Retail inventory has been revving up as a new, highly mobile-oriented tool for retailers to highlight stock on hand and steer consumers to store locations. It is an important lead-generating feature on new shopping portals, such as FindnSave. Research by JiWire shows that 62 percent of consumers seek product availability when researching goods online. The company also notes that “low consideration goods found in local shopping centers” are core to inventory promotion.
Key entrants in the space include JiWire, via its acquisition of NearByNow; eBay, via its $75 million acquisition of Milo.com last year; ShopSavvy; and now Google, which is diving in via Google Product Search, a spin-off of Google Base, the now defunct classifieds aggregation product.
Vancouver-based Wishpond, an angel-funded company, is another entrant. Wishpond has largely positioned itself as a platform, equally focusing on inventory from both local and national retailers. The others have focused more explicitly on national retailers.
The company has signed up 1,700 retailers in the U.S. and Canada and seeks to differentiate itself by enabling merchants to upload their product inventory in a variety of ways. In addition to providing retailers with free self-serve management tools, merchants can import their inventory via Web crawling, shopping cart plug-ins, batch upload, through their Point of Sales system and other methods. Wishpond also goes beyond inventory by adding real-time price checks, stock availability checking and merchant meta data. It offers these data to publishers and mobile app developers through an open API.
We don’t comment here on how unique these solutions are. All the contenders in the space claim to be unique. But the combination of broader reach and inventory upload options have helped Wishpond build an inventory of 6 million products, or twice as many as reported by Milo.com, which has some local stores but is more focused on a number of large, core accounts.
“The consumer starts their search for a product or item, not a retailer,” says Wishpond founder and CEO Ali Tajsekandar. “We help retailers get their products seen by local consumers wherever they are searching online — Facebook, Twitter, Google, Mobile and more.” By working with Wishpond, retailers will see their product inventory distributed to search engines and other sites where consumers are most likely to search for it, including Google Product Search, Facebook, Twitter and various mobile apps.
Wishpond also helps companies manage their online promotions on various ad channels and social networks. “We can help a merchant set up a Facebook “store” in a few clicks,” he notes. “Once connected, the fans can browse promotional products or search full inventory and find location details on the nearest branch that carries a given product.”
While monetizing has not been a core focus as it ramps up, Tajsekandar notes that Wishpond has a program for upselling stores to various SEM packages for merchants that want to give their inventory and promotions greater visibility.