Not many businesses can claim to have a literal lightbulb moment, but that’s exactly what happened for Max Kreijn, cofounder of London retail technology start-up NearSt. The former advertising executive had the idea in 2015 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.
Kreijn teamed with colleague Nick Brackenbury to develop technology which makes it easier for shoppers to find out what is available before heading to their local stores, and NearSt was born.
Now the duo have struck a partnership with Google, who will use NearSt technology within Google Search results. That means when a consumer searches online for products, they’ll be able to see available inventory in shops near them, showing distance, price, and availability.
Connecting online searches to high street retailers
NearSt’s technology 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 searches on Google for a product, he or she is shown bricks and mortar stores within a mile or two of where they are that stock it, as well as online shopping results. The service is being rolled out across the UK.
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.
Nathalie Walton, global head of local shopping, Google Shopping, says of the partnership: “NearSt has some fantastic technology which we are leveraging to make it as easy to shop locally as it is online. 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.”
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 £1.3m 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 aims to expand its reach to the US.
“There are over 200,000 stores in the UK, and millions worldwide, which could benefit from NearSt’s technology,” says James 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.”