red strappy shoes,” or clicks on an image of them from a celebrity’s photo, the service scans images in its database that most closely match that description.

    Like.com earns a commission of 5 to 15 percent from Amazon, Ice.com, Zappos and other retailers each time a user clicks on something they see on Like and buys from that retailer. Mr. Shah said the site was limited to just a few product categories because those categories performed the best during early tests. Like.com will add clothing next, followed by home and garden items and other goods.

    The addition of those categories will, Mr. Shah said, put further distance between Like.com and other image search engines that rely mainly on users to type in item descriptions. “Trying to describe a pattern on a rug — that’s when you need this kind of search,” he said. In the future, users will also be able to upload photos of items they are looking for, and the service will search for matches.

    Retailers said they welcomed the new service, especially given the timing. “Having Like.com come in right before the big holiday push bodes well for us,” said Carel Hearon, marketing manager for eLuxury.com, an online fashion retailer owned by LVMH.

    And because search engines continue to grow more important as a source of customers for online retailers, Like.com should have little trouble attracting at least initial interest from online merchants. One big benefit for the company, though, is that it charges merchants only if a customer clicks on an item, while search engines like Google typically charge a fee each time a customer clicks through to an advertiser’s site.

    As a result, Like.com is a nearly risk-free marketing alternative for online retailers like Scott Savitz, chief executive of Shoebuy.com, an InterActiveCorp property based in Boston. “Any time another company is representing your brand there’s always some risk,” Mr. Savitz said. “But yes, the onus really is on them to succeed.”