Google has enhanced its product search engine with new capabilities to find items in physical "brick and mortar" stores and to browse their "offline" inventories.
Just in time for the busy holiday shopping season, the added functionality is intended as a complement to the search engine's existing ability to deliver links to products available in online stores.
"We're bridging these two offline and online shopping channels," said Sameer Samat, Google's director of commerce.
When someone searches for a product, Google will let the person know in what local stores it can be found in stock, along with a map and other information, such as phone numbers and addresses.
To mimic the "offline" experience of browsing in a store, Google is also adding features called "popular products" and "aisles," in which similar and related products to the one searched for are displayed. These features will be available later this week.
In addition, Google has improved its Google Shooper product search application for Android devices, which finds products available in local stores and can be queried not only with text but also by voice and through photos of items and of their barcodes.
The new features work only in the U.S. for now. Google's product search engine currently indexes more than 1 billion products from 200,000 merchants.
For the offline inventory data, Google is working with about 70 major retail brands that collectively have tens of thousands of physical stores. Google will seek to expand the number of merchants feeding it offline inventory data.
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