Google has offered a boost to high streets by introducing a feature that shows product stock levels in shops close to the buyer’s location.
The tech giant has partnered with UK start-up NearSt, which has access to the inventory of a growing list of local retailers, meaning users can search for a particular product on Google and see the distance, price, and rough availability directly.
Retailers have been feeling the squeeze amid rising competition from online shopping, with recent numbers from accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers showing that high street shops closed at a rate of about 14 a day in the first half of the year.
According to the Office for National Statistics, online purchases still only account for 18% of all retail shopping, while Google data shows that searches for “shopping near me” have increased 200% in the past two years, suggesting that there’s still appetite to buy local.
“NearSt has some fantastic technology which we are leveraging to make it as easy to shop locally as it is online,” said Nathalie Walton, Google Shopping’s global head of local shopping.
“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.”
The start-up, which started as its own online platform three years ago before deciding to partner with big players like Google in 2017, came about after co-founder Max Kreijn needed a new light bulb and turned to the internet to find somewhere nearby stocking an immediate 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,” Mr Kreijn explained.
He and his partner, Nick Brackenbury, are now looking to expand across the UK as well as launching in the US.
“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,” said Mr 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.”