I performed a fairly exhaustive competitive audit in order to get a stronger handle on how other local shopping apps functioned, and where they were weakest. From this analysis, alongside guerrilla testing I was running with retail merchants (in the form of intercepts in their stores), I was able to identify a potential source for the inventory data I’d need to complete the project. While no local discovery app on the market has an inventory component, there are plenty of local apps that do — the apps that power retailers’ point-of-sale (POS) systems, such as Square Register, Lightspeed, Shopkeep, and Vend. With further research, I was able to identify that most of these systems had APIs I could tap into (these exist to support multi-channel inventory; in this case, Nearbuy just acts like another sales channel from the perspective of the POS app).
The intercept interviews with merchants also reminded me how sticky a problem this is. Not all merchants use these systems, and Nearbuy would have to support stores that don’t in order to be capable of having an exhaustive inventory. All without overcomplicating the lives of these merchants — they’re already juggling enough.