Google, StepUp and Retail Inventory Map Feeds
Google has started to include StepUp Commerce retail feeds into its mapping solution. This allows consumers to search for local retail products from the StepUp merchant base then click to view real-time inventory.
We have been speculating about the inclusion of inventory map feeds that eventually move to real-time updates since we became aware of Google's plans to implement an advertising solution directly onto its maps. The addition of local store inventory is perfectly suited to a mapping solution as are real estate, coupons and many other categories. We expect other Google Base categories to follow.
TKG has issued two advisories about this topic in the past several months. Google's plans were confirmed during a 2006 Q1 earnings conference call where we heard evidence to support our hypothesis. Addressing an analyst question about local search usage and revenue around the Local Business Listings launch, Jonathan Rosenberg, senior vice president, product management and marketing at Google, offered this:
Local definitely is becoming increasingly important in terms of advertising revenue … What we most recently introduced is called Local Business Ads … In the very long run, the thing that is fundamentally going to change here is when you're linking inventory availability into local systems, you're really going to see a significant increase [in usage and revenue*]
(*Note: Usage and revenue was implied by the question and was added for clarification.)
We agree with Jonathan's statement.
StepUp started signing up independent retailers in Q4 of 2004. Soon after, it was pushing feeds for 800 retailers into Google Base. As of April 2006, it was pushing approximately 10,000 feeds from retail locations to various partners like Google and Verizon SuperPages with many more distribution deals pending. StepUp attributes part of the growth to the value relative to its low price point. It charges $50 per retail category (analogous to Yellow Page headings) to manage the feed process for merchants. When you consider the list of services StepUp provides, $50 a month is a bargain.
The following screen shots were taken from a search for Maytag in San Francisco.
There are some obvious product enhancements that need to be implemented (e.g., carrying search terms over, link names, etc.) but it's an exciting first step. No doubt the real-time inventory content will migrate directly to the map in future iterations.
Google map showing StepUp content
Map page to store inventory