Ok, since I indiscriminately deleted my last blog and an interesting thread that materialized, I am going to repost the gist of it and see if it sparks the same conversation.
I started with a post on a Universal Shopping Cart - the ability to add items from multiple sources and checkout in a single, streamlined process instead of checking out at each individual source.
Brian Erst augmented that concept with an even better idea - have the cart have enough intelligence to find the best deals (based on the consumer criteria, such as availability, price, and delivery) out there. In other words, invert the traditional workflow from a) find place to buy something b) add item to cart from that place. What a great concept to get fledgling retailers an opportunity to compete with the big boys by meeting an untapped consumer need.
It would not be too hard for Google Checkout to provide the bare bones of this service. Between Google Checkout and Froogle (or even Google Base) they have the foundation tools to do this from a pricing and availability angle. The catch is that they would have to get other retailers to use Google Checkout when consumers are away from google.com, and consumers would need to become familiar with a new universal cart paradigm - not always easy, as witnessed by the number of paper checks still written today at retail stores (don't get me started on that one).
I would like to advance this a step further. Such a universal cart as Brian paints becomes even more useful to me if it integrates seamlessly with local shopping experiences. More and more, I find the need for items that I need sooner than online retailers can provide - yes, things I need now. But, where to find them locally? Which big box retailer carries said product? Are there businesses closer that carry it? What if I am in my car, on my way home from work? Integrate that into the workflow, and I'm a happy customer. And retailers collect higher margins from me, as I am willing to pay more to get something now vs. waiting for it.