Google partners with NearSt to drive more people into high street shops

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NearSt, a London retail technology start-up founded by two former advertising executives, has struck a partnership with Google to make it easier for shoppers to find out what is available before heading to their local stores.

NearSt, Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury and Alara Health Store, Parry Kohsravi

With this deal, when a consumer searches online for products, they’ll be able to see available inventory in shops near them, showing distance, price, and availability directly in Google Search results. The service is being rolled out across the UK and NearSt is raising £2 million from investors to expand at home and take its offer into the US.

With almost a third of all Google searches relating to location and over 80% of all retail spending still taking place in physical shops, NearSt believes there is a lot to win in the high street’s fight against the online giants.

NearSt was founded three years ago by Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury, who had worked together developing digital experiences for major brands at a top global agency. Kreijn came up with the concept in a literal lightbulb moment, when a bulb went in his flat and he searched online to see where he could buy a replacement.

“I was shown lots of places where I could order it online, but I couldn’t find out which local shops had one for me to pop out and buy,” he recalls.

The duo developed a technology that connects to any retailer’s point of sale system, extracts the rough inventory data and shows, in real time, who locally stocks what, and at what price. This means that if a consumer wants to buy – for example – a particular brand of moisturiser, instead of just online results, he or she is shown pharmacists or beauty shops that stock it within a mile or two of where they are.

The technology has enabled them to create the most detailed, extensive and live picture of what is available on the high street ever. This technology aligns with Google’s focus on adding more local product availability directly into search results, and it has partnered with the UK tech company to deliver this.

“NearSt has some fantastic technology which we are leveraging to make it as easy to shop locally as it is online,” says Nathalie Walton, global head of local shopping, Google Shopping. “It gives small retailers the ability to compete effectively in the online world, without needing any of the technical and financial firepower of their online competitors.”

Alara Health Store in London’s Bloomsbury is one retailer who is piloting the technology partnership and seeing the benefits. “NearSt and Google has been a great way for us to create more awareness of our shop, and so attract more local customers who can benefit from our staff knowledge choosing the right products, rather than ordering online from our competitors,” says Parry Kohsravi who jointly owns Alara with her brother Mehr. “It’s actually getting more people into high street shops.”

Originally NearSt offered its search through its own platform, on a website and app. However, it decided last year to partner with platforms with a higher consumer profile and provide the data and technology.

“We effectively moved from being a car maker to an engine maker, which works far better for both ourselves and where shoppers are actually searching – on Google,” says Nick Brackenbury. “We’re working towards a future where this live inventory information is universally available in any site, app or service where it would be useful”.

The business has already raised £1.3 million from high profile investors including YYX Capital, headed by Simba Sleep founder James Cox, and True, the retail and consumer specialist investor. It is now launching a new round of fundraising as it expands its reach.

“There are over 200,000 stores in the UK, and millions worldwide, which could benefit from NearSt’s technology,” says Cox. “They are knocking on the door of a market worth tens of billions of pounds. NearSt epitomises what we at YYX are looking for, next generation companies developing genuine innovations in and around retail technology.”