NearSt has won £2m in seed funding for technology that aims to drive more customers into their local shops. It plans to use the new funding to expand a solution that, says NearSt, is already sending 5,000 extra customers into high street shops. Now it is targeting 100,000 extra in-store visits a year.
Nick Brackenbury, co-founder of NearSt, said: “Most of the products we buy online are stocked in a store nearby. Until today though, they were invisible to your smartphone, so online was the easy option. We’re solving that problem for retailers by making it effortless to get their product seen by the millions of local searches happening everyday near their stores.”
NearSt says that in some sectors, more than 30% of independent retailers are now using the technology in a fightback against online giants such as Amazon.
Steven Senior, who owns Yorkshire hardware shop Mortens of Ilkley, said it has found NearSt a good way to bring in shoppers. In its first month of NearSt, he said, “we had customers actually come into the shop saying they searched for something online and we came up in Google. Each of these led to a sale. I’m sure there were many more instances where local people came to the shop after finding us on Google.”
In its latest round of funding, the technology start-up has added the backing of angel investors Will Hobhouse, Ben Laurie and senior engineers from AI company DeepMind to its existing support from Google. In total it has now raised £3.2m in a round led by consumer tech specialists YYX Capital.
James Cox, founding partner at YYX Capital said: “Many people presume ecommerce signals the death knell for the high street, but over 90% of all purchases still happen in-store globally. This is a multi-trillion dollar market that technology has barely touched, and NearSt has the potential to truly transform how we all interact with physical retail. Google already see the impact live in-store inventory data can have, and we’re just scratching the surface with the potential this can have for other technology companies.”
NearSt was founded in 2015 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 said.
The NearSt technology is a tiny piece of software that can link any shop till system to a central platform, sending live barcodes and stock data to be transformed by a closely guarded algorithm into rich product information with pictures and descriptions, ready to be streamed into Google.
Image courtesy of NearSt