Building ecommerce, promotions, search, social and same day delivery services around store inventory is one of those high concept ideas that always make so much sense but have been tough to build around. Key players in the space currently include Google, Retailigence and others. Others, such as eBay, have pulled out or shrunk their efforts.
We’ve been especially interested in Walmart’s decision last week to pull its feeds from Google’s Local Inventory Ads (formerly known as Local Product Listing Ads). Launched in 2013 to complement Google’s e-commerce oriented Shopping ads, the ads allow stores to highlight local inventory and prices, and point shoppers to specific stores. Macy’s, REI and Office Depot are among users of the Google service, but most top retailers are still not participating.
Some of those that do apparently have been holding their noses. To participate with Google, they need to provide comprehensive inventory information. Walmart and others have apparently worried this information could be used against them, showing retailers where they can compete on price against it in different parts of the country.
Perhaps more importantly, retailers are worried that their feeds are infrequently updated and can contain inaccuracies and steer shoppers down the wrong path. Such feeds also may freeze the ability of retailers to engage in variable pricing strategies (i.e. “one hour afternoon specials”). In our view, Walmart’s pull out doesn’t mean that Google and others can’t succeed. But it does mean that it will need to make adjustments to work with dominant retailers that have a lot at stake.
Are there better strategies to collect and leverage inventory at local stores? We’ll be talking inventory strategies with retail expert and former Krillion CEO Sherry Thomas-Zon at BIA/Kelsey NATIONAL in Dallas March 25-27.