NEW YORK To connect retailers and manufacturers with local shoppers, tech startup Krillion has unveiled a search engine that trolls the Web for regional and national product intelligence and points consumers to nearby stores where those items can be purchased.
For the first phase of its launch, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is focusing on major appliances, an $18 billion category. This summer, it expects to add consumer electronics to its comparison-shopping service, said co-founder and CEO Joel Toledano.
The ad-sustained venture currently offers 275 million pages of search results detailing appliance features and costs in more than 40,000 locations nationwide. Consumers can also click to call a local retailer to make sure that their preferred dryer or fridge is currently in stock.
Big box retailers in Krillion's search marketing database include Sears, Home Depot, Best Buy, Ikea and Lowe's. Maytag, General Electric and Whirlpool are among its participating manufacturers.
Per Toledano, the search engine provides "a broad new swath of inventory that has never been available to advertisers before."
Ads on the Krillion network range from banners to integrated text, and are targeted by geography, brand and frequency, among other parameters.
Describing the service as a cross between shopping.com and the Yellow Pages, Toledano said it aimed to satisfy "online consumers who go to a search engine and say, 'Here's the product I'm looking for, tell me who carries it near me.' "
The venture sprouted from the recognition that 75 percent of consumer research begins on the Web, but that 96 percent of purchases take place in brick-and-mortar stores, explained Toledano.
"Most people who go online use Internet search, which means they're an in-market consumer for whatever that product is," said Michael Hayes, svp and managing director of IPG's Initiative Interactive, North America. "Local shopping comparison search engines give the local retailer a much better tool to convert consumers into buyers," he said.
Hayes elaborated, "Marketers and retailers could more easily pull consumers to purchase if they knew they could get that product this afternoon rather than wait."
A key challenge Hayes sees for Krillion is that "it is much easier for a Yahoo or a Google to migrate shoppers who would be interested in local shopping." He added, "It remains to be seen whether Krillion can amass a large enough audience to be a viable offering." (Consumers can turn up Krillion's localized information while using their search engine of choice, or they can go to krillion.com.)
Hayes continued, "If in fact Krillion can provide a better local shopping comparison experience than the Internet giants, in the Internet age that could be golden."
Given the newcomer's competition in the shopping search space—which include ShopLocal, CNET Shopper, SetUp, NearbyNow, Yokel and Become.com—Hayes observed, "When consumers go to [search] and up comes a local shopping comparison rather than Krillion, it has to pull people and market itself and say: 'We're better.'"