Milo Releases Android App for Local Product Inventory last night released its Android app, with an iPhone app to follow. The app is simple. As the picture at right indicates it's a search box and a location box; however it uses current location as the default.

It doesn't have all products and it doesn't have all stores; it's mostly focused on the national retailers and "big boxes." Roughly 50K stores are included, "which cover categories ranging from toys and games to apparel and electronics, and include national retailers such as Best Buy, Nordstrom, Target, and Toys “R” Us, among others." 

For the inventory it can serve it works simply and nicely. Milo aims eventually to be comprehensive: to be the Google of local products, as it were. Others in this segment include:

  • Goodzer
  • Google
  • Krillion
  • NearbyNow
  • RetaiLigence
  • Shopatron 

Mobile is a context in which local inventory is particularly interesting and relevant. At the beginning of the purchase process consumers are less interested in where they can buy something (unless they're physically comparing products) and more interested in what to buy, which product. But as they progress toward a decision local inventory becomes increasingly important, ultimately becoming the most important piece of information for a consumer.

That's why "on the go" consumers will value an app such as this -- because generally speaking they're more "ready to buy" than someone at home on a PC doing product research. As an aside the conventional wisdom that consumers use mobile devices when they're not using PCs is not entirely accurate. There is some substitution ("cannibalization") going on, especially at home with the iPad. But consumers will increasingly use mobile devices as their first choice device over time. So you will see people using mobile apps at home instead of the PC, as well as moving back and forth between the PC and mobile devices. 

One of the other things that Milo and the other companies trying to bring inventory data to the Web are doing is making more transparent the fact that products belong in the "local" bucket as well. Most pundits and analysts have treated products as exclusively within the domain of e-commerce -- e-commerce vs. bricks and mortar -- and that's simply not true. 

The vast majority of online-influenced product buying happens offline. Only about 4% of products are purchased online but the Internet influences an increasing number of the 96% of transactions that happen in the real world. The Forrester number that you sometimes see quoted or cited, about online-influenced offline transactions, is pretty speculative. But it's directionally accurate -- a kind of placeholder for an actual, empirical number.