Yokel Local Shopping Part II

One of the great challenges of “local shopping” sites like Yokel is getting the data online. Brian points out in his post that Yokel doesn’t currently have real-time inventory information, but directs consumers to local retailers (mostly nationals like Home Depot and Sears) that are likely to have the desired products (clicking on products takes users to retailer websites).

This ?data problem? -- getting data from true local businesses and real inventory information -- is significant and shared by the sites that currently offer comparable services, ShopLocal, Froogle and CNET.

In a way this retailer data problem (especially re small retailers) is a mirror of the challenges of getting local businesses to advertise online. The market is incredibly fragmented and about half of local businesses don?t yet have a web presence. Getting true local retail information into the database is a messy, long-term proposition. It will take time to solve, perhaps longer than people hope, but it will eventually be solved.

Despite the challenges, the consumer use case for Yokel is rock solid. As Brian's post suggests, in the quote from Yokel CEO Scott Randall, e-commerce is less than 3% of total US retail. That number is not likely to grow higher than 10% within the foreseeable future (if that). But the Internet is growing daily in its influence on local transactions, buy some estimates to the tune of more than $200 billion. People fundamentally want to buy locally after they?ve done the online research to determine what they?re going to buy.

In my conversations with product managers at many of the major shopping engines, they recognize platform "agnosticism" as the "Holy Grail" of shopping. Meaning: after I determine what to buy I can buy online or find a local retailer with the item in stock. ShopLocal and Froogle offer limited versions of this today.

The data challenges represent significant barriers to entry in this "local shopping" arena. But it will become a feature of all the shopping engines eventually once the data and local retailer aggregation problems are solved.