Google now lets you see what's on shelves at stores near you, and it's a powerful new weapon against Amazon

  • Google is giving shoppers the power to search local stores' inventory with a new tool called See What's In Store.
  • Shoppers can use the tool to search for a specific product and see which local stores have that item in stock, or to search the entire inventory of a single store.
  • "If you knew something was available one block away, or that you could pick it up in a local store without having to wait for shipping, you might not choose to order it online," said Mark Cummins, CEO of Pointy, a UK-based tech firm that is partnering with Google to power SWIS.


Google is launching a tool that will let shoppers find out what products are in stock at stores near them. 

Shoppers will be able to access the tool, called See What's In Store (SWIS), from Google's main search bar and within Google Maps. 

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Shoppers can use the tool to search for a specific product and see which local stores have that item in stock, or to search the entire inventory of a single store.

SWIS will give brick-and-mortar stores a powerful new weapon in the battle against Amazon, said Mark Cummins, CEO and cofounder of Pointy, a UK-based tech firm that is partnering with Google to power SWIS.

"E-commerce wins a lot because people don't know where to find stuff," Cummins said. "That's a major disadvantage local stores have to Amazon.

"If you knew something was available one block away, or that you could pick it up in a local store without having to wait for shipping, you might not choose to order it online."

The tool could also be a draw for shoppers who want to cut down on the amount of packaging materials that are shipped to their homes. Amazon has been criticized in the past for using excessive packaging — a problem that it has promised to fix. 
 
Google is working with a few partners, including Pointy, to power SWIS, which is free for retailers to use. Pointy provides both hardware and software components that connect to stores' scanners to access inventory information. 
Cummins said Pointy is currently used in more than 5,000 locations in the United States, and that it's rapidly expanding to more stores.

Here's how SWIS works:

Type the name of a store into Google's search bar or Google Maps, and select the location closest to you. A second search bar will appear in the Google Knowledge Panel — the box of information running along the right side of the main search page — where users can search that store's inventory.

Shoppers can also type the name of a specific product into Google's search bar, and the results will show which local stores have that item in stock. 

Stores must pay to show up in those results, which are called Local Inventory Ads. 

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