Google Supermarket

Google’s much-discussed but little-used Google Base appears to have even bigger ambitions than previously speculated. The company’s top man in Europe, Nikesh Arora, divulged yesterday that Google is planning to turn Base into a full-fledged retailing platform, at least in Europe. It would thus compete head-on with other retailing platforms such as Amazon’s and eBay’s.

Arora told the Financial Times

that Google wanted companies in retail – and possibly sectors such as real estate – to submit details of their goods and prices [to Base]. Google would index and package the information into a consumer-friendly search engine, giving its users a virtual supermarket across a number of retail brands. Mr Arora said: “Google Base is going to have a huge impact on retailers,” adding that the move reflected internal research, which found many leading European retailers did not feel they were competitive enough online.

It’s a mystery to me how search-engine shopping would improve the competitiveness of individual retailers. It seems more like a means of further reducing e-commerce to an endless, automated price war – ruinous rivalry on steroids. But maybe there’s more to the story. A major UK retailer told the FT that “Google’s retail offer would be of interest if the internet company could also arrange for distribution.” That’s a prospect that should strike terror into the hearts of Google investors. Google Prime, anyone?

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