The COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we all shop. With brick-and-mortar stores closed in various parts of the world due to the pandemic, millions of consumers shifted online, driving a massive spike in e-commerce sales.
However, to fuel footfall into bricks and mortar stores again, NearSt, a London-based startup developed a platform that’s designed to connect products in local shops directly to Google.
Backed by Google, the UK startup enables small businesses to expand their reach by listing live in-store inventory and feeding it on the internet, enabling users to buy desired products and items locally from real shops.
Raised €2.2M seed funding
Recently, the company raised €2.2M in seed funding from the Grosvenor Group, retail specialists True Global, consumer tech specialists YYX Capital and Moscar Capital.
The London-based company will use the funding to accelerate uptake by retailers in the UK with a wave of new hires and launch the startup’s offering internationally.
Redirecting to nation’s high streets
As millions of people turned their attention online during COVID, the NearSt’s platform claims to have helped redirect them back to the nation’s high streets. Founded by Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury in 2017, the company’s platform makes products on physical store shelves visible to shoppers searching online nearby.
How NearSt was born?
Max Krejin 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.
Faster and easier
NearSt’s platform enables customers to buy products faster and easier in local shops than ordering on Amazon. This provides a welcome boost for convenience stores such as Nisa, Londis, and Budgens and luxury boutiques like Creed, Christopher Kane, and Hirsh.
As per the company’s claims, the technology has seen widespread uptake by British retailers as a low-effort but powerful tool to fight back against the likes of Amazon.
Brackenbury, the co-founder, says, “NearSt’s funding comes at a time of seismic shifts in how we shop and what it means to be a retailer. We’ve witnessed extraordinary growth in ‘local-availability’ searches throughout 2020. In the first lockdown customers searching for products nearby surged 620% compared to February levels, before levelling off at a 270% increase between July and September. While this most recent lockdown has driven another 500% surge, what’s clear is that shoppers are getting used to going online to find things in the local businesses they prefer to buy from.”
Works with Google and Facebook
According to NearSt, the startup has seen a 3-fold increase in local product search-demand throughout 2020. Notably, Google uses NearSt’s technology to show physical shop stock directly in search results and on Google Maps. Furthermore, the UK startup has started working with Facebook to help drive the social network’s local shopping capabilities forward.
The footfall boosting technology is used by Google to display in-store products in local listings directly on the main search page, as well as across Shopping, Google Maps, and other local listings.
To join, shops pay a one-time connection fee of £399 (approx €440). NearSt’s core search product is free, with the option of purchasing weekly add-ons to drive additional local visibility.
In addition to listing a shop’s products in Google, NearSt also provides detailed insights to the retailer about what’s popular with customers searching nearby.
The company has backing from other notable investors including Will Hobhouse (Heal’s, Jack Wills, Whittard of Chelsea), Ben Laurie (Google Research & Machine Intelligence) alongside senior engineers from pioneering AI firm DeepMind.