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Digital Marketing

Measuring Offline Store Visits and Sales in an Online Age

Conversion tracking and measurement for online advertising has evolved significantly over the years, with tools for measuring and attributing conversion data within individual channels, across channels, and more recently, across devices.
But how do advertisers with an online advertising presence and a reliance on physical store sales accurately measure the impact of their digital investments? According to Google, 30% of smartphone users who visit a website or app on their smartphones end up purchasing something in a physical store within 24 hours. With such a high proportion of revenue being generated offline, advertisers have struggled to adequately attribute ROI to their online campaigns. Until now.
Enter the newest conversion tracking innovation.
A recent announcement from Google moves data-driven online advertisers closer to determining the ROI relationship between online spend and offline revenue. Google’s new “store visit conversions” (SVC) feature measures estimated visits to a physical storefront, hotel, restaurant, dealership, or other brick-and-mortar asset and displays them as conversions in the AdWords interface.
SVC’s are modeled and estimated using data points from aggregated anonymous users who have both clicked on an ad and later visited a physical store location. Research data suggests that most smartphone users stay signed in even when they are not actively using their phones, which allows Google to track user locations and associate them with online activity. This way, visits to brick-and-mortar stores can be tracked, and based on an algorithm, an in-store or offline sale can be counted as a conversion attributed to an online ad.
Many advertisers have already seen great results using this advancement in conversion attribution. Per a case study released by Google in September 2016, The Home Depot has seen ROI increase 8x for their digital campaigns. Likewise, another advertiser closely monitoring online to offline metrics has seen a 25x increase in ROI.
Despite the results and an ever-evolving new tool, there are still some limitations.
For example, Google can only track user location data for people that share their device location. As customer privacy issues arise, Google claims in-store visits can’t be tied to individual people and they are using industry best practices for privacy.
To participate in the new innovation, retailers must have multiple physical store locations, exceed the threshold of both clicks (in the thousands) and in-store foot traffic, and have each store location up to date with its Google My Business account. Advertisers can then add a SVC column in their AdWords reports to analyze them alongside any other conversion type.
But what does this really mean for digital marketing strategies?
With the ability to better value online touchpoints adequately when purchases are completed in stores, what does one do with that information?  With both the complexity and competition of online advertising steadily increasing, leveraging new tools and their insights has become more important than ever.
Here are a few tips for making the most of segmentation using in-store conversion data:

  • Utilize device and geographic targeting. Considering that store visits likely result from searches on smartphones, strategically investing in mobile device geo-targeting has become crucial. One opportunity with this strategy includes delivering relevant ad messaging that highlights nearby store promotions within a certain mile radius, all targeted to mobile devices. To take it a step further, one could consider using mobile bid adjustments to maximize bidding for the highest-value local users.
  • Add location and call extensions. Make sure that relevant location extensions and call extensions are set up to display local business information and the proximity of users to stores. Call extensions can help by connecting users to a local store’s representative for personalized information.
  • Keyword strategy. Let’s say you’re managing ads for a chain of home decor stores. Consider bidding on “home decor near me” and other similar keywords with location and call extensions noted above to capture users with the intent of finding local stores relevant to your product or service.

While true ROI from online to offline may still remain somewhat illusive, and likely always will, Google’s SVC capabilities make major headway to define what really happens in customer journeys. Thus, the future is looking bright for in-store conversion tracking. This and other new tools are closing the gap for offline conversions that would otherwise not be tracked through more traditional methods, and enable advertisers to have a more complete picture of their investments.

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