By Brianna Ahearn, contributing writer
Google has long been one of the dominant players in online advertisements, and a new feature to its AdWords service is going to give better metrics to advertisers. Google is testing a new program to see if online advertisements actually equal in-store visitors with two initial stores participating in the test. The company announced the testing via a post on the official Google AdWords blog, and says the option will be available as part of Google's Estimated Total Conversions (ETC), which lets marketers see how the online advertisements drive conversions for their business. Office Depot and Famous Footwear will be among the first companies to test the new feature.
ETC arrived in 2013, and offered a way for retailers to see data on how their advertisements performed when it came to cross-device conversions and phone calls. Now by monitoring “Store Visits,” Google and advertisers will be able to determine exactly which type of advertisements get customers into a store. The tool uses an algorithm that estimates how many people went into a store upon seeing an ad in a 30 day period. For example, if a search for “Sperry shoes” was input into Google, Famous Footwear would be able to tell if a group of users went into their local branch within that time period. While online sales continue to grow in popularity, Google notes that nearly 95% of retail sales are in brick and mortar locations. The marriage of in-store and online activities is an increasing trend in retailing today, as more retailers seek ways to connect with customers in-store on mobile devices using beacon technology, apps, and other options.
The ads run by Office Depot currently feature local inventory for web users, meaning Google searches will show whether a product is in stock in a local store, and the nearest location a shopper may find the desired product. With “Store Visits,” Office Depot can now study the data to see if this classification of advertisements is driving traffic into their local stores. In turn, the company will use the data retrieved to study which product categories, such as electronics and computer accessories, are the primary driver for consumers to visit the nearest Office Depot location. The information will allow the company to make adjustments when necessary, an option that will prove invaluable as we head into 2015 and Office Depot prepares for a strong first quarter. According to Christine Buscarino, VP of E-Commerce Marketing at Office Depot, Inc, her team is now able to provide "contextually relevant information, where and when customers need it."
For people who are concerned about privacy issues, Google stresses the feature has been “carefully designed to keep data private and secure.” Rather than receive a user's actual physical location, advertisers get aggregated, anonymized data from a sample of users with the Location History option turned on. The “Store Visits” option is currently only available to US retailers, and Google has asked interested advertisers to contact their AdWords account representative for more information. A roll out to eligible advertisers will begin in the next few weeks.