Recognizing that people shop both online and in stores during the holiday season, Google has altered its product-search service to help shoppers determine whether the gift they want is in stock at a nearby store.
Google said Monday that it has partnered with more than 70 retailers, including national brands like Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma. The partners have agreed to let Google search their store inventory for items.
For example, a person searching for Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing controller for the Xbox 360 will see a "nearby stores" link in search results. Clicking on the link will yield a list of stores where the popular item is in stock.
Google is seeking additional retailers to join the service. Companies that use retail software from Oracle, JDA or Epicor can work with those software companies directly to share local product data electronically with Google.
In the coming weeks, Google plans to roll out two features to help people narrow their search. One will display in product search results the brands other people are viewing online. The second feature will organize results into sub-categories, so, for example, a search for a TV will retrieve separate lists for LCD and plasma sets.
Finally, Google released a new version of its mobile shopping app. Google Shopper lets people use their mobile phones to search for products. The latest version, Google Shopper 1.3, adds search filters like "price" and "brand" to refine searches.
The ability to find products and places locally, particularly through a mobile phone, is a growing business for Google. During its recent third-quarter financial call, Senior VP Jonathan Rosenberg said that the annual run-rate for mobile advertising had reached $1 billion.
Last month, Google started a geo-centric format for search results called Place Search. The service organizes results around a specific location and presents them as pins on a map. Such a service would be useful in finding stores near a person's location.