June 14, 2001, 12:00 AM

What Switchboard learned from its customers

The idea to allow consumers to search the web for product inventory at local stores came not from some developer’s head but from customers.

The idea for Westboro, Mass.-based Switchboard Inc.’s Nearbuy Merchandising service, which allows consumers to use their cell phones to search web-based local store inventories for specific products they want to buy, came not from some developer’s head but from customers misunderstanding of how Switchboard’s yellow pages searches work, the company tells Internet Retailer. “We found consumers online would type in actual product names in the yellow pages. People are searching for products all the time,” says Luke O’Brien, vice president of marketing and merchandising services.

Switchboard this week began rolling out the service to retailers and consumers. To use the service, consumers must key in the product they are searching for on a telephone keypad. O’Brien says that while some observers have been skeptical that consumers would use a cellular phone keypad to type in product names, Switchboard sees very complex product descriptions on a regular basis through the service. “Someone actually typed out ‘Arid xxtra dry with the gold top,’” he says.

Retailers must update their web-based inventory with Switchboard periodically.

Switchboard reports that more than 4 million consumers used its site in May.

 

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