Google aims to connect online ads to physical stores

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This Wednesday, April 26, 2017, photo shows Google's web address, in Philadelphia.

Google will track what you're buying offline in addition to monitoring your online shopping in its latest attempt to sell more digital advertising.

A new Google feature can tell when someone who clicked on an ad in search results made a credit or debit card purchase at a corresponding physical store.

Now in a testing phase, the tool is starting to be rolled out as part of the annual Google Marketing Next conference in San Francisco, where Google announces new products and improvements for advertisers and marketers.

Already available for Search, Shopping and Display ads, advertisers have used the product to measure more than 5 billion store visits since it was introduced in 2014. With the new tool, Google says it will now be able to tell if the same person bought the shoes a few days later at a physical store.

In the case of the store sales measure tool, Google's computers are connecting the dots between what people look at after clicking on an online ad and then what they purchase with their credit and debit cards.


Google's partnerships have captured information about approximately 70% of all credit card transactions in the U.S.

Lastly, Google announced store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels will be coming to AdWords.

If the program works, it could help persuade merchants to boost their digital marketing budgets. "And all these moments take place on multiple devices, making them even harder to measure", said Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP of ads & commerce at Google, in a blog post.

"Things written in AMP, even if they are ads, can not have poor performance", said AMP Ads Initiative tech lead Michael Kleber at Google I/O Thursday.

The kinds of data that Google is collecting also could become an inviting target for hackers, said Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University.

"These are the users who have opted into Google properties and give us permission very explicitly to use their location history in an anonymized and aggregated fashion", said Kishore Kanakamedala, Google's director of product management.


Google already runs the world's biggest online ad network, one that raked in $79 billion in revenue past year.

That puts it in the best position to capture any additional marketing dollars spent on computers and mobile devices.

The Mountain View, California, company touted the store-sales measurement tool Tuesday in San Francisco at an annual conference it hosts for its advertisers.

This meeting is an opportunity not only for Google to flaunt its new tools, but also to work on regaining ground with advertisers who have recently boycotted YouTube. Major advertisers began pulling back two months ago over concerns that Google hadn't prevented major brand advertising from appearing alongside extremist video clips promoting hate and violence.

"It analyzes trillions of search queries and activity across millions of websites to help figure out when people are close to buying and surface ads that will be more relevant and interesting to them."
What Google ad tracking could not do on its own, however, was determine whether or not the ad was effective, i.e. whether or not you actually purchased what was advertised.

"Existing attribution products are hard to set up, they lose track of the customer when devices are switched, and they aren't well integrated with other marketing tools which makes it hard to take action", said Pahlavan, claiming that the entire workflow that could usually take months, has been simplified down to a few minutes with this new product.


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