Search giant Google Inc.s price comparison service now points users to shops or merchants that have a sought-after product in stock, but dont necessarily have a way to order it online.
The move is a significant one, say analysts. Inventory information from small and midsize businesses is difficult to come by, mainly because the businesses arent that Web sophisticated and/or lack the resources to pitch an aggressive online battle.
Google, taking a cue from online communities like Craigslist, has managed to create a way to get this valuable information.
Its recently unleashed Google Base, a listings service populated by contributions from its users. Google Base will ultimately feed Froogle with the needed details.
Regardless of how they do it, Greg Sterling, an analyst with The Kelsey Group, expects Googles competitors to react.
"Ultimately, everybody is going to have to do something like this," he said.
Shopping.com, Shopzilla and Yahoo, Inc. lead the online price comparison segment. Froogle ranks fifth.
Because Google Base is relatively new, about two weeks old, and somewhat barren, Google is using listings from San Francisco-based StepUp Commerce Inc. and ShopLocal LLC, based in Chicago.
Google is motivated in part to attract last-minute shoppers. Procrastinators usually ignore online price comparison sites, largely because the process involves having the product shipped through the mail. Google is pointing people to the stores themselves, not their Web site.
"Shoppers can now find that must-have gift without running all over town," a Google spokeswoman said.