UK-based NearSt secures €2.2 million to challenge Amazon with ‘local-availability’ tech

Google-backed, NearSt, a British retail technology business driving more people onto the high street, has raised around €2.2 million in seed funding. The round brings in finance from the Grosvenor Group, retail specialists True Global, consumer tech specialists YYX Capital and Moscar Capital, and takes the total raised by NearSt to over €5 million, following an earlier approx. €2.2 million raise in February 2020. The startup will use the fresh funds to fuel footfall into bricks and mortar stores at a critical time for physical retailers.

Founded in 2015 by Max Kreijn and Nick Brackenbury, the duo developed technology that makes products on physical store shelves visible to shoppers searching online nearby. Businesses like Google use the technology to show real-time local product availability directly in search results.

As the pandemic has shifted traditional shopping behaviours online, the London-born startup witnessed a tripling in demand from shoppers seeking out local product availability in 2020. NearSt’s technology helped redirect attention back to the nation’s high streets, locating items they were searching for online in nearby bricks-and-mortar stores. 

The tech is helping shoppers realise that buying local is often faster and easier than ordering on Amazon and providing a welcome boost for convenience stores such as Nisa, Londis and Budgens and luxury boutiques like Creed, Christopher Kane and Hirsh.

The British retail tech startup has seen a 3-fold increase in local product search demand throughout 2020, and will use the cash injection to accelerate uptake by retailers in the UK with a wave of new hires, and launch the startup’s offering internationally.

NearSt’s funding comes at a time of seismic shifts in how we shop and what it means to be a retailer.” said co-founder Nick Brackenbury. “We all know that the pandemic has driven shopping behaviours online; what’s often overlooked are the millions of people now going online to search for things locally on the high street. 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. Online shopping is often positioned as the death knell for the high street – we think it’s far from this, and will rather be the foundation of a vibrant and healthy future for brick-and-mortar shops.”

So how does it work for the shops taking part? Shop owners install a small piece of powerful software that automatically connects to any type of shop point of sale or inventory management system. Shortly after stores start seeing their entire in-store inventory appear in local search results, sending nearby shoppers in-store who might otherwise have ordered online.

Today shops pay a one-time connection fee of around €400, and then 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.

Ian Mair, Managing Director of Digital Innovation at Grosvenor Group, commented: “We have already seen the benefits of NearSt on Grosvenor’s London Estate and as part of our wider innovation agenda across the Grosvenor Group, we will look to roll this out to other retailers in the locations that we operate. Google already sees the impact live in-store inventory data can have. This is a multi-billion dollar market that technology has barely touched, and NearSt has the potential to truly transform how we all interact with physical retail.” 

NearSt has also recently started working with Facebook on their Commerce Accelerator to help drive Facebook’s local shopping capabilities forward.