#Digital Marketing #Industry News

Google Ads 2020 Product & Feature Announcements: Offline Sales

Google Ads has concluded their series of product & feature update announcements with the second of two of updates highlighting tools built to help advertisers connect their online and in-store experience. By bringing the best aspects of stores into digital, connecting with nearby consumers, and accurately optimizing toward store sales, Google aims to make the transition from digital engagement to offline purchase more seamless for both advertisers and consumers. 

 

While the pandemic has drastically reduced in-store foot traffic, the store is still a critical point of transaction for consumers even when they’re doing their research and shopping online--which means it’s more critical than ever for brands to connect their digital and physical assets. According to a Google study, 77% of US shoppers plan to browse for gifts online instead of in-store this holiday and 67% regularly confirm online that an item is in stock before going out to a store. This isn’t just an opportunity for big brands. 66% of shoppers plan to shop more at local small businesses, which means that accurate digital representation of in-store products and inventory is important for every size business.

 

Helping Consumers Research

Google Local Campaigns are an effective automated advertising solution across Maps, Search, Display, and YouTube focused on driving in-store traffic from nearby or interested users. Now Google has announced that Local Campaigns will also allow brands to optimize for other types of interactions, like clicks on the “Call” and “Directions” buttons displayed across Google formats like Google Maps, a welcome option during this time of massively changed consumer behavior. 

 

It’s no longer enough to simply know a business’s hours or whether it is currently open. That’s why Google has added more information to the location listings themselves in order to give consumers the current updates so they can make informed decisions. Restaurants and QSRs can now show the status of service attributes like ‘dine in’ and ‘takeout’ enabling searchers to know at a glance what to expect. In the coming weeks, Google will also add similar attributes for retailers highlighting whether the store has ‘curbside pickup’ or is open for ‘in-store shopping’.

These two updates, available globally in every country where Google My Business currently operates, highlight Google’s push to put the consumer first. They recognize the importance of adding more store information and connecting potential customers with local businesses even if just to share more details of the offering or speaking to someone on the phone. This is great for major brands, but it also allows more niche and smaller businesses a chance to improve their online options and ultimately be flexible to the user’s needs. The more options, the better.

 

Buy Online, Pick Up In Store

More and more consumers are shopping and researching online, but many still want to go to the store to actually collect their new purchases. Google’s new Shopping Ads features encourage that process.

 

LIAs (Local Inventory Ads) have been a staple for many brands to show searchers stock availability in stores nearby. Following the success of ‘curbside pickup’ and ‘pickup today’ attributes, Google have now released a ‘Pickup later’ option. This extends to specific days like ‘Pickup by Friday’, and is a way to promote products which are not necessarily in store but can be very soon.

 

 

Interestingly, Google has simplified Location Extension management for large retailers and chains by adding a small but helpful way for these advertisers to select the stores they want to feature in their location extension from a curated list. This minor feature is to help major brands organize their listings quickly - a helpful way of being flexible in such changeable times.

 

Both the extended ‘pickup later’ LIA feature, and the improved management of Location Extensions highlight new ways for brands to encourage users to go in-store. While the structured data and feed needs for LIAs and Google My Business updates for Location Extensions may be considerable, this also acknowledges the importance of physical stores or locations for many advertisers, and these present a way to engage with users seeking products in a timely and seamless way--yet another way of Google extending varying options for consumers in times of such varying preferences.

 

Smart Bidding Gets Smarter with Store Sales

While more flexible location information and options are key, optimizing towards in-store activity is also vital. Now, Google’s smart bidding algorithm will officially expand to include store sales. This global beta means store sales can be included as a conversion metric - alongside online conversions and store visits - and any existing auction-time the contextual signal bidding will now predict potential offline store-sale purchasers too.

 

This beta is no surprise to many, given last year’s announcement of store visits integrating into smart bidding. It is a natural progression and helps bridge the gap for brands to more accurately align investment and automate bidding towards offline sales, not just online. Despite this helpful new feature, integrating store sales and uploading store sale data remains a hurdle for many advertisers, and it could take months for slower advertisers to start testing the value.

 

Helpfulness

Every brand is having to rethink their approach to business in 2020, and Google is no exception.  When they launched this new process of sharing announcements and new features back in June, the core theme was “helpfulness.” Consumers are already seeing value from Google’s changes as they rely on digital more and more to shop, to plan, and to navigate a tumultuous time; and advertisers now have dozens of new Google marketing features to help navigate the coming holiday season and beyond. These updates reflect the power of digital in being agile and flexible, and the importance of now providing people flexible options too. At iProspect we’ve been leaning into these new offerings and already finding success and incremental performance, and we believe every advertiser can unlock additional opportunity by leveraging the tools Google has announced over the past three months.