- Google added a feature to its online ad platform aimed at brick-and-mortar retailers that seek to drive foot traffic to their stores. The "See What's In Store" feature lets stores show a list of their inventory for free in a Knowledge Panel, which appears in the right-hand column of search results for a business, and on Google Maps, per TechCrunch.
- Google also is offering location information for video campaigns on YouTube, local catalog display ads that will let businesses show larger hero images and full listings of other in-store inventory including price, according to a company blog post. Google partnered with point-of-sale and inventory data providers such as Pointy, Cayan, Linx and yReceipts that work directly with merchants to provide data to Google.
- The search giant also introduced a competitive pricing feature that lets retailers check pricing for similar items sold by other merchants. Businesses also can raise their bids for ad placements if they see that they can offer customers a better deal.
For Google, the additional focus on retailers means another opportunity to sell advertising to local businesses that want to boost their online marketing and search engine optimization strategies without too much fuss. Surojit Chatterjee, director of product management for Google Shopping, said in the blog post that about 80% of shoppers will visit a store if they know in advance that the merchant has a certain product in stock. Providing an inventory list to shoppers makes a store's catalog more transparent to potential customers, and saves them the time and frustration of a wasted trip, providing a better shopping experience overall.
Online-to-offline commerce, or "omni-commerce," is a big theme for retailers that seek to offer a variety of touch points with customers that includes mobile apps, websites, print catalogs and physical stores. Boulanger, a retailer that tested the new catalog ads, drove more than 20,000 store visits with a sales jump that delivered a return of 42x its ad spend, per Google's blog post. This case points to the potential success the new ad format could provide to participating retailers.
Google's efforts to appeal to retailers comes as rivals like Facebook also seek to increase ad sales among smaller businesses. Facebook has added more features to its Messenger chat service aimed at small businesses, and last month added referrals to homes services companies in an expansion into offering more commerce opportunities for users and brands. Meanwhile, Amazon is testing retargeting ads in a strike at Google, while also expanding into physical retailing with its brick-and-mortar bookstores, cashier-less Amazon Go stores and last year's acquisition of Whole Foods Market.
E-commerce has greatly disrupted the retail industry in the past 25 years, culminating in the "retail apocalypse" of the past two years as mall traffic waned, department stores closed and major chains filed for bankruptcy. But brick-and-mortar stores are still responsible for 90% of retail spending, TechCrunch reported, making them viable businesses that provide certain conveniences to shoppers. Stores can offer the immediacy of supplying goods that are in stock, help customers inspect products like big-ticket electronics or let shoppers try on apparel before buying.