Ted Dziuba of Milo.com on locating physical stores

That’s your question, but it’s not their question. Customers want to know how they find the store that has the product they want for the right trade-off of price and convenience. Until now, that was not easy to do. Enter Milo.com, a free Web site that enables shoppers to research online and buy local—providing the best of both worlds. You can search for the product you crave online, just as you do with any shopping search engine, but the results have a twist: Milo can show the brick-and-mortar stores that have the product in stock, along with the price. So you can decide between driving ten more minutes and paying $20 more.

Ted Dziuba is the co-founder and lead engineer for Milo.com, and he recently did an e-mail interview with me that I thought you’d be interested in.
Me: Why did you start Milo?
TD: 95 percent of all commerce still takes place offline, with many people researching online before buying in-store. We aim to make that experience seamless by providing local availability information for over 1.6 million products (with more added every `day). Our mission is to have real-time local availability and pricing information for every product on every shelf of every store.
Me: For readers who don’t know about Milo, how would you describe it?
TD: Milo.com combines the advantages of an Amazon-like experience with the ability to touch, feel and get products now at a local retailer. We currently track over 1.6 million products at over 42,000 stores all across the country. Milo.com provides all of the product details and user reviews people have come to expect with online shopping, and then searches store shelves to find the best price and availability for the products shoppers want–right when they want them.
Me: Your role seems really interesting. For someone who might might not understand what you do, how do you explain it?
TD: I work with merchants to bring their pricing and real-time availability data online. If you have a store and would like to get your inventory data on to Milo, my team would work on that integration.
Me: Why does the world need another shopping search engine?
TD: Milo.com is the only site on the Internet that is able to help shoppers establish a real-time link between the online and offline shopping worlds. We’re not just another shopping search engine; we actually tell you what’s in-stock and at what price at your local store. We think that this is still a largely unfilled need—the local/online bridge. There is a hearty crowd of online shopping search engines that aggregate data across online-only merchants, but e-commerce is still only 5% of the US retail market. Nobody has yet attempted to go that extra way to bring the other 95% online. It’s a very difficult problem, and I am proud of the progress we’ve made.
Me: How do you get the data that you show for pricing and product availability and how do you keep it up to date?
TD: Data comes to us in a variety of ways–for the most part we use our proprietary technology to hook directly into our retail partners’ inventory data and provide shoppers real-time access to local product availability and prices, along with other helpful data such as specifications and user reviews.
Me: What’s Milo’s business model and how does its model compare with those of other shopping search engines?
TD: We’re still exploring a variety of monetization opportunities. We see traditional CPA/CPC as an “old standby” and hope to provide some innovative strategies here to both make money and drive traffic into brick and mortar stores. I don’t think I can say much more at this time.
Me: What’s your favorite searcher and/or advertiser success story?
TD: I told a friend of mine about Milo.com at a dinner party and I got an e-mail from him weeks later that he used our mobile site on his iPhone to find poker chips. Thinking about it, I have no idea where I would buy poker chips at the last minute, but now I know you can get them at your local Walgreens.
Shopping search has been around for a while, but unlike with general Web search, it’s still populated by many small companies with relatively small market shares. Why do you think the markets of Web search and shopping search have evolved so differently?
I think there are so many players in the market because the path to monetization with affiliate marketing is so easy to follow. The hard part is that if everyone is doing it and not really adding any value, then the market gets saturated with a bunch of me-too businesses. I think that Milo.com is taking a unique approach to online/offline shopping and hopefully that will distinguish us from the rest.
Me: What do you see coming next for Milo?
TD: Our mission is to index every product on every shelf in every store. There’s a long way to go, but I see us working with more retailers in the future, as brick and mortar stores are really starting to realize that they need to drive foot traffic through an online strategy if they’re going to compete with Amazon.
Me: What do you see coming next for this whole space in the industry in the long run?
TD: I really believe that local is going to be the future. Google and Microsoft have both recently announced their interest in entering the local market, as it’s such a massive space compared to online. I think we’re also going to see a lot more mobile integration going on—there’s such a ripe opportunity with location aware devices and local shopping.
Me: Thanks so much for sharing this with my readers, Ted.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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