Google has announced a new feature for online shoppers and merchants in the U.K., called Nearby Shops. The feature is already available in Google’s U.S. Product Search, and was rolled out in the U.K. on Wednesday.
Consumers searching for items on Google Products are now shown a map that indicates the locations of nearby stores that sell the item or items similar to the one typed into the search query. The feature matches stores listed in Google Places with the products in a retailer’s Merchant Center Account, so merchants will appear in Nearby Shops product search results once they have linked the two with the same URL.
Google’s announcement comes a day after eBay announced the integration of a product inventory tool called GiftsNearby with the local shopping site it acquired earlier in the month, Milo. Competition in the local commerce sector, particularly where online research drives offline purchasing at local stores, is already fierce among the top online powers and only expected to grow even fiercer in 2011.
Other recent improvements to Google Product Search include the mobile product inventory tool gained through the acquisition of Blue Dot, and two new search tools called Popular Products and Aisles that list items by search volume and sort them into sub-categories, respectively. The online-research, offline-purchase space has been estimated by Forrester Research to be worth a staggering $917 billion, and Google and others are aggressively trying to establish their places in the market.