Google Shopping Gets More Local

Google's Shopping service is adding features to help smartphone and desktop computer users find what they are seeking right in their own neighborhoods.

Google Shopping has recently unveiled several new capabilities to make it easier for online shoppers to buy what they are seeking from stores close to where they live and work.

The updates, which include product listing ads that display where the items can be purchased locally, as well as local storefronts where shoppers can peruse other inventory, were announced by Paul Bankhead, the senior product manager for Google Shopping, in an Oct. 7 post on the Google Commerce Blog.

"For example, someone searching for a new fragrance may see an ad letting her know it's available at a nearby store," wrote Bankhead. "After clicking the ad, she'll see product and availability information for that fragrance, along with similar items in stock at the store. She can search other available products, find store hours, and get directions. If she still needs more information, she can call the store or visit the website directly from the local storefront. Below are examples of how these features appear on mobile and desktop devices."

These local availability ads and the featured local storefronts appear on search feeds managed through the Google Merchant Center, according to Bankhead. This data "allows retailers to provide users with up-to-date, item-level price and availability information for each physical store," he wrote. "Participating retailers pay for clicks on the Product Listing Ad to the local storefront on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. All clicks and interactions on the local storefront are free."

The new local features are seen by Google as a way to help local retailers take advantage of Google Shopping searches to increase their sales in their physical stores, Bankhead wrote. So far, the new features are available to a limited number of U.S. retailers, but Google is looking to expand them in the future, he wrote.

In July, Google began making some changes to how people shop online using its services when it announced that it would shut down its stand-alone Google Shopper app on Aug. 30. The company wants to transition users to instead shop online using the browser-based Google Shopping for search on desktops or the Google Search app on mobile devices. The idea is that Google wants to reduce the number of competing services it offers to do the same activities, such as online shopping.

That's where Google Shopping came in, to give users the opportunity to search directly on Google (or use the Google Search app on mobile devices), according to the company. Google Shopping aims to feature more than 1 billion products from more than 100,000 sellers. Google made the move because each week an increasing number of people are doing their searches and buying using mobile devices.

The decision to drop the Shopper app is certainly not unprecedented. For the last several years, Google has been purging lesser-used products and streamlining its offerings as part of annual "spring cleaning" rounds that have ended a host of apps and services, including the shutdown of the Google Reader RSS service this past July 1. Google began its housecleaning projects in 2011. Other services that have been ended include Google Building Maker, Google Cloud Connect and Google Voice App for BlackBerry.