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When retail managers think of customer experience, a number of things can keep them up at night — from cart abandonment to customer service worries.

And then there's inventory management.

The volatility of what is available has been a classic business concern taught in just about every MBA course imaginable.

Balancing Acts

If you run out of popular products, you lose sales — and potentially customers, if they end up going elsewhere.

But balancing just the right amount of inventory is tough.

If you order too much of a slow selling item, then products in warehouses and on store shelves. It ties up capital and prevents retailers from ordering more of high demand items.

A new search trend tool by Google, called Shopping Insights, can help provide clues as to how to best balance demand.

A Look at Shopping Insights

Shopping Insights is a search trend that displaying what local shoppers are searching for the most online. It is similar to Google Trends, but with a dedicated focus on Google Shopping, the product comparison search engine.

Shopping Insights breaks down search query data by products, cities and devices.

The results are displayed as a heat map. The current version is a beta version, built with data on 5,000 most popular products on Google Shopping since April 2014.

The cool feature about Shopping Insights is that it can replay how the heat map results developed over time. Users can click on the play button in the lower left corner. (see the image). If users are comparing different products, they can see how those products play over time.

One drawback, the playback feature only displays a heat map for one term at a time.

Not Perfect

The data for the Shopping Insights implies that tracking major retail research trends is the best application, while niche product demand can be overlooked. That can mean a number of valuable products, from rare vinyl records to special cosmetic gift packages, can still require guesswork at demand.

Another concern is the ready to purchase mindset of the shopper. Shopping Insights can give businesses a sense of what interest their customers, but the results cannot predict when they will actually buy the product or service.

1 + 1 = Better

Probably the best usage from Shopping Insights is to combine the results with the Affinity Reports in Google Analytics to device a strategy of where to best engagement potential customers.

The Affinity Reports (and a similar report In-Market) offer guidance in the type of audience that is attracted to the site. The guidance is in terms of lifestyle (Affinity) and purchase-intent (In-Market). Like Shopping Insights, the categories are based on extrapolated aggregate data based on browsing across Google networks.

Marketers can assume the Shopping Insights results reflect potential interest.

That interest can be compared against the dimensions in the Affinity reports to spark team discussion on just how well a site is drawing personas that would be interested in the products available at the site or for curiosity that leads to an offline sale.

Shopping Insight results can influence other marketing campaign details, such as keywords chosen for an AdWords or Bing campaign. It can categorize searches by devices, which is helpful for fine-tuning campaign ideas for mobile versus desktop.

Tools like Shopping Insight are best combined with analytics reports to develop a better understanding of shopper search habits. The discovery of those habits can become the opening efforts to draw retail customers into a customer experience online.

Title image "Trolley - 314/365" (CC BY 2.0) by Mr Moss