Local Shopping Search Engine Attracts Big-Name Investors
Milo.com, a startup that lets shoppers check product inventory at local retail stores, has attracted some big-name investors. The site was designed to drive people who are searching for products online into physical retail stores.
On Tuesday, the company reported raising $4 million from True Ventures, along with Ron Conway, an early investor in Google and PayPal; Keith Rabois, an investor in YouTube, Yelp and LinkedIn; and Aaron Patzer, Mint.com founder.
To find a product such as Hewlett-Packard laptops, Canon cameras, Apple iPods or Zhu Zhu Pets on Milo.com, shoppers simply type in the product name and city or ZIP code. The site returns the product name, description, reviews and price, along with a list of local retailers that carry it. For those looking for shirts, pants or another article of clothing, the description will provide the sizes and colors in stock.
The engine searches inventory systems of participating retailers, such as Best Buy, Ikea, and BevMo. It provides an option to purchase the product online if it's not available in a local store. The data flows into the search engine through feeds or an application programming interface (API). The database supports 1.5 million products -- more than 42,000 stores, covering 30,000 U.S. communities.
Milo hasn't had much of a problem integrating into most inventory systems. One proprietary system that has proven difficult has been Sam's Club, according to Jack Abraham, Milo's co-founder and CEO. "For the very big retailers it's not necessary to tap directly into the point-of-sale systems," he says. "That's different for small mom and pop retailers that might have the data on QuickBooks in their shop."
Some stores, such as Nordstrom and Staples, allow consumers to reserve the product on online and pick it up in the store. Abraham says Milo will integrate coupons, and will roll out the service with retailers by May 2010. He also plans to take a piece of the retail sale in the future, but the trick is to get credit for the sales that don't occur online.
Tracking offline sales will become easier once the site builds mass. Abraham estimates Milo will cross the million user mark in November. Shortly after this, the site will work with retailers to measure offline conversions to share revenue from sales made in stores.
And there's no need for Google paid-search ads or banner and display ads. The site resembles one big advertisement, Abraham says.