There are a handful of companies that have been building local product inventory databases, many of them under the radar. They include Krillion, NearbyNow, Shopatron, Where2GetIt, Channel Intelligence, and ShopLocal. Krillion was the first to start syndicating that data. But NearbyNow is now going to take its billion product database and make it available in the near future through a free API. It’s working first to integrate the inventory data with some selected partners (TheFind is the first announced). But eventually anyone will be able to tap into it.
In my view this is a radical development for online shopping and will mean that search engines, comparison shopping sites, verticals, and individual developers (think mashups) will be able to use the data. Beyond Krillion and NearbyNow, some of the other companies mentioned above will likely start syndicating their data soon too, partly in reaction to this development.
NearbyNow allows users to “reserve online/pick up in store” any product available in the database. Currently that functionality is only available through shopping mall sites that NearbyNow hosts. But that will change as the data are broadly syndicated.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently found that the internet plays a “tactical” but relatively minor role in influencing consumer purchase behavior (at least in the three categories studied: music, cellphones, and real estate). However, other studies and data show the internet being used as an integral part of consumer shopping across the board.
The availability of data online (and in mobile) that shows consumers where they can find products in local stores is extremely powerful and conforms to existing behavior (research online, buy offlline).
I’ve got more discussion and detail on my personal blog, Screenwerk.