Google VP says e-commerce in 'radical transition'

At Web 2.0 Expo, Google exec says personal, mobile and local converging

The future of e-commerce is going to feel a lot like walking into a store 50 years ago, according to a Google executive.

Osama Bedier, vice president of payments at Google, told an audience at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco on Wednesday night that e-commerce is about to go through a radical transition. And the more online retail changes, the more it will feel like shopping at your local corner store.

"We're about to see some major change in this space," said Bedier, who was a vice president at PayPal until Google hired him in January. "This is not about any one app. It's not about any one site. It's not about any one company. It's about us working together to overcome challenges."

According to Bedier, the change in e-commerce will come because of the convergence of three forces -- mobility and locally- and personally-oriented services.

Mobility is one of the biggest trends in the tech industry, and in mainstream media. In the fourth quarter of 2010, sales of mobile devices outpaced sales of PCs.

And companies are increasingly focusing on what customers want locally. Examples locally-oriented services include, Groupon, which offers people discounts at businesses in their area, and Color, a new social app for smartphones that shares a user's photos with other Color users who happen to be in the vicinity, whether the user knows the other people or not.

Bedier said the third trend is personalization of the shopping experience.

As an example of what he feels is the kind of experience that people should have when they shop online, he offered this anecdote: "I walked into a store, and the owner greeted me by name. It made me feel good. He tells me my dad's favorite bread is on sale. I asked for Spanish olives and he doesn't have them, but he says the store down the street has them or he'll get a shipment Friday and he'll deliver them to me."

When shopping online, Bedier explained, "if I've decided to share my identity and location, the [e-retailer will] greet me by name and tell me that my favorites are on sale. Or it will point out ingredients for that recipe I liked on Epicurean. If they're out of an item, they'll tell me where I can get it or when they can deliver it to me."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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