Posted: 29 August 2017
Online retailers and brick and mortar retailers continue the battle for market share. In the not-too-distant past, you could have sworn that e-commerce would have completely taken over by now. Delivery times are shorter, shipping options are broader, and a massive assortment of products seem to be infinitely available. Is the end of brick and mortars being dragged out into a slow and agonizing death? Is there any help out there?
There might be a new opportunity to fight back and stay relevant. And it comes from an unusual and unexpected ally: Google.
One of the difficult hurdles for shops is the proper utilisation of space. Inventory space is limited in a physical storefront, so stock levels can fluctuate on certain products. Many people then avoid in-store shopping because they're afraid they will get to the shop and the item won't be available.
That's why Google Shopping introduced Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA). These offer a unique and convenient way for retailers to combat the inventory issue. The store can continually update inventory levels through the Google Merchant Center so that the store will only show up in an item search if it's available.
From there, Google goes another step further by linking the items that show up in a search to an online storefront that they created. If you click on an item from a particular store, you will then be shown how far away the store is and the store hours.
The results in some cases have been substantial. In the US, Sears stores saw a 16% increase in click-through rate and an increase in store visits of 122%. Staples saw similar results with a 29% boost in click-through rate, and Sprint increased in-store visits by 31%.
In the UK, fashion retailer River Island was an early adopter when the technology became available. Their startling results showed that 6% of mobile clicks on the ad converted to a store visit. This amounted to a 17% increase in store visits and 33% increase in sales. Even more impressive was a 15% return-on-ad spend compared to other ad campaigns.
Seeing success happening for other retailers, Argos jumped into action in 2016. They embedded Google LIA into their system in 850 stores across the UK. The success of Google LIA in the US and UK has led to further testing of the programme with companies in Germany, France, Australia, and Japan.
Even with the success created by Google LIA, the Google Shopping experience was hardly finished. A recent venture has them teaming up with Swedish clothing retailer H&M to produce a one-of-a-kind experience. Using an app on your smartphone, Google and H&M are able to offer what they call "coded couture."
The app allows your smartphone to understand the environment around you as well as the activities you carry out. It learns so well, in fact, that it can actually determine your measurements and recommend a style. Upon choosing an occasion for needing the dress, the measurements are then fitted perfectly. The only step left is to decide if you would like to purchase and pick it up.
It is indeed a comfort to see how Google stands behind the in-store shopping experience. If they see a future, there is a good chance that future is possible.
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