Google is buying Pointy, a startup that helps brick-and-mortar retailers list products online

Google has been on a long-term mission to build inroads into the world of e-commerce by working more closely with brick-and-mortar retailers, and now it looks like it plans to extend that work a little further. The search giant is acquiring Pointy, a startup out of Dublin, Ireland, which has built hardware and software technology to help physical retailers — specifically those that might not already have an extensive e-commerce storefront — get their products discoverable online without any extra work.

We’re told that Google will be making a formal announcement in about an hour, but Pointy has already posted the news on its own site while we were digging around for details after getting pinged by a source. The deal is expected to close in the coming weeks, pending “customary closing conditions.”

Pointy is continuing to operate post-acquisition. “We look forward to building even better services in the future, with the backing of Google’s resources and reach,” the company writes.

Terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed but I am trying to find out. Pointy is six years old and had raised just under $20 million from a variety of investors including Frontline Ventures, Polaris, LocalGlobe and individuals like Lars Rasmussen (the former Google Maps supremo who went on to build search and enterprise products at Facebook).

Pointy was co-founded by Mark Cummins (CEO) and Charles Bibby (CTO). Notably, this is Cummins’ second exit to Google. His first company, the visual search startup Plink, was the Google’s first-ever acquisition out of the UK.

For Google, Pointy is a known quantity for more than the fact that it’s transacted with a Cummins startup before: Pointy and Google have been working together since 2018, when the former was part of a bigger push that the search giant was making into building tools for brick-and-mortar merchants.

At that time, Pointy’s primary product was a piece of hardware that plugged a company’s point of sale/barcode scanning units, so that every time a retailer scanned its products either to enter them into their inventory system, or to sell them at the point of sale, it would upload the products online (including quantities of those items), and then keep stock numbers up to date with every subsequent purchase that was made and scanned in.

Then, a user who might be searching for that product online might come across those details through Google’s search results (“See What’s In Store“, which come up in Google’s Knowledge Panels and on Google Maps), or via advertisements. The aim: these listings could potentially result in shoppers buying those products from the retailer in question, ideally getting them to come into the store, where they would buy even more.

The hardware retails for around $700, but Pointy also has a free app that integrates with specific POS devices from Clover, Square, Lightspeed, Vend, Liberty, WooPOS, BestRx, and CashRx POS, removing the need for the hardware.

Google’s initial partnership with Pointy in 2018 was part of a push to build out Google’s search portal with more e-commerce tools, and it was coming not a moment too soon: Amazon was both ramping up its own efforts with physical retail, and becoming a bigger threat to Google as a first port-of-call for online shoppers. Two years on, those themes have only grown bigger with Amazon’s rise, perhaps one reason why Google was keen to bring Pointy in-house. Now, it can more deeply integrate the tech, and build upon it.

We’ll update as we learn more.

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