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Google wants to make it easier for you to find — and try on in-store or order online — that last-in-your-size-shoe or plaid shirt.
In the coming months, owners of the Google Home smart speaker will be able to ask Google Assistant — the AI system embedded in Google's devices — to find the closest store with a particular item in stock.
Example: "'OK Google, where can I find a brown pair of men's Top-Siders, size 11, nearby?'" said Jonathan Alferness, vice president of product at Google. "The Assistant will answer with how many stores have the item and how far away they are," he said.
The new feature is powered by local inventory feeds sent by retailers that buy ads on Google, he said. In the past year, local shopping queries have increased 45 percent and the search giant has doubled the number of retailers that send local inventory feeds, said Alferness. Google announced the new features at the Shoptalk e-commerce conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon.
Google was late to the market with its smart speaker, which it started selling in the U.S. in November 2016, more than a year after Amazon's Echo became widely available in the U.S. The Echo could be a "mega-hit" and deliver $10 billion in revenue by 2020, according to RBC Capital Markets. But with this new feature, Google is offering users something the e-commerce giant doesn't — a way to find merchandise at your local store and try before you buy.
Google also announced that it will soon let consumers tell its Assistant to create a shopping list and place items in a virtual cart that will sync across multiple devices.
"This cart will give shoppers the ability to buy multiple items from multiple merchants all in one transaction through the Assistant," said Alferness. "For retailers, this means larger basket sizes and better margins."
It's all part of Google's long-term strategy to develop products and services that use artificial intelligence to make it easier for people to interact with computers and complete everyday tasks, he said. That, in turn, will feed into Google's ad-based business model.
"The better that we can satisfy users' needs, the better off we'll be," said Alferness. "The more you are going to want to use the Assistant, the more you will use our services as well."