It has to be said that Google fully deserves its success as a search engine be it only for the sophisticated and clever tools it puts at businesses’ disposal to analyse traffic and build informed online ad campaigns. Shopping has, however, become increasingly complex and, despite the wealth of information available in AdWords, it was never clear which percentage of in-store purchases could be attributed to AdWords driving traffic to the shop’s website to start with.
It all changed in 2014 when Google launched its in-store visits metric for AdWords. And, we may have had to wait four years for it to reach New Zealand but now it has, opening up a world of opportunities.
What is this in-store visits metric and why does it matter?
If your business is purely online and you run AdWords campaigns, conversions are very easy to track. The difficulty for businesses with brick-and-mortar stores AND ecommerce is that, although customers will often have started by researching goods or services online, they may actually complete the purchase in the store. There was therefore a ‘blind spot’ that didn’t account for that type of journey and that skewed conversion rates.
Being able to track the gap between online research and physical purchase is hugely important. We know that the number of mobile searches has exploded in the last few years and geo-location apps have also flourished. Our society is constantly on the move and finding places ‘near me’ is one of the most popular search terms.
And this is why this new metric – which works at campaign, ad group and keyword levels and can be segmented by device – is going to make a huge difference to paid-for online advertisement as it will give digital marketers and business owners a truer picture of the results of their AdWords campaigns.
A case study on Nissan UK, for example, showed that, after implementing the store visit conversion metric, their real Return on Investment (ROI) from AdWords campaigns was actually 25 times higher than previously reported. Other large US retailers saw an increase in their ROI by 10 times on average. These numbers are impressive in themselves but, as importantly, this new metric has given companies unprecedented insight into their customer’s journey and how they could influence it.
Having access to this data also revealed a surprising fact in the US: on average, the number of store visits driven by mobile search ads exceeded the number of online purchase conversions which indicated that some people wouldn’t have come to the store at all were it not for those mobile ads. So if you were still not convinced of the importance of mobile searches, hopefully, you are now!
How does it work?
To the risk of stating the obvious, this metric only applies to businesses that have both a website AND physical stores. They also have to meet certain eligibility criteria such as having several stores, receiving thousands of ad clicks; having a Google My Business account linked to their AdWords account and creating each of their store locations there -have fun! – as well as having more than 90% of them verified.
Like its algorithms, Google jealously protects how it works technically, but we know that it draws information from its maps, as it has the exact coordinates and borders of, literally, millions of businesses worldwide. This ensures that recording in-store visits is very precise and that it is allocated to the right shop, not the next-door neighbour’s.
The metric also uses Wi-Fi signal strength, GPS signals, Google’s query data and a proprietary modelling tool for consumer behaviour based on the history of 1 million users who opted to be part of the data.
It then looks at phone location history and ad clicks on all devices -including desktops- to deduct conversion rates, also taking into account the time people spent in the shop to eliminate irrelevant data, such as people who would show as spending less than a minute there because they are actually using it as a way through to somewhere else; or employees that would show as staying for hours.
To make sure that they got it really right, Google finished off with a survey of over 5 million people to double-check their results and they have reported a 99% accuracy.
The limits of the metric
As you will have realised from the eligibility criteria, this tool will only be accessible to large companies at this time. In addition, for privacy reasons, Google can only track the history of people who agree to be tracked, and the information collected is anonymous and aggregated, rather than linked to specific individuals. Then, it actually only measures the fact that people visited your store after clicking on an AdWords ad, but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily bought from you once in store.
Also, it is more of an observational feature at the moment, as you can’t yet optimise towards it.
If you are interested in this program but are not sure whether your company qualifies, get in touch with This Side Up by phone on 09 360 2299 or send us a message. We are Premium Google Partners and will be delighted to discuss your goals and requirements.