Google boosts high street with stock search tool

20/11/2018

Google has teamed up with retail tech start-up NearSt to let shoppers to get information about specific product availability at shops nearby.

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The new tool means that 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 live inventory system should help make it "as easy to shop locally as it is online" said Google.

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.

There have been fears in recent years that the High Street is dying, with both local and national shops struggling to make profits, while online shopping has seen huge growth.

But, according to the Office of National Statistics, online sales only account for 18% of total retail sales in the UK.

Nearly a third of all Google searches relate to location and it has focused recently on making more of that about local search.

Nathalie Walton, global head of local shopping at Google, said of the partnership: "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."

Nick Carroll, a senior retail analyst at research firm Mintel said: "We can't pretend that there are not problems on the High Street and we have seen a number of large chain closures in the last 18 months, but eight out of every 10 pounds is still spent offline.

"It has been easier for major retailers to integrate technology, so partnerships like this are important to support local independent stores, which make the High Street unique and provide its backbone. Using this type of tech, they can fight back."

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