By Jamillah Knowles
LONDON (Reuters) - Pointy, a Dublin-based firm with Silicon Valley backers, is solving the problem of how to make it easier for people to find products they want close to home, as shopping online gets easier but locating what you want locally remains elusive.
"Someone could just walk down the street and pick (an item) up, but that information is just frustratingly difficult to find," Pointy Co-Founder and Chief Executive Mark Cummins said.
"Retailers are losing out and those sales are going away to Amazon or they're going away to even a larger brick-and-mortar retailer," he said in a video-link interview from Dublin, where Cummins estimates that 14 percent of the city's retailers have adopted the Pointy service.
Only a handful of the world's largest retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores offer consumers the ability to search local store shelves online, after massive investments in inventory stocking systems to provide this data.
Pointy's device plugs into barcode scanners at retail checkouts and captures product data when consumers shop, creating a map of what is selling from the store's inventory.
This allows retailers to feature what they have on their shelves in local online search results. Pointy also creates and hosts websites for businesses to feature what they have in stock.
“Pointy creates the data feed for the store, which the retailer can then use to integrate with other services such as Google Shopping,” Cummins said.
Three-year-old Pointy has moved into individual stores and small chains across the United States and this month began expanding into Canada from its Dublin base.
It is also working on greater integration with Google, Cummins said, building on ties he has after the Silicon Valley search giant made its first ever UK acquisition in 2010 by buying his machine vision start-up Plink.
Pointy aims to help rival national chains, or even the smallest retailers, compete with tools to draw online consumers into their stores.
In September, the company said it had raised $6 million in funding from tech entrepreneurs including Lars Rasmussen, a co-creator of Google Maps, Matt Mullenweg, who developed WordPress blogging software and Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of money transfer service Transferwise.
(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard; editing by Alexander Smith)