AOL Launches Mobile Comparison Shopping

AOL is launching mobile comparison shopping that reportedly brings 20 million products from 10,000 stores to the mobile handset via the company's WAP site (http://wap.aol.com/shopping). After trying it on my HTC 6800 smartphone I can say the experience is generally good, given the limitations of the screen size and the device. But what's impressive to me is the integration of local information (where it exists).

The local store and real-time product inventory infrastructure is being rapidly built out. Companies such as NearbyNow, Where2GetIt, Channel Intelligence, ShopLocal and GPShopper are providing local store locations and inventory information mobile. Krillion is another company bringing product inventory information online that will also offer it in mobile.

For many of the products available on AOL Shopping mobile there is no local information because they're being offered by online retailers exclusively. But that will change over time as more local information becomes available. Here's an example where I did find a local retailer on a search for "Mac Laptops." And here's the local screen you eventually get to for one of the retailers. Phone numbers allow consumers to "click to call" and determine whether items are in stock.

Users can search the AOL mobile shopping site by term or UPC number (if you're in the store and are looking at the product for example).

Shopping will be an important and near-term consumer use case in mobile. People in stores will use mobile devices to check prices. But there's the compelling scenario in which I find that Store A doesn't have the product I want. Then I search to discover what other stores have it locally (and who's got it at the best price).

Expect the other big portals and search players to offer mobile shopping very soon too.

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Related: Leveraging the Camera in Mobile Phones and Verizon launches mobile shopping application with mShopper.