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Why Google’s acquisition of Irish startup Pointy is big news for retailers

Google has acquired Irish start-up Pointy, a firm that allows physical stores to make their products discoverable online.

The deal is expected to be completed within the next few weeks, with TechCrunch reporting that the acquisition has seen Google pay €147 million (US$163.7 million) on the business.

“For Google, this provides the opportunity to present shopping search results for physical stores as well as those online – something it already does in a limited capacity – and so significantly increase the value of Google Shopping for users,” says research firm GlobalData’s technology editor Lucy Ingham. 

“However, while this is a significant step in bridging the divide between brick-and-mortar stores and the online e-commerce world, the acquisition has the potential to be even more impactful. It is a significant step for Google, because it provides the search engine giant with a way to cheaply and easily catalogue physical assets on a large, yet decentralised scale.”

Google is likely to be seeking to expand its adoption of Pointy in ways that may include dropping or reducing the current one-time integration cost of £699 ($914), or even getting leading point-of-sale manufacturers to directly integrate the technology into their products, says Ingham. 

If the firm can successfully increase the prevalence of Pointy, it could eventually have coverage of physical stores to rival those of digital stores, bringing with it a potential step-change in how people shop.

“However, there are also potential applications beyond e-commerce. What Google has bought, in essence, is a means to catalogue real-world items, and the same technology in the Pointy Box could be put to use in many other fields,” said Ingham. “Potential applications could include medicines, enabling Google to collect data on gluts and shortages of particular items and use this to provide industry-targeted services, inform users or even assist its own moves into the healthcare space.”

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