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A Local’s Guide to Local Inventory Ads

Steve Costanza

Is the future of online retail…brick and mortar?

I wouldn’t go that far, but earlier this year, Google revealed that one-third of all searches are now location-related, and that location-related mobile searches are growing 50% faster than overall mobile searches. For retailers able to turn these locational online searches into in-store sales, there’s considerable opportunity.

Since late 2013, local inventory ads (LIAs) have been helping retailers bridge this gap between their physical retail shelves and nearby consumers searching on Google. But even as Google continues to call attention to the rising local search trend, questions about LIAs remain.

With local searches accelerating at rapid clip, there’s no better time to consider adding local inventory ads to your arsenal — or refine an existing LIA campaign. To get you started, here’s a step-by-step guide from an AdWords local.

Local in Action

Even if you’ve never deployed local inventory ads in your Shopping campaigns, without a doubt, you’ve come across them while searching on Google.

By leveraging GPS, Google pinpoints where a user is located while searching. When Google returns Shopping ads as search results, it will often include relevant products that the shopper can purchase nearby; these are local inventory ads.

When a shopper clicks an LIA, she will be taken to a Google-hosted local storefront for the retailer selling the item, and given the option to buy the item online or get it in-store nearby.

Here’s how it all looks, courtesy of a handy graphic from Google:

Local Inventory Ads Example

How It’s Done

So how do local inventory ads make their way into search results in markets where they’re available? (For now, local inventory ads are only live in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Australia, and Japan.)

Adding local inventory ads to your AdWords armaments takes some product feed creation and inventory management skills, but here’s how it’s done:

1. Raise Your Hand: The first step is just telling Google you’re interested in implementing local inventory ads and filling out some details about your business using this form.

2. Configure Your Account: To run local inventory ads, you’ll need to set up a few accounts: a Merchant Center account and an AdWords account, which you may already have if you’re actively advertising on Google. You’ll also need to set up a Google My Business locations account to house your store location info.

3. Tell Google About Your Local Products: Next, it’s time to give Google the details on products you sell in stores by submitting a local product feed.

4. Show Google What’s Where: After you’ve got your local product feed all set, you’ll then need to create a local product inventory feed. This tells Google which products are found at which locations. As with any feed, it’s crucial to keep your local feeds up-to-date to avoid having your ads disqualified.

5. Register and Submit: Local feeds complete and up-to-date? Now it’s time to register and submit them in your Merchant Center. Be sure to follow Google’s guidelines for local feed submission frequency going forward.

6. Expect Visitors: Once you’ve created and submitted your feeds to Merchant Center, a Google representative will reach out and schedule a store visit to verify your inventory is current and accurate. After the initial visit, Google may want to schedule ongoing visits to confirm your inventory information is still correct in the future.

7. Ready, Set, Go: The final step of local inventory ads is adding them to your campaigns. To make all that hard work you’ve done creating local feeds pay off, all that’s left to do is enable local inventory ads in your Shopping campaign settings (or create a new Shopping campaign for LIAs from scratch).

Where to Go from Here

As you can probably gather, there’s a bit more work involved in implementing local inventory ads then there is in, say, adding Google search partners or RLSA to your Shopping campaigns.

This means that local inventory ads come with unique considerations to keep in mind before jumping in:

Clarify Your Goals: Before convening all the necessary resources and people — not to mention, your own precious hours — lay out goals for LIAs. Are you simply looking for more in-store traffic? Or are you aiming to drive more shoppers into your retail locations so they can be assisted by local staff (and possibly cross-sold accessory items or up-sold to premium products). It’s easy to say, “I want more people in my stores,” but do some soul searching to determine why.

Set Your Expectations: Understand what success in local inventory ads looks like to you before jumping in. If you’re not going to track any particular metric or set of metrics, that’s fine, but know that from the outset. You may just aim for impression volume. Alternatively, if you decide to meticulously measure your LIA campaigns, make sure you decide what to track from the outset. This will save you from playing catch up once you kick things off.

Google has expanded its store visit conversions tracking to more advertisers, which uses anonymized location data to measure how clicks to your ads influence visits to your stores. Though it doesn’t track revenue from your LIAs, this metric can provide a helpful gauge of the returns they generate.

(Optional) Segment Your LIAs into a Separate Campaign: Once you’ve set your goals and decided how, exactly, you’re going to measure them, you’ll be able to more easily track your progress and optimize performance if you break local inventory ads into their own campaign.

You’ll also be able to set unique bids for local inventory ads with a segmented structure in place. If some of your items have high shipping costs — washing machines, for instance — you might want to raise bids for their local inventory ads to sell more of them in-store and reduce shipping costs. You can also raise bids for LIAs to drive shoppers to your stores for items with large cross-sell potential — like high-end televisions that practically require a equally epic sound system.

One Final Thought…

Local inventory ads don’t cost any more than regular Google Shopping ads, and consumers who click on them now have an additional pathway to purchase the product: one of your nearby brick-and-mortar stores.

From this perspective, local inventory ads present no downside for marketers using them beyond the initial planning and implementation phase. If you have the necessary resources to maintain a local product feed, then local inventory ads are well worth the investment.

As more searches shift from desktop to mobile, and consumers grow continually more reliant on Google to guide their purchases, LIAs can help ensure they’ll find you — online or nearby. 

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