Milo Shopping

By dbaodbao (1261536697|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

As you may have noticed in my blogs and project analysis, a huge part of why I use the Internet is to help in one of my FAVORITE pastimes - shopping. A news article that recently caught my idea has to do with search tools that can help you with shopping the traditional way (in stores), as opposed to through online web browsing. Milo has made news, as seen in the article here because of the large amount of venture capital that it has attracted recently.

What is it?

From what I understand, Milo collects information about the local inventories of products that you are searching for. You can browse their catalog online, enter your zip code and find out what local stores are selling your product for and whether or not they have any in stock. Additionally, if you can't find it locally, you often also have the option to buy it directly online.

Why is this important?

Recently the trend has been on improving the shopping experience online - Bing's cashback, Amazon's convenient check out, many free shipping offers, among other ideas - but Milo actually uses the web to improve your real life shopping experience. It can be extremely frustrating (especially on a day like Black Friday) to see something you want, but to be unsure which stores have it in stock and how much they are all selling it for. Milo allows you to use the vast powers of the Internet to improve your in-store shopping experience.

Feature Overview

Searching for Ann Arbor returned a lot of specific results, but I had a number of issues with finding results in my hometown of Marquette, Michigan. I searched for "winter boots" and the following turned up:
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Their claim to fame is the ability to display the local stores that carry these products, but a number of the results returned with "click to check availability." Additionally, there are options to filter search on the left side of the page: there are check boxes for categories, brands, sizes, price and local stores and ratings. It leaves off one rather obvious separation when it comes to buying any kind of clothing: gender/age. There's no way to search for only womens', mens' or kids' items within the results that Milo returns.

Going Forward

As Milo is just a start up and has recently attracted a great deal of funding, I would expect the features and depth of the site to grow with time. Currently, Milo has the ability to index more than 1.5 million products at more than 42,000 stores in the U.S. Right now, it features some of the bigger retail chains - I saw results for Best Buy, Walmart, Macy's, and many nationwide chains. However, I think more value would come from being able to index unique local stores that may not have flashy websites or lots of internet advertising. Many of the chains featured have their own websites where it may be possible to check if your local branch has a particular item in stock (it may take a little more digging and time, but still possible.) Local stores are where it may be harder to track this information down, but that's where Milo is running into a bit of trouble. It is relatively simple for these chains to integrate their inventory systems into Milo's, but smaller stores may have more complicated or less-updated inventory systems that are difficult to update online. Hopefully Milo will be able to find a way around this to make their database more comprehensive.

Overall

For now, I will probably elect to keep my online shopping and in-store shopping as separate experiences, but if Milo can put this venture capital money toward developing their technology and expanding their database, I can definitely see myself using Milo a lot in the future. I would recommend keeping an eye out for improvements to this website coming up.

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