Every local inventory ad has its thorn. Despite Google’s innovation of the ad format, local inventory ads (LIAs) remain a complex proposition. For starters, there are two feeds to manage—a local products feed and local product inventory feed. Both require regular maintenance and frequent uploading—at least once, and sometimes multiple times, daily.
Measurement is more challenging. The marketing industry has no perfect way to unify offline and online data to understand the full spectrum of customer behavior. But it is earnestly trying to solve this problem.
Google introduced its Store Sales Direct feature at the Google Marketing Next conference in May, which lets retailers import their offline transactional data (including email addresses) into AdWords, and map it back to users who have clicked on search and shopping ads.
And LiveRamp continues to make strides to better match a retailer’s offline CRM data to its third-party online data, most recently announcing an integration with Google’s Customer Match.
As with anything in marketing, these solutions require testing to determine efficacy and business fit. But they are steps in the right direction to bring retailers closer to understanding the offline actions of searchers.
The Future of Retailing is Everywhere
Management and measurement challenges aside, we hear our customers say that they still believe in the value of local inventory ads, and the advantage of providing multiple touchpoints for engagement. Industry data aligns with this thinking: A Harvard Business Review study found that omnichannel customers spent on average 10% more online than single-channel customers.
The study also showed omnichannel shoppers were more loyal. Within six months of an omnichannel shopping experience, these consumers had 23% more repeat shopping trips to the retailer’s stores than those who used a single channel.
With findings like these, some of our customers are evolving how they view and approach their local inventory ad campaigns. They’re increasingly interested in experimenting with new ways to optimize their LIAs from strategic and tactical levels.
I set out to dig deeper into just this, meeting with several of our customer strategy team members who work with retailers that are active in LIAs. Many of these retailers tend to have large and diverse product catalogs, ranging from home goods to apparel and more. Here are 12 ideas to help catalyze your optimization efforts, starting with basic pointers for those who are new to LIAs and moving into more advanced tips for those who have experience with the format.
Getting Started With Local Inventory Ads
1. Know the types of LIAs. Local inventory ads come in two flavors: local-only and multichannel.
2. Understand when to use one LIA format over another. Local-only LIAs have an advantage over multichannel LIAs in that they retain data purity. All clicks on local-only ads lead to your Google-hosted local storefront.
Local-only LIAs can be better when …
- You want to manage a separate budget for your LIA and Shopping campaigns. If you want to set this up, follow these steps.
- Create a new Shopping campaign.
- Enable LIAs in the new campaign.
- Add an inventory filter for channel = local.
- This new campaign will serve only local inventory ads and will allow you to use your local-specific budget.
- You’re liquidating in-store inventory, perhaps after the holiday shopping season.
- You want to drive shoppers to in-store promotions.
- You sell items that consumers prefer to touch or test out (i.e., certain electronics, apparel), or that are difficult to ship (i.e., furniture, certain sporting equipment).
Multichannel LIAs can be better when you want to get up and running with LIAs quickly and easily. You don’t have to rethink your Shopping ad strategy—you simply enable LIAs on your existing campaigns.
If you want to parse your ads by type, create a separate campaign and specify which ad format you want to use for eligible inventory.
3. Set separate return goals for LIAs and Shopping ads. Many of our customers opt for the conservative side when it comes to local inventory ad campaigns, largely because it’s difficult to pinpoint ad performance. Some set slightly less efficient return on ad spend (ROAS) or cost/sale targets for their LIAs compared to their Shopping ads.
When determining your return target, the same rules of the road for Shopping ads apply: Consider health of the business, expenses, margins, seasonality, and overall goals. Use your intrinsic knowledge of your business to interpret ROAS or cost/sale targets.
Location, Location, Location
4. Bank on shoppers who are closer to your stores. Use location extensions to set a radius around each store (i.e., one mile, three miles, etc.) and set a positive bid adjustment for each radius, with higher adjustments for customers who are closer to your stores. This approach can be especially helpful as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing and customers are feeling more pressure to buy.
5. Layer in competitor zip codes to steal traffic. Create a separate campaign and add competitor zip codes as your targeted locations. Google makes it easy to add many zip codes with its “bulk locations” tab. Bid your products more aggressively in this campaign.
You can also go more granular and create several campaigns with different sets of competitor zip codes. For instance, create a campaign targeting zip codes you share with competitors, and set higher bids. Then create another campaign of competitor-only zip codes, and set slightly less higher bids.
6. Target by in-store-pickup locations. Appeal to this shopper preference by creating a separate campaign and adding in-store-pickup locations as your targets. Adjust bids accordingly. You could bid more aggressively to entice consumers to buy now and pick up in store, where they might discover additional products to purchase.
Time Your Efforts
7. Show LIAs only during store open times. Remember that any optimizations you can do with Shopping ads, you can also do with LIAs. Dayparting is a prime example. You could apply dayparting to local-only LIAs to show ads only during store open times. This would let you focus your budget on the hours of the day when your investment can convert.
8. Or, show LIAs 24/7 and optimize bids by time of day. We’ve also seen retailers prefer a different philosophy with dayparting: Maintain brand awareness 24/7 by setting higher bids when stores are open and lower bids when stores are closed. Another angle: Set higher bids when foot traffic peaks and reduce bids when it falls.
The Retargeting One-Two Punch
9. Target past in-store purchasers with Customer Match. Winning back past customers is top priority for many retailers. Acquiring a new customer costs at least five times as much as keeping an existing one. That’s where Customer Match comes into play. The tool lets you create audiences within Shopping and LIA campaigns using email addresses from your database. You can then adjust product bids to those audience segments.
If you collect email addresses at point of sale, you could create a local-only LIA campaign and build audience lists for past in-store purchasers. Then experiment. There are myriad ways you could use Customer Match with local inventory ad campaigns. For instance, try bucketing customers who’ve …
- Purchased one time, two to five times, and five or more times. Adjust bids accordingly for each bucket, depending on which segment needs more of a nudge to repurchase.
- Purchased during certain annual sales or seasons. Target them again during similar promotions and seasons.
10. Reach past website visitors with RLSA. A similar Google tool is RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads). It dynamically builds lists of shoppers in AdWords based on actions they’ve taken on your site—visits, checkouts, cart abandonments, etc.—and lets you value these audiences differently with bid adjustments. Unlike Customer Match, RLSA requires that shoppers visit your site. Consider using RLSA with LIAs to …
- Target cart abandoners, because they might not have checked out due to shipping costs.
- Segment out shoppers who’ve purchased on your site in the past. Bid up if you’re interested in retaining existing customers via Google Shopping. Bid more conservatively if you’d rather focus budget on efforts to acquire new customers via Google Shopping.
- Target shoppers who’ve viewed pages of products that have higher prices and/or higher shipping costs to lure them into your store.
This is just a sampling of ideas for Customer Match and RLSA. The space here can’t do justice for all the use cases that surround these features. Be sure to check out our much more detailed advice on the subject: Customer Match and RLSA for Google Shopping: The Ultimate Guide.
Think Like a Local Shopper
11. Isolate mobile consumers. It’s no secret that mobile and local are tied at the hip. Google has reported that a third of mobile searches are local. And local searches on mobile devices are growing 50% faster than mobile searches as a whole.
If you’re bidding down on mobile in your traditional Shopping ads, LIAs are definitely when you should rethink your mobile approach. Bid up on mobile. Learn how in this E-Commerce Marketing Minute video. Also: The carousel of Google Shopping ads on mobile always contains at least two spots for LIAs. Google is providing the visibility for LIAs on mobile. Set yourself up to take advantage of it.
12. Monitor performance for key search terms, such as “near me.” Evaluate your search query report in AdWords to understand performance around search terms that indicate a consumer wants to make a local, in-store purchase.
If you’re seeing terms such as “near me” in your search query report, your Shopping ads are already attracting local shoppers. Tap into that audience even more. Consider prioritizing LIAs, and determine how to make them a more strategic part of your Google Shopping effort. Articles like this can be a starting point. :)
The question of whether and when to push shoppers to a physical store versus an e-commerce website will be increasingly important moving forward, especially as retail evolves its online-offline composition. It will continue to be critical to understand your customers’ preferences, and adapt to meet their needs.
The dialogue around local inventory ads will change as the industry makes strides to improve management and measurement of the ad format. For now, these are the days of experimentation. Test. Learn. Repeat.