Mobile tech is here to stay – streamlining once mundane tasks with ease. Nowhere is this movement more evident than in marketing. Today the trend seems to be hyper-local advertising, and brick and mortar retailers seem to be the big winners here. Where it used to be common to hear predictions of the end to brick and mortar at the hands of e-commerce, now we hear the call of hyper-local advertising promising more foot traffic to local retailers. Innovation in this movement has made it more possible for marketers to create almost a concierge aspect to local retail.
Google’s local inventory ad product is one aspect of hyper-local advertising that gives Google users the ability to see what retailers near them have the products that they are searching for actually in-stock. However, news broke last Wednesday that the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart, had pulled out of a deal to utilize Google’s local inventory ads. The reason being, that Wal-Mart would have to disclose daily updates on inventory (duh), and pricing data that could be used to understand how Wal-Mart does what it does to be the most successful retailer of them all. While there is a point to be made about the sensitivity of inventory data, it is inventory transparency that will allow a consumer to know that a trip to one particular store will not be in vain and that also cues that consumer to choose one retailer over another.
Should this cause any concern for Google, or for other retailers either utilizing or looking to utilize Local Inventory Ads? – In my humble opinion, not at all. People being able to see whether or not a product is available before they leave the house is such an advantage to brick and mortar retail, that Wal-Mart’s exit from the program shouldn’t be alarming, but may even bolster other retailers decision to get in. And while the loss of big clients like Wal-Mart certainly has an effect on Google, people need to remember that, there is Wal-Mart, and then there is every other retailer. Wal-Mart can afford (for now) to jump out of that relationship.
According to Google, their local inventory platform is quickly growing to include other big retailers like Macy’s, Recreational Equipment and Office Depot. And if Wal-Mart’s move to pull out did in fact prove to be infectious among larger retailers, as ridiculous as it might sound, it could be smaller businesses that step in to fill that void. Google is an aggregator among businesses, but it is also quite simply the glue that holds our mobile world together at this moment. I would even venture to say that if current trends in location based tech in mobile advertising indicate anything, it’s that Wal-Mart may come back to the program at a later time.