November 17, 2010, 10:15 AM

Google brings local store availability to mobile phones

Consumers searching for products on the go can find out if items are in-stock.

Lead Photo

Google Inc. announced yesterday it is now showing mobile phone and desktop users not only stores nearby that carry the items they are looking for, but also stores where the item is in stock.

Finish Line is one of the first to use the new Google feature called Local Availability. The mobile version of the tool is available in Google’s Android app  called Google Shopper as well as on the mobile version of Google.com. The feature uses a smartphone’s GPS geolocation detection capabilities to recognize where a shopper is and show her nearby stores where an item is in stock so she doesn’t waste a trip. Shoppers also can enter a ZIP code if they want to search inventory in stores near a different location. For each store, Google offers directions, a map, a phone number and a link to the retailer’s web site.

The Local Availability feature in the Android app offers a few handy extras in the way a shopper can search for an item. App users can search by text, bar code scanning and voice. And for some items such as books and music, consumers can search by taking a picture of a product.

“Mobile shoppers want what they want, and they want it now,” says Sam Sato, Finish Line’s president and chief merchandising officer. “We are happy to team with Google to give mobile and desktop users a fast and easy way to find the shoes they want—in the right size and the right color—in stock now at their nearby Finish Line store. It’s a great way to bring customers to our stores for immediate shopping gratification and will take holiday shopping to a new level of ease this season.”

Right now about 70 retailers are sharing product inventory with Google to help drive shoppers to their stores. Retailers can submit local inventory data directly to Google via a data feed, or they can use adaptors for their retail software built by JDA Software Corp., Epicor Corp. or Oracle Corp. to provide the data, Google says.

The service, which is free for retailers, is open to merchants of all sizes. However, many on board now are large retailers with the sophisticated inventory management systems needed to provide Google with instant stock updates. Google says it will soon launch tools to help small and medium-sized businesses more easily share real-time inventory data so they can use the service as well.

Google says despite online sales growing at a quicker clip, 93% of shopping is still done in stores and 7% online. It says it’s trying to combine online shopping benefits of being able to research and locate items  with the store shopping benefits of seeing and testing or trying on an item in person.

“This holiday season, and going forward, we’re excited to be working with leading retailers to help shoppers find the perfect gift in a store nearby, whether they’re searching from their laptop or their phone,” says Sameer Samat, Google product director for shopping.

Other retailers using Local Availability include Macy’s, Bloomingdales and OfficeMax.

Finish Line is No. 166 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, Macy’s is No. 20, OfficeMax is No. 7.

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