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Has Google Perfected the Retail Search Ad With Its Local Inventory Offering?

Sears Hometown store visits jumped 122 percent

Retailers' visits are getting a huge boost thanks to their Google strategy.

Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, a retailer fighting for every sale, has evidently found a weapon in Google's Local Inventory Ads that it says works to drive consumers to its stores. The digital marketing product is still fairly new from the search giant, launched last year, and holds the promise of finally helping brick-and-mortar brands take advantage of the online world rather than always getting beaten by it.

With that in mind, the Sears spinoff company has been running Google's shopping ads that target by location and reveal whether a product is actually in a location. As part of a Google report today, the retail company claimed that such information has worked to generate 122 percent more visits to its 1,240 shops under the Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores brand. The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based chain's click-through rate was 16 percent higher on inventory ads when compared to other ad products.

"The ad unit is terrific for a mobile experience," said David Buckley, CMO of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores. "It's highly relevant to where you are, and it's served with an image, price attributes, and how far you're standing from that product. It's the ultimate search ad product for mobile. You can't ask for more than that."

Online ad competition is growing fierce with Google and Facebook both looking for the ultimate targeted driver of sales, and measuring the exact effectiveness of this type of marketing. Facebook just bought TheFind, an e-commerce search aggregator that promises to show consumers the most relevant product ads.

Then there's always Amazon and its lock on knowing what consumers are in the market to buy, because of its large share of purchase-behavior data.

Google has always been in a good position to serve such ads, too, considering its users search for those products online. The shopping ads have become a popular avenue for retailers like Sprint and Staples, which were named in addition to Sears in the results from Google's report.

Sprint saw a 31 percent higher visit rate from consumers who viewed its mobile search ads compared to those who saw desktop ads, and its Google campaigns drove five in-store sales for every one conducted online, the report said.

"Sometimes, a consumer wants to find a product locally either to see it in person or perhaps they need it right away, enter Local Inventory Ads that can take advantage of the store-level product feeds to show local availability," Google said in its findings.

Here's a look at some of the other key figures that Google is touting to show the effectiveness of its shopping ad products:

  • Local Inventory Ads drove in-store sales at five times the rate of TV ads—or $8 of in-store sales for every dollar Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores spent on online ads.
  • Staples' in-store visits lifted 33 percent after running shopping campaigns through Google.
  • The click-through rate increased 29 percent for Staples on its product listing ads.
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