TheFind moves into local shopping search

December 12, 2007

LocalsearchTheFind CEO Siva Kumar wrote us yesterday to tell us of a new development this morning over at the California-based CSE allowing shoppers to locate products at nearby stores.

The local shopping search is fully integrated with normal searches performed on the site.  It comes replete with a pretty little map highlighting merchant locations that carry items matching your search.

One critique I have is that this capability isn’t immediately clear when I’m browsing search results.  I have to check a small box to the left of my results to hone them down to local items.  It’d be nice to see the number of local items and stores indicated at the top of the page, immediately after the “Our Web search found x# results from y# stores for [product].”

I had a few questions about how this affects local merchants and how TheFind is getting the data, so I asked Siva a few questions.  They’re posted below.

What can a small, local merchant do to get included in these listings?
We will soon be augmenting “Add a Merchant” link at the bottom of the home page to include local address/contact information data entry fields so any merchant can add his/her locations. At present, you can email “talk at thefind.com” to provide this information and we will add it to your merchant record.

How are you getting this info – did you partner with someone?
We crawl of all of the store Web sites and using this crawled data we comprehensively compile the contact and location information. Geocoding of the addresses and maps are done through available external Web services (mashups).

Does this put local merchants in competition with those that are only based online?

In some ways it does make it competitive and in some ways it doesn’t. 86% of the consumers say they do search online and buy offline, but this behaviour is not in any way affecting the rapid growth of online shopping by the very same set of consumers.

In our consumer testing, there were cases where some shopping categories (clothes, shoes, household products, etc.) prompted a need to see an item physically and in other cases it was the ease of returning or exchanging the item that made local stores more attractive. In yet another case it was the immediacy of need – “want it today” that made local a preference. But, equally there were a lot of people willing to buy online for a better price or the lowest total cost (no tax, free shipping), better availability of sizes and colours and convenience (don’t have to drive and waste time at the mall).

We are just making these tradeoffs a lot more easy for consumers in using a single search site for any and all shopping search situations.

Is this a move into a new category — competing against startups doing only local shopping search?
We are just building a next generation search engine to address the two major trends in online shopping – (a) rapid growth of lifestyle categories like apparel, and (b) rapid growth in consumer usage of the Internet for searching offline purchases. Its not possible to separate these two trends out as lifestyle goods categories often are intertwined with local stores and hence when we started we focused on building this complete solution – it just took a while to do both parts. The artifice of having separate and distinct local shopping search sites and online shopping search sites will quickly disappear as I believe folks like Shopping.com are working to add the local capability (at least this is what their recent press release with CI claims).

Companies like NearbyNow and others have their business models and I don’t think we are competing with these models. For example, NearbyNow works with mall management companies in a B2B type model to power shopping search for malls and it also operates a mobile marketing platform inside these malls. These are not what we aim to do at all…

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Great stuff.

As of now, I think this is the most comprehensive / beautiful / simple local product search effort I’ve seen to date (competitors being NearbyNow, ShopLocal, Krillion).  Any thoughts on experiences of TheFind vs. these competitors?

Written by Scott Hurff — scott.hurff at channeladvisor