Google Nov. 15 unveiled an improved Google Product Search service, partnering with retail giants such as Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma to surface goods for online shoppers who are nearby.
The search engine partnered with more than 70 retailers and software makers such as Oracle, JDA and Epicor to index inventory of local Best Buys and other outlets. The software makers provide special adapters to funnel retailers' inventory data to Google Product Search.
For example, consumers searching Google Product Search for products can click the "nearby stores" link to see where it's in stock at participating stores near their location. Then they can purchase it online or drive to that store to size up the product to better decide if they want to buy it.
The idea is to save shoppers time from calling or driving to stores to check product availability, a boon as the holiday season prepares for the Black Friday shopping dirge Nov. 26.
While searchers can't buy the goods from Google.com they way they can go to Amazon.com and buy products directly from that e-commerce Website, they can get a better handle on what local shops have in store. Amazon.com doesn't help with the local shopping experience in this manner.
Google also extended this product search capability to the mobile phone with Google Shopper, which helps shoppers driving around comparison-shop for merchandise with their Android phones and find the best place to buy them online or in a store nearby.
People use Shopper by calling up the app on their Android phone and pointing their phone's camera at books, CDs, DVDs and video games, along with most barcodes, to get search results about those items on Google.
The new Google Shopper 1.3 app employs new search filters such as "price" and "brand" to help users refine their search, accompanying the existing local availability, voice search and barcode scanning capabilities to get product info online.
Finally, Google said it aped brick and mortar stores with two new features called "popular products" and "aisles" to help people discover new products and get details about them.
A user searching for "camera lenses" on Google Product Search will surface the lenses other people are finding online. "Aisles" helps users check out products by organizing results into subcategories others have found helpful.
"For example, if you're looking for a new TV, you can choose between display types like LCD and plasma. If you're interested in camera lenses for that brand new SLR, you can shop by the aperture of the lens," said Sameer Samat, director of product management for Google Product Search.
Google's Product Search upgrades come nearly three months after the search engine purchased visual search engine Like.com, which helps people match clothes and other apparel online and purchase them from retailers.