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Google Throws Retail Inventory into the Local Mix

Google has introduced a new application that lets mobile users search local retailers' inventory to see if a particular item is in stock. Only a handful of stores are participating - Best Buy, Sears, Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn among others - but even this limited number adds a new twist to the local search and ad markets.

Essentially users type in the name of a product and the app pulls up the local participating retailers that carry it. If there is a blue dot next to the retailer, that means the product is in stock.

Missing Link

The app fills in a missing piece in geo-locational services - retailers’ back end inventory. Although as the app’s short list of participating retailers illustrate, this is not an easy piece to complete. Not all retailers will have the sophisticated back-end systems to track inventory at the local level in real time, which makes its adoption limited.

Still, though, it illustrates how important the local market has become to search, retailers, publishers and of course, advertisers.

Other recent examples include:

  • Local online media site Citysearch and SEO provider OrangeSoda are partnering to provide CityGrid Complete. An extension of City Grid, the product is an online ad network focused on local content that launched in January. "Every search engine has introduced local directory listings prominently in their organic search results and this has given small businesses another way to get featured in the search engine results real estate," said Jay Bean, CEO of OrangeSoda.
  • The recently introduced Poynt iPhone app brings together search, local and augmented realty for a real-time view of businesses, people, retailers and theaters around the user. It also integrates with other features like the address book, maps and, of course, phone.
  • The New York Times and AOL are rolling out hyper-local news initiative in select markets.

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