NearbyNow, which lets consumers conduct online and mobile searches of store inventories, has partnered with a price comparison search company and created a way for iPhone users to find bargains (and bathrooms) in shopping malls. The firm also secured a new $12 million funding round.
Los Altos, Calif.-based NearbyNow will allow visitors to TheFind.com, a shopping and price comparison destination, to reserve products for in-person pick-up. TheFind’s users will now see a “check local inventory” button when they mouse over product information linked to more than 200 retailers supported by NearbyNow. Those that click the button will be prompted to select from a list of stores whose inventory is tracked by NearbyNow.
The deal extends NearbyNow’s existing product reservation capabilities.
“Historically, we’ve been making shopping centers searchable so you can search every story in a mall and put items on hold,” said CEO and President Scott Dunlap. “With TheFind we can branch out on that… to take our service to any online shopper and give them a local buying alternative.” He said the goal is to give online shoppers the ability to “get their stuff within 24 hours” of ordering it online.
NearbyNow has also introduced a mobile/Web app, optimized for the iPhone, that allows mall shoppers to graphically navigate shopping centers, search store inventories, see a list of sales and find amenities including the nearest restroom.
The new mechanism augments the company’s existing SMS-based mobile search capabilities.
“We put advertising inside the mall that says, `Send a text message and we will send you a link back that says you can search this mall and find every sale,'” said Dunlap. “At that point, the users are telling us, `I’m looking for jeans on sale. Tell me how to get to that store.'”
This type of mobile capability avoids GPS-based setups that push ads to shoppers’ mobile devices. “We don’t want to spam anybody,” said Dunlap. “But we do want to let them know that, if they are heading to Macy’s for shoes, there might be similar shoes for sale somewhere else.”
To accomplish all this, NearbyNow of course needs access to some pretty sensitive and valuable information: Details of a store’s inventory and pricing. Dunlap said the company gets electronic inventory “snapshots” from participating retailers every 24 to 48 hours and it also has an active inventory system that works in real-time. NearbyNow takes the inventory information and augments it with product images and descriptions.
The company’s new $12 million funding round, led by Northwest Venture Partners, will fund research and development and expansion on the Internet and mobile sides. As part of the deal, NVP partner and former mySimon CEO Joshua Goldman will join NearbyNow’s board of directors.
Dunlap said the funding will help the company strive for better integration online shopping, local purchasing and mobile messaging.
“There’s this trend of people who start [shopping] online but want to purchase in a store,” said Dunlop. “The ability to grow the Internet and Internet advertising by focusing on that fact is probably much bigger than anything else the online e-commerce world can do.”
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