Google Product Search Displaying Nearby Stores in the US: Will This Kill Online Retailers Who Don’t Have Physical Locations?

Just in case you missed it, Nearby Stores results are displaying within Google Products in the Universal Search results. This was released for the UK in December 2010 and is also available in the US (more below on how to sign up).

Here's an example of Nearby Stores in Universal Search:

I thought, “Hmmm, this is interesting!” Then I clicked on the nearby stores:

Wow, that’s really great! The Vitamin Shoppe’s listings from Google Products in Universal Search are showing local stores where you can purchase this product - really great for sites that have physical locations.

This is also where it gets a little dicey. It seems like Google Products is moving away from listing the top three to five online feeds with a website or company name to listing grouped prices for a particular product. I searched for a few other products in the bodybuilding supplements space, and they all returned product images with prices, similar to above. So here’s an example of the older results format using snowboard boots:

These results show actual websites from the feeds, but also incorporate Nearby Stores. This seems a little fairer for brands that do the work to get their products in the top spots. If the website happens to have a local spot, you can see their location as well – it’s a win-win situation.

Taking it back to the example of Xtend, when I clicked in the product's image from the above Universal Search Google Products results, this is the page I landed on:

Google Products is giving you a choice of purchasing the product online or at a nearby store. In this instance the online stores are listed first - a win for etailers, but the places are just below. The user won't have to wait for the product to get shipped AND won't have to pay shipping. Is this going to harm etailers if a user sees a local store right around the corner? And if Google is grouping products according to price now, how important do the number of reviews become? Should sites only go after a few quality reviews to ensure quality products and customer service?

As with many of Google's changes, I'm usually hesitant to adopt a positive attitude in the beginning. Displaying prices in results as opposed to websites helps a user find the best price, so I understand Google's reasoning. However, I'm concerned grouping by price will make it harder for sites with a physical location to compete.

What are your thoughts on this? Will this simply create price wars?

How Do You Appear for Nearby Stores?

  1. Create a Google Places Account
  2. Create a Google Merchant Account

I know, that was simple, but the sign up instructions are a little confusing. Essentially if you have a Google Merchant Account and a Google Places account, you're in. One caveat, you need to use the same URL for both account listings. Here are Google's words on how they link Nearby Stores and your Merchant Center account, "The linking between the Google Places account and the Merchant Center account is done based on the website that you provide. If you want to appear in the Nearby Stores feature, please ensure that the URL in both accounts is the same."

To take it one step further for local businesses, you can create an account with Google Local Shopping, a service that lets users find and buy products that are in stock at nearby locations. This is an application process whereby Google accepts you into the program, and not everyone gets in! So make sure you submit complete and accurate data and feeds for your locations and products.

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