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With Pointy Deal, Google Digs Deeper Into Brick-And-Mortar Retail

Listen closely to recent news — including news coming out of the ongoing National Retail Federation (NRF) retail show in New York City — and you’ll hear ample talk about omnichannel commerce. Now Google has added its own voice to that.

Google is buying an Ireland-based company called Pointy, which was founded in 2014 describes itself as a “tech company that aims to make it easy for customers to find the products they’re looking for in local retailers — not as straightforward as it sounds.”

As of early Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 14), Google had yet to comment on the acquisition but Pointy had issued a statement about it. “Over the past several years we’ve developed a very close partnership with Google,” the company said. “It became clear that we shared the same vision of how technology can improve local retail businesses. So today is a natural next step in our journey. By joining forces, we will be able to help people discover local stores and products on a much larger scale.”

Google reportedly will spend $163 million to buy the company. According to that report, Pointy “has built hardware and software technology to help physical retailers — specifically, those that might not already have an extensive e-commerce storefront detailing in-store inventory — get their products discoverable online without any extra work.”

The acquisition comes amid an increasing focus on omnichannel retail. Part of that involves enabling small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to have a better presence online, one that responds to what consumers are looking for via Google and other methods in the moment. The practice also consists of consumers researching an item online, then going into a store and talking to salespeople, or just using their smartphones in the store to research the item there. They check the prices of what they want (showrooming), then buy the item online because it’s cheaper there. Of course, there is also “reverse showrooming,” where a consumer views an item online, then buys it in-store, where the merchant matches the cheaper online price to cement the sale.

Google vs. Facebook

Indeed, the recent push toward omnichannel — a concept that has evolved over the years to basically mean meeting consumers on their own ground and via various channels — was getting some serious attention at the NRF show, at least according to accounts on the ground.

The deal for Pointy also fits into recent moves by Google to better serve local shoppers via a variety of Google offerings. For instance, Google Maps is going to test a new social feature in which users can follow Local Guides to help discover restaurants and other business locations, according to a recent report. The guides are members of the Maps community that review and posts pictures of businesses to pass on to others. In return, they get certain perks, like early access to newer features, local meetups and free or discounted Google services.

The move shows that Google wants to take on Facebook in the area of discovering new places as well as a new way for businesses and customers to interact. Google recently introduced a follow feature for businesses as well. The company also launched a number of tools for businesses to allow them to create profiles and send offers to customers, as well as a short URL.

Google Business Expansion

That’s hardly all.

Last year, Google expanded its Google My Business service for businesses, and at the same time took aim at Facebook’s Pages service, according to a report by TechCrunch. The service lets people “follow” businesses and message them, as well as get updates about promotions and specials. The company is now adding more tools to the service, with the goal of attracting even more follows and customers.

“We’ve evolved Google My Business to better meet these needs — from redesigned, easier-to-use mobile apps to making restaurant reservations directly from Google,” Google said in a blog post. “Today, we’re rolling out more features to help businesses make their Profiles as unique as they are and as descriptive as the queries that get customers there.”

Google My Business was started five years ago, and was meant to be used with Google+, which was shut down. Now Google wants to help customers and businesses connect through its most popular services.

These recent developments, along with the Pointy deal — which Pointy said it expects will close in “the coming weeks” — show the power of brick-and-mortar retail when combined with online services.

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