A number of local retailers I know always have a host of good reasons not to have an e-commerce site. All of witch are often easily validated and I find myself shaking my head up and down as they are dishing them out. The reality is that the benefits of e-commerce tools for local stores is starting to outweigh the costs. Today 80% of searchers research online before buying in a product within a 10-20 mile radius. The good news for local merchants is that Google is aware of this situation and has structured its results to support this.
Here is the compelling argument for local retailers to have an e-commerce site and to participate in a couple of free Google tools.
Google Product Search (AKA Google Merchant, AKA Google Base) which is a free product feed that is displayed in the Google shopping result, can now be linked to your Google Places account. When a potential local client searches for a product in the Universal search, product results are now biased to local availability where it was once biased to e-commerce companies. The nearby stores link takes you to Google maps result mashed up with a product availability and pricing. This links the Google Places account with the Google Merchant feed and displays results based on inventory availability.
Here is an example:
Local retailers are constantly complaining about competitive pressure from e-commerce sites. There are two huge competitive advantages that a local retailer has over e-commerce competitors; the touch-feel-try- on factor and the instant gratification factor. Now local retailers have the opportunity to harness the power of the same tools they have been complaining about as a reason for losing sales, to capture sales from an e-commerce competitor.
Based on my limited research, the larger multi-channel retailers are the current winners of this competitive advantage right now. The relative costs of implementing this solution is quite low and presents a local retailer an opportunity to increase there visibility locally on the web and level the playing field with the e-commerce players. So, local small retailers, it is your turn to harness the power of e-commerce to drive in-store sales.
Now you can capture a local customer opportunity when someone is searching for a product on the web using two free Google tools.