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The Future of (Offline) Shopping Search Engines

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There's a new supermarket in our town. A very nice one. It's big, it has lots more products than the old one had, it's open more, and it has all the latest technology. You can even scan your own products -- no more lines!

So it's perfect! Or is it? When I was walking through the aisles of the supermarket this morning, looking for the macaroni, I realized this supermarket was missing something: a search engine.

Yes, I know, I'm biased, I work in search. I think everything needs a search engine. Or worse, everything is a search engine.

But when looking for that macaroni, which I never had any trouble finding in the old store, it became clear to me how I wanted to see my future shopping. And a search engine is needed for that.

Now, in this case I don't mean online shopping. I mean serious, hard-core supermarket shopping. For my bread, my milk, and yes, my macaroni.

I know I can have things sent home, but I like going to the shop. It gets me out once in a while, and I might even run into some people. It's nice. So, before you start commenting about delivery, I know I can do that, but I still want to go to the shop, OK?

It Starts With Making a Shopping List

There's already talk of refrigerators that can add milk to your list when you run out of it. Of course, I want that, but I want more!

I have an Android phone. I want to make my shopping list with that phone, so it has to be connected to that refrigerator.

But I also want it to scan other products I want to buy and I'll have to be able to talk to it (voice recognition) in order to make the list. And, of course, my wife, or anybody I want, should have access to that list if I allow them to. That's the obvious stuff so far at home.

The Actual Search Engine Comes in Now

It must first point out what shops I would like to buy at. Is it just that one supermarket, or am I willing to go elsewhere (e.g., for a better price)? If so, it should show which shops I can choose from, which has the best prices, which is nearest by, etc.

Based on those choices, it should map me a route that I have to take when going to town (these directions being shown on my phone).

In-Store Search Engine

The application should show me what I need to buy (the list), but it also has to show me where I can find it. So no more searching for that macaroni. It should take me there, based on GPS data. And it should show me where all the other stuff I want is located -- preferably, showing me the best route to take within the store.

(Paid) Suggestions

Oh, and let's not forget the suggestions, which can at the same time be the business model here. When I'm going for that macaroni, the search engine might just suggest I get some cheese with that.

And here's the business part: paid suggestions. Every store could have its paid suggestions in there. Based on where I'm walking, it could offer me discounts for specific products that aren't on my list. Personalized, of course -- I don't want the same offer as that old lady in front of the vegetables.

It might just be I'd be buying a lot more that you'd expect. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Not Search Engine Like At All?

Well, it's a search engine all the way. Search engines are more than just machines that index the web. They (are going to?) index the world.

We might not call them search engines (the word "app" comes to mind...) but they certainly are search engines. Which will make the job of a search marketer much more than optimizing a website. And actually, that already is the case.

Search marketing has already become more than website optimizing. You just have to see it.

Well, that's my take on the future of shopping search. Now, I'm off, gonna make some macaroni and cheese. If I can find the cheese, that is...

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