Google – once this word was ‘just’ the name for a search engine, and it wasn’t even the biggest one. Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista… they were all there, all helpful, all part of the 90s and early 00s way of working online. And then something happened. Powerful marketing, lots of money, and a building up of trust over time (as well as the ability to buy out many other companies), and Google was suddenly it, the one search engine that everyone knew about and everyone talked about. Yes, other search engines existed and still do, but when it comes to the majority, Google is their first port of call.
It is so big that Google is no longer just the term for the search engine itself, but has become a verb – if someone wants to look something up online, they will google it. Want to find out the cost of a holiday? Try googling. How old is that actor now? I’ll just google it and find out. And so on. Google is massive, and it has such a tight hold on the internet that it even spawned email hosting (gmail) and a social media platform (Google+, although this was slightly less successful and, faced with the might Facebook, it appears that Google+ will be shutting down as of 2nd April 2019)
The point is, if you want something online, unless you already know the website to go to to get it, you’re going to use Google
; 1.17 billion people do across the world. So it might come as some surprise to find that Google is not only a gateway to the internet, but is actually helping to boost high street sales as well. Here’s how it works.
NearSt is a new start up company
that aims to help people in the UK utilise their high streets a little better than they are currently doing. It shows consumers what they can buy in their local shops, but does so via the internet. It means that, in this time-strapped world, browsing the shops or heading to the high street on the off chance that you will be able to pick up what you want will no longer be necessary – you will already know where you can buy the item you need, and it will save many a wasted trip.
The search system in NearSt will not only show you what you can purchase, but will give you the price and the distance from your home to the shop too, should you need it. Plus the inventory element is live, so you won’t get there to find that the shop sold the last of whatever it is you are hoping to buy. If the stock is low and you’re concerned it might all be gone by the time you arrive, you can always call the shop and have them put it by for you. Again, this is all about convenience and ensuring that not a second of anyone’s time is wasted.
NearSt came into being three years ago. The initial premise was that it seemed wasteful to buy a lightbulb and have it shipped hundreds of miles, using excess packaging and vehicles, when the local shop had them in stock and it would have been a shorter, quicker, cheaper journey to go and pick one up from there. Plus, if you did that, you would have it there and then, without having to pay for the privilege of receiving goods the same day as you ordered them.
What About Google?
NearSt seems like a good idea, and is certainly something that many people will want to use, but how does it relate to Google? The founders of NearSt, Nick Brackenbury and Max Kerijn, have actually partnered with the massive search engine to run the high street saving (potentially) app and website, thus using the power of Google to help people to shop more locally.
Brackenbury and Kerijn developed technology which directly connects to any shop who is signed up and their point of sale system. This means that you can find out in real time what they have or don’t have in stock. You can find out pricing and even additional details about what the item can do to ensure it really is what you want and need.
This idea all started in London and that’s where it was initially focused
, but now that Google are involved the plan is to use this technology in all high streets across the UK. It will take the next 12 months or so to roll it out, and the real focus is on smaller, independent stores who could do with the boost that more foot traffic would give them. Not only that, but without a corporate head office to deal with, decisions can be made faster, so it will be easier to add them to the growing list of participating shops and boutiques.
No one is going to want to be left out, so as more join up, more will want to be involved, and since it will increase their revenue and sales, it makes sense that they will all (the majority, at least) want to be part of this new idea.
Is The High Street At Risk?
We’re all told that the high street is dying off, and the news and other reports, plus the clear love that we, the public, have for using the internet to buy everything from books to movies to our weekly big shop seem to play into that, but what is the reality? Is the high street really at risk of dying off altogether?
The Office of National Statistics says not necessarily – they suggest that online sales only make up 18 percent of all retail sales within the UK. That is an interesting figure, and probably much lower than anyone would think. It means that the high street has a fighting chance, but that it needs to team up with the internet to become bigger and stronger.
That’s why NearSt is such a good idea. It combines our love to discovering information online and having knowledge literally at our fingertips, and it also means that the high streets are utilised more successfully by more people. Could this be what we needed all along?
The online space is never going to go away. The general public enjoys using it too much to go backwards now (and it was, to all intents and purposes, be a backwards step if we were to stop using the internet and go back to how things were in the past); we would effectively stop communicating with one another, and businesses that rely on the internet – which is many of them, even if it is not their sole source of revenue – would crumble. We just can’t do it.
Yet we want to save the high street. It’s a quandary that, until now, was something we just weren’t sure how to fix. It seems that NearSt is offering us that chance to combine old and new technology to make the world an easier place to navigate.