Expert Advice & Knowhow

Is this the technology that will save the high street?

XLN

Why get a product delivered from Amazon if you can get it from a shop you can walk to?

Online retail’s most important trump card is ultimately convenience. But there remains an inconvenient element of any online purchase – and that’s delivery.

As a result, we have seen a huge range of delivery innovations introduced by retail giants like Amazon and Tesco. From premium 1-hour delivery services to trialling robotics, they are investing huge sums of money in their attempt to monopolise the retail marketplace.

But quietly and purposefully, one or two start-ups are looking at this problem differently. They’re saying, what if the solution isn’t about making delivery better, but about improving our visibility of what is available locally.

One such example is NearSt, and despite being a relatively new, London-based start-up, I’m convinced that it could help to save the high street.

I need a light bulb, fast. Is getting it delivered really the easiest solution?

The most significant innovations tend to be the simplest: the ones that solve a problem in a way that makes you think ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ And NearSt is no different.

NearSt is an ecommerce platform and app that lets retailers list their in-store inventory for nearby shoppers to view. In a couple of taps, customers can buy and reserve items for pick-up – or organise a local delivery within an hour. As they put it themselves, it’s high street shopping easier and quicker than online.

The concept is already employed by certain larger businesses. Argos, as mentioned in my last post, do an excellent job of telling customers what’s in their stores, as does River Island. But this third-party version is the key to the future of the high street because it connects the consumer with the product directly – which in turn allows small, independent businesses to compete.

After all, why would I get a light bulb delivered from Amazon if the very same one is in a shop I can walk to?

This is common sense technology solving a human problem – and it can breathe new life into our communities.

But it’s not just convenience that matters

NearSt has the power to transform convenience for customers. But I think to solely focus on that benefit would be to undersell its potential.

It also plays into the growing demand customers have for in-store experiences. I believe people want to support their local high streets. I also believe people want to taste, touch, smell and experience the products they want to buy – and to interact with the people who make or sell them. And equally, I don’t believe we want to become robots, buying everything from the same place, without ever seeing or meeting the people selling it.

This is a great reminder that rather than destroying the high street, technology can actually save it. And it can do so by offering something online-only retail can’t: the human touch.

Join NearSt to make better use of everything that’s on your doorstep

NearSt is currently London-based but is soon expanding to other UK cities. And if you’re a small business, I urge you to contact them to see how it all works and how they can help you to get more people through your door.

Find out more here, and please share your thoughts on the technological innovations you think can save the high street.

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  • Christian Nellemann is the Founder and CEO of XLN, a provider of low-cost phone, broadband, energy and card processing services exclusively to small businesses. A serial entrepreneur, he’s a two-time winner of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and one of only 17 inductees into their Global Hall of Fame. He is passionate about small businesses, and is a featured columnist for realbusiness.co.uk.
  • Follow him on Twitter @christianxln