Goodzer is the latest company to join the real-time product inventory fray. (I’ve written previously about the company.) Basically two people (though not in a garage), the company launched what it sees as a “proof of concept” site in New York, including all five boroughs.
Co-founder and CEO Dmitry Pakhomkin told me that the company has indexed product inventory from 65% of all the retail stores in and around the city. Pakhomkin says that the technology and methodology makes Goodzer’s approach globally scalable. “We could have done the whole US but we decided to start with just New York,” he said on the phone the other day. New York was picked first because of its density and visibility as a market.
Without knowing a ton about “what’s under the hood,” my understanding is that Goodzer is crawling websites and matching products to store locations. It then instructs consumers to call stores to confirm in-stock availability:
This crawl-and-match approach was taken by shopping site TheFind a couple of years ago but on a less ambitious scale. Milo’s Jack Abraham critiqued this approach on the phone with me, saying that accuracy was going to be low and the site is essentially “guessing” at what’s in the store. Milo uses a combination of approaches to get inventory data, including direct retailer feeds. Google, for its part, is not crawling for inventory data but getting feeds as well.
Krillion and NearbyNow (just acquired by JiWire) get feeds from retailers; and the latter uses a concierge service (call center) to confirm in-store availability for consumers. Newcomer Retailigence is trying to integrate with retailer inventory systems on the back end.
No system is totally accurate and no system (yet) is comprehensive. But the combination of companies and initiatives now working on inventory data makes the effort to get offline products online a much more real phenomenon than it has been in the past.
Goodzer is the first company that does seem to be able to get to scale on a global basis. There’s very little going on in Europe around real-time inventory (one effort in the UK and another in The Netherlands). So Goodzer could quickly develop a massive global database of stores and products that might be “good enough” for a large number of consumers and/or publishers. I don’t recall whether Goodzer is going to syndicate its data; I know it has ambitions of being a destination. I do believe however there will be a syndication play at some point.
Putting aside the accuracy question — I didn’t call stores to figure out whether items were actually there — every product search I conducted returned results. However there were imperfections. I had trouble refining by zip and some of the results were overbroad for popular categories because the crawler is picking up keywords. But it’s a very promising start. The company also has an iPhone app, which offers a more user-friendly UI, in line for approval. They’re hoping it comes out this week.
If Goodzer is a bit rough here and there it’s partly because Pakhomkin wanted to get the site up and out for the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Ironically, one could use Goodzer as an e-commerce search engine too because almost everything on Goodzer will be available for sale online.
Update: TheFind’s CEO Shiva Kumar took exception to my characterization above and argued that TheFind’s data are at least as comprehensive as Goodzer’s in New York.