Announced 2 months ago, the integration of NearbyNow local inventories into TheFind is now live. When doing a mouse-over on some products, you now get a “Check local inventories” button next to product details.
This button leads you to a page co-branded with NearbyNow, where you can choose the local shop you are interested in, give more details regarding the size / color / quantity you want, indicate if you want to hold the product at the store if it is available, enter your email / phone number to get info if the product is available or not… Yes, you cannot know in real-time if the product is available or not in your local store; you have to wait 10 minutes to get the answer via e-mail or SMS. It’s clearly not an ideal implementation as it’s somehow breaking the user experience – difficult to answer to the question: “should I buy online or offline” when you have to wait for 10mn to get results for a single shop – but we can only hope NearbyNow (or similar companies) will offer real “real-time” local inventories in the near future.
However, what is more disturbing for me is the way those “Check local inventories” buttons are displayed on the site. I searched for a “Canon EF-S macro lens – 60 mm” for my camera, with my local preferences set as the local stores within 10 miles of Santa Clara, CA (where Yahoo! has some offices :) ). I got 198 results with online+local merchants, and only 5 local results when filtering on local items. Out of those 5 local results, only one got the “Check local inventories”. It appears the “Check local inventories” buttons are added only on products whose seller has an online presence and also brick-and-mortar stores whose inventory can be checked with NearbyNow. This is a pretty restrictive implementation, and doesn’t really allow to choose to buy online or offline.
I think what I’m missing on TheFind is SKU grouping (product matching as we call it at Kelkoo): I’m looking for a “Canon EF-S macro lens – 60 mm“; I want to get all the online shops that are selling this product, but also all the offline stores close to the place I live; so that I can decide whether to shop online or offline.
Anyway, it’s great seeing this integration live: