Google March 11 formally rolled out a feature for its Google Product Search for mobile application that lets shoppers see whether stores like Best Buy and Sears have products in stock at nearby locations.
Google Product Search for mobile with local inventory lets people use their mobile phones to search and find products sold by Best Buy, Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, Sears Pottery Barn and other participating retailers.
Users of Google Android, Palm WebOS or Apple iPhone services who have enabled the My Location feature can look for the blue dots in the search results to see if products are available in a local store.
If there is a blue dot associated with a product, users can tap the "In stock nearby" link to go to the seller's page. This will tell users whether the product is "in stock" nearby, or in "limited availability" near them.
Gundotra used this service to check whether a Canon EOS camera was in stock at a local Best Buy store within a couple miles of his location in Mountain View, Calif. (Google's headquarters).
Users may access Google Product Search for mobile with local inventory by navigating to Google.com in their mobile Web browser, tapping on the "More" link and then choosing the "Shopping" option.
Google Product Search for mobile with local inventory is a smart way to connect users to local businesses, which should bring more businesses into the Google Local Business Center and ultimately more advertising for the search engine.
While some say the service has too few retailer participants and doesn't always surface those that have joined, Google clearly recognizes the power of connecting users to these retailers.
The search engine, which failed to buy local search service Yelp late last year, has been pushing its LBC hard in the last several months, pairing Google Maps with location sharing to bring consumers and businesses closer together.
The service also comes as mobile commerce via smartphones is on the upswing. Market researcher Compete found that 36 percent of consumers said they would like to receive mobile grocery coupons.
Moreover, some 29 percent said they want cell phone apps that scan product barcodes for an offer or discount, and 26 percent want offers they can pursue at their leisure, as well as coupons from movie theaters.
Clearly, users are waking up to the power of their smartphones.
Internet companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter want to be at the center of the perfect storm of location sharing, social networking and mobile commerce. Startups such as Foursquare and Gowalla are right there with them.