Why it’s easier than ever to measure the impact of online ads on your physical stores

So, you’re a retailer, Christmas is coming and you’ve got that glitzy, blingy all-important shop window sorted, right? There’re baubles, a Christmas tree and gifts galore as you look to tempt those seasonal shoppers off the streets and into your store.

Chances are it’ll look great, but have you considered your real shop window? It’s probably not what you think…

In these days of clicks-to-bricks your flagship ‘window’ isn’t on the high street but online instead. Specifically, via platforms like Google Shopping.

Yes, really. Okay, so it’s not as glamourous or exciting as an all-singing, all-dancing window in real life but it is incredibly effective – and easy to do. Better still, the online and offline data you can easily compile and track means you can really drill down into what works best for your brand when it comes to driving footfall in store.

Consider this: two-thirds of shoppers (76%) start their journey online, seeking inspiration through Google. Of those, according to the IPG Mediabrand Retail Buying Study, 54% will finish that journey in a physical store.

And with Google Shopping ads driving 82% of retail search ad spend in the UK and 87.9% of clicks, according to Adthena, it is impossible to overestimate their importance in today’s beleaguered High Street environment.

So why aren’t more retailers connecting that all-important online and offline tracking?

Many have shied away: they think that being able to do so is simply out of reach so don’t bother trying. But it’s actually very straightforward to set this up using Google technology.

Together, Google Shopping, its Store Visits metric and the beta Store Sales Direct give retailers access to a wealth of high-quality information that can inform both your online and offline strategy.

Essentially you can now track offline activity in order to inform the products and services you should be showcasing in your Google Shopping window to deliver greater returns in bricks as well as clicks.

Briefly, here’s how you can convert more online surfers into in-store shoppers:

You’ll need to apply to Google for whitelisting, for which you need to have a certain number of physical locations (and for these to be verified in Google My Business), be spending over a certain amount on Google Ads (of which Google Shopping is a part), and have location extensions enabled in your account. No special technology or hardware necessary.

Once approved, you’ll be able to view store visits at an ad group level in the Google Ads interface. The store visit metric can be split by both device and audience, allowing you to perform even more powerful analysis.

Google will only report a store visit if it is 95% confident that it has happened – which is both good and bad news, because although you’ll be in possession of highly accurate offline data you’ll have to wait too long to receive it. It takes the search engine 35 days to validate that data – but by modelling the data you can act in just seven days or less.

Great data, at speed. Now what? It’s time now to refine the data further. Let’s discount click & collect orders – they’ll skew results because that store visit was not transactional but a collection.

Next upload customer data such as email addresses and mobile phone numbers to match clicks to in-store purchases through the beta Store Sales Direct.

Finally, with all that high-quality store data feeding into Google Ads you can alter your Shopping bidding strategy, inform your geo-targeting and tweak schedules.

You’ll find that some products that struggle to convert online actually drive a significant number of people into your store. Luggage is one such example where people want to see and feel a product in real life before parting with their cash. Matalan saw an offline footfall index of 1333% in this category.

Or perhaps you only want to target people living within a certain radius of your store? Now you can. Crunching the numbers will even show the times of day and days of the week when a search is more likely to result in a store visit. You can use that to influence your bidding strategy and drive even more people in store.

We’re seeing so many of our clients reap real life rewards from some pretty simple tweaks that I can’t understand why more retailers aren’t doing it. For those who thought it couldn’t be done, I’m on a mission to prove that it can! Google Shopping really is your flagship storefront, amplified.

So, in summary, this type of tracking of Google Shopping’s impact on your physical stores is really easy to implement, gives you access to incredibly valuable data, and will help you drive performance.

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