Google Throws Retail Inventory into the Local Mix

Published on March 12, 2010 | Comments: 0
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, it 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. Two recent examples of retailers offering customers mobile geo-locational services and access to inventory are The North Face and Blockbuster.

The North Face Sends Texts to Users Near Stores

Vertical outdoor retailer The North Face is taking advantage of geo-targeting capabilities on mobile devices to send text messages to potential customers whenever they are near a store that carries North Face gear. The campaign is based in and around New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Boston, and text alerts are sent only to those who have opted in to receive such messages, reports The New York Times. The North Face campaign was put together by location-based mobile ad company Placecast, which works by drawing a virtual “fence” around different locations. When a person enters the fenced area, the text message is sent. For the campaign, Placecast created 1,000 fenced areas in and around the cities where the North Face has many stores. The North Face also chose locations where there is a lot of snow and rain, so it could tailor its messages to the weather.

Putting Blockbuster in Customers’ Pockets

Media entertainment retailer Blockbuster, Inc. is providing customers with mobile access to a variety of information, including store inventory, through a new free app for iPhone and iPod Touch. The new Blockbuster app enables customers to browse the retailer’s complete catalog of movies and TV shows, as well as check real-time store inventory. In addition, the app allows customers to build and manage an online queue of titles for future rental, with real-time adding, deleting and reordering; as well as locate stores based on their current location or another address. In the future, Blockbuster says it will add more features to the app, such as search and inventory check for games, in-store movie reservations, movie downloads and other customer-requested and convenience-based features.

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