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Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA): 7 Strategies for Success

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Google Local Inventory Ads (LIA): 7 Strategies for Success

Reports show that shopper’s use of Buy Online, Pick Up In Store (BOPIS)—also commonly known as Click-and-Collect—is only continuing to grow after a major pandemic boost in adoption. Consumers enjoy the efficiency and convenience of placing an order online, and picking it up already-bagged at their nearby store, making local availability one of the biggest factors impacting purchase decisions in 2023.

Source: https://forecasts-na1.emarketer.com/5df80ef0d5924101a08b78a5/5df80db59610370b18a15f25

Having the ability to reach your audience online before they make a product decision is crucial for local businesses, which is why there’s never been a better time to leverage Local Inventory Ads (LIA).

Screenshot reading “Tinuiti Joins Google’s new Local Inventory Ads Partner Program"

Tinuiti is excited to announce that we recently joined Google’s new Local Inventory Ad Partner Program, and are among the first US-based Agency partners to do so. As an official LIA Partner, our teams are fully equipped to handle campaign management, strategy, and execution, serving as an end-to-end resource for retailers—including helping to onboard the required feeds to Google.

Here’s how Local Inventory Ads help drive in-store traffic and sales, how to set them up, and some expert tips for optimizing your campaigns.

“Local Inventory Ads give retailers an opportunity to reach local shoppers by showcasing products available in their stores on Google. On top of driving customers to your physical stores, new features like store pickup and merchant hosted local storefronts lead to online traffic and conversions, resulting in more omnichannel revenue growth for retailers.”

Portrait of Ashlee Wiltshire

— Ashlee Wiltshire, Senior Director, Shoppable Media at Tinuiti
 

Table of Contents

 

 
Local Inventory Ads (LIA) are Google Shopping ads that are displayed when a searched product is available for purchase or pickup in a local store, and can be an effective way for retailers to drive in-store traffic.

These inventory listings are great at capturing a customer’s attention by offering ready-to-retrieve products available from local stores.

example of local inventory ads for yoga mats

Think of local inventory ads as an online banner that appears underneath product listings for a given search query:

  • They appear at the top of the search results right below the search query
  •  

  • Potential customers can quickly review local businesses that carry the product
  •  

  • Users that click on your local inventory ad are either directed to a Google-hosted local storefront page, or a merchant website’s product page (if the info for local pricing + availability on the product page meets Google’s requirements)
example of how local inventory ads work with local storefront

Source: Google

In addition to appearing within Search results, LIAs can also be served on Google Images, Google Assistant, and Google Maps. Customers still have the option to purchase directly from your website if they can’t make it into your store, meaning your local inventory ads can support both in-store and ecommerce sales.

Recognizing that not everything folks shop for locally falls within an immediately available category— such as large furniture items on display in a nearby store—Google also offers an on display to order feature (ODO). Items leveraging this feature will note that they are “In store – available to order.” Eligibility requirements for using the ODO feature include: the listed item must be deliverable to the shopper’s home within 90 days of purchase; the URL shoppers are directed to from the listing must provide all shipping details, including cost and policy.

 

 

Google offers three options for activating and delivering LIAs: Google-hosted local Storefronts (GHLS), and Merchant-hosted local Storefronts (MHLS)—full or basic. Let’s explore how each works…
 

Google Hosted Local Storefronts

When users who click your LIA are directed to your Google-hosted Local Storefront, you can showcase even more information about your business to help close the sale, including:

  • A description of your product or business
  • Links to your website
  • Phone number
  • Hours of operation
  • Map and navigation directions to your store

The opportunity to provide shoppers with a snapshot of this additional information is an advantage to using GHLS, but there is one primary con to consider: Shoppers are not taken directly to a page where they can purchase the item. For a one-click solution that gets folks straight from the ad to your website, Merchant-hosted Local Storefronts are recommended.
 

Merchant Hosted Local Storefronts (Full and Basic)

Google currently offers advertisers two options for Merchant-hosted Local Storefronts—full or basic. Both the full and basic programs are meant to break down some of the road blocks that have historically made local inventory ads tough to launch, and/or not as rewarding for merchants.

One of the key ways in which the full and basic programs differ is how much work is required to set them up, and keep them accurate. Let’s explore each more closely…
 

MHLS – Full Program

MHLS (full) includes local storefront information for a single merchant; when prospective customers click on one of these ads or listings, they will be taken directly to the advertising retailer’s website, similar to a regular Shopping ad.

Behind the scenes, this seamless shopping experience is being accomplished by a 2-step process after the ad or listing has been clicked. First, “Google passes a Business Profile store code where the item is available to the retailer.” Next, the retailer generates the landing page—customized to their specific store—for the product that was clicked. Google notes that while advertisers can self-detect customers’ locations, it is required that all customers clicking these ads are directed to the specific store Google passes in the URL generated by their click.

It’s important to note that the (full) program option for MHLS is only available to advertisers whose website product landing pages meet Google’s list of requirements. These stipulate the following: “Display your store’s local price or ensure that local prices match online prices, if only online prices are displayed. The price displayed on your landing page must match the price submitted in your local inventory feed for the selected store.”

Meeting those requirements is where things can quickly become a highly time-intensive project for your Web Design team, requiring that you’ve properly set up store-specific pages for every retail location, and done the necessary custom web design to ensure the price at that particular location is displayed. If you have the resources and the bandwidth, it’s a route worth considering. However, if time and ease are equally important factors, the basic program may be a better fit.
 

MHLS – Basic Program

The MHLS (basic) program involves significantly less development work than the full program, requiring the following of your listings: “Show the omnichannel price on your product landing page. The price on your landing page must match the price value submitted in your primary product feed.”

“Managing prices for individual store locations can sometimes be chaotic, particularly for retailers with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of brick-and-mortar stores. The basic version of Google’s Merchant-hosted Local Storefront program enables advertisers to use a price match to help in navigating this issue.”

Mike Wojciechowski

Mike Wojciechowski, Senior Director, Shoppable Media at Tinuiti

When you implement LIAs using the basic program, customers who click on your ad or listing are directed to your omnichannel landing page; this page allows customers to select a specific store location for more information about the given item’s cost and availability. Similar to the full option, the basic program also represents a single merchant’s information.
 

The Pros and Cons of Product Listing Ads

 

  • Promoting in-store inventory: LIAs are connected to your local inventory feed, meaning you can promote your in-store inventory to local shoppers in real-time
  •  

  • Bringing a local shop online: The Google-hosted local storefront acts as an informative, digital local storefront that you can use to bring online awareness to your local store
  •  

  • Measuring performance: Stores have the ability to monitor the impact that digital ads have on foot traffic and in-store sales, and Google provides Store Visit data to help determine the true offline impact of your LIAs
  •  

  • Double exposure opportunity: You have the ability to run both regular Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Google Local Inventory Ads simultaneously, ultimately increasing your real estate in search results

“You can have products that your website sells, and only a select few that are actually carried in-store. If somebody searches for your product, but it’s only available online, then your PLA can still be displayed. Alternatively, with a product that is carried in-store, a regular PLA can be shown to drive traffic to your site, or you can have Google Local Inventory Ads displayed to push in-store transactions.”

Portrait of Roman Fitch

— Roman Fitch, Director, Growth Media at Tinuiti

One of the only drawbacks to Local Inventory Ads is the process required for setting them up and keeping them maintained. You need an individual product feed for each store location to be completed within Google Merchant Center. Without the technology and resources needed to keep in-store statuses up to date with Google product feeds, some businesses may run into some trouble.

“In-store sales and conversions are going to change inventory conditions, and if businesses are not able to keep that up-to-date on the Google side of things, products may end up being disapproved and potentially even flagged. So that’s where the challenge comes in if you have a lot of stores,” explains Fitch.

 

 
Businesses must meet certain criteria to qualify for LIAs, including:

  • Own brick-and-mortar stores that are open to the public (e.g. no appointment required)
  •  

  • Stores must sell physical goods that do not require additional purchases (e.g. no memberships required)
  •  

  • The store’s physical location must be in the country ads are being targeted to (Google Local Inventory Ads are currently supported in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland)
  •  

  • Customer’s personally identifiable information (PII) must be protected
  •  

  • Google Shopping Policies must be met, and abided by

 

 
In order to get started with Google Local Inventory Ads, there are a few steps you need to follow.
 

Set up necessary accounts

Local Inventory Ads work in tandem with a multitude of Google’s offerings, so you’ll need accounts for the following:

  • Merchant Center: You’ll need to set-up a Merchant Center account and upload your business logo to it
  • Google Ads Account: This will need to be connected to your Merchant account
  • Google Business Profile Locations (fka Google My Business): This will require information about your business locations, so be sure to have that ready. This will also be where you create your store’s unique identifier, which you’ll need when you create your local feed

 

Enable Local Inventory Ads in Merchant Center

Once you have your accounts set up, you need to enable LIAs in your Merchant Center settings.

how to enable local inventory ads in merchant center

  1. Sign in to Merchant Center
  2. Click Growth in the navigation menu
  3. Click Manage programs
  4. Click Get started on the local inventory ads card
  5. Confirm qualifications are met
  6. Click the plus button
  7. Choose the country where your physical stores are located

 

Create your Shopping and Local Products Feeds

Four data types and sources to run Local Inventory Ads, Store Information, Product Information and Inventory Information

Source: Google

To set-up Google Local Inventory, you’ll need to set-up four different feeds:

  • Google Shopping Feed: This is your standard product ads feed
  • Local Products Feed: This will display a list of available products at each of your store locations
  • Local Product Inventory Feed: This feed displays specifics about your product, such as price, inventory, and location-specific information
  • Business Information Feed: This displays information about each of your stores and feeds that information to Google Business Profile
Depiction of where Google obtains information for Product Feed

Source: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/3055932

From here, you can give Google information about your products through the local products feed.
Google has a complete list of mandatory and optional attributes, including:

  • ID
  • Title
  • Description
  • Image link
  • Brand

Once this has been created, it’s time to give Google location-specific information about your products. While some required attributes are standard across all items, others are conditional. Review the full list of local product inventory feed specification attribute requirements here, including:

  • Store code
  • Quantity
  • ID
  • Price

Taking the time to optimize your product feed can boost SERP visibility as well as sales, making it an important part of the feed creation process. If you’re not sure how to get started with feed creation, Google provides a detailed walk-through.
 

Register and submit inventory verification

Once your feeds are completed, you need to initiate inventory verification checks in your Merchant Center. After Google has received them, they’ll send out a representative to make sure your in-store inventory matches your local product feed, so be sure your information is accurate. Google may also schedule ongoing check-ins after their initial visit, so it’s vital to make sure your information is always up-to-date. If your inventory levels change frequently, we recommend sending multiple local product inventory feeds throughout the day.

Note that inventory verification is only required if you are using a Google-hosted Local Storefront, or a Merchant-hosted Local Storefront (basic) without a price match guarantee. Additionally, the number of required visits for GHLS users varies depending upon the number of store locations.

If you are using MHLS (full) or MHLS (basic) with price match guarantee, no inventory verification store visits are required.

Chart with overview of how many inventory verifications are needed depending on landing page type and total number of stores

Source: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/7083859

 

Apply your Local Inventory Ads to Shopping Campaigns

Now that you’re ready to go, all that’s left is to enable your local inventory ads. You can do this by accessing your Google Ads account. From here, access the shopping campaign you want, navigate to Settings, then select Shopping Settings (Advanced).

Now, simply check the enable local inventory ads box and you’re good to go!

 

 
Here are some techniques you can implement into your own Google Local Inventory Ad Strategy.
 

1. Increase bids for nearby shoppers

Use a location extension bid modifier to increase bids for shoppers close to your stores.

Local Inventory Ads are triggered within a 25 to 35-mile radius of your store, serving to potential customers who use their device within this distance.

Screenshot of Google’s location extension for targeting Local Inventory Ads

An especially useful strategy here is to increase bids for shoppers closest to your stores. The closer a shopper is, the more likely they are to visit your location and complete a purchase.
 

2. Increase bids during store hours

You can ramp up bids during your store hours using the location extension bid modifier and setting the modifier to reflect your store hours.

This will help push your store to more shoppers when they want and can get your products.

Screenshot of Google’s location extension for scheduling and bid adjustment Local Inventory Ads

Note: Make sure your store hours are in blue.

However, this doesn’t mean you should turn off bidding outside of store hours. It’s still important for shoppers to be able to find your products at all hours—instead, simply minimize bid spending.

 

3. Add Store Pickup / Buy Online Pickup In-store options

A “Pick up today” badge on your Local Inventory Ad sends a powerful message that a customer can have their product in-hand very quickly, which can further improve click-through and conversions.

Example of standard LIA vs. BOPIS-eligible LIA for size 6 diapers

Source: Google

“The Buy Online, Pickup in Store feature has been a great addition for Google Shopping over the past few years and we expect to see continued adoption for this feature as many stores adapt to a world where curbside pickup is more prevalent and stores are becoming distribution centers for ecommerce orders.”

Mike Wojciechowski

— Mike Wojciechowski, Senior Director, Shoppable Media at Tinuiti

To make your Local Inventory Ads eligible for Pickup today, next you need to meet a special set of conditions and also complete the appropriate Feed requirements.

Overview of required and optional feed attributes for BOPIS Local Inventory Ads

Source: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/9432086

 

4. Use LIAs and Product Listing Ads (Shopping Ads) together

There’s a big benefit to running both organic Local Inventory Ads and paid Shopping Ads (Product Listing Ads) together.

  • You can increase your visibility by covering more of the search results for searches that trigger both your LIA and Shopping ads
  •  

  • For shoppers that are near your store, your LIAs will trigger for both mobile and desktop
  •  

  • For shoppers not nearby, Shopping ads can still trigger on both mobile and desktop

 

5. Run small scale holdout tests

If you have a lot of stores and are uncertain about whether to move forward with local inventory ads, one of the easiest things you can test out is to only run Local Inventory Ads for a few stores.

“Pick stores in different zip codes that have similar levels of advertising investment and in-store traffic. Track the impact of running Local Inventory Ads and gather information on whether store traffic ticks up,” says Wojciechowski.

“Running this type of holdout test for a few stores will give you valuable insights that could help you gauge the potential impact if you roll out the program to all your stores. You can also work through how easy it is to track the impact for one store and come up with internal workflows that would make it easier to report on at scale.”
 

6. Send a limited amount of in-stock products

“If you can’t guarantee that you will be able to give Google accurate inventory for all of your products in every store location, instead of giving up on the program, you can send Google some of your products,” says Wojciechowski.

“Pick products that you know will be in stock. If you are a fashion retailer, you might want to send only certain sizes or colors of an item that you know most stores will carry/not run out of.”
 

7. Keep up on maintenance

Local Inventory Ads are not a “set-it-and-forget-it” solution.

You’ll need to update Google daily on your in-store inventory, and Google must have some way to verify those inventory counts. Google Business Profile must have all your business’s information, so ensuring this information is accurate is a must.

The solution also includes map pins and additional store information when searches are performed on laptops or desktops.

 

 
big 5 case study for local inventory ads

With proper Feed setup and Local Inventory Ads campaigns, Big 5 Sporting Goods managed to drive a 25% increase in-store traffic, which boosted their ROAS by a factor of 13X.

Read the full story on how Search, Shopping, and Local Inventory Ads are leveraged together to produce results here.
 
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Greg Swan in May 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

 

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MARKETING

Renting vs. Owning the Post-Review Local Consumer Journey

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Renting vs. Owning the Post-Review Local Consumer Journey

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Technology can be a conductor or a barrier. Everything we do to market local businesses is meant to culminate in a human encounter. When we get our part right (and external forces smile upon us), technology connects us. When we get our part wrong (or external forces impede us), technology can have the frustrating effect of sundering local brands from their customers, with everybody losing out on the deal.

The modern phenomenon of local search exemplifies the concept of a “mixed blessing”. Loss of control over significant parts of the customer journey can be a source of legitimate stress for owners and marketers. Stress isn’t good for us, of course, and that’s why I’m hoping this message brings some welcome relief: control of the most important aspects of the consumer journeys remains strongly on your side, and you can thrive without the parts you have to give up. We’ve got data to back this up, thanks to Moz’s recent report, The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior, and I’m hoping today’s column will lift some burdens that may have been weighing you down.

The data

Let’s start out by taking a moment to really reflect on what it means that 96% of adults read local business reviews. Basically almost everyone in your community is perusing this content, making it the widest possible road to your front door, but the truth is that it exists in a space you only partially control. Given that only 11% of review-readers trust brand messaging over public opinion, reviews matter greatly, and it’s a tough reality that they mainly happen in digital spaces you rent rather than own.

If something goes wrong with your reviews on third party platforms like Google, Nextdoor, or Yelp, such as a spam attack, or the random disappearance of your reviews due to a bug or update, or a single irate customer shouting half-truths or downright falsehoods through a megaphone amid a small number of reviews, you have limited direct recourse for resolution. Platforms may or may not respond to your pleas for help, and some customers may ignore even your best offers to resolve their complaints – the sense of lost control is not imaginary.

Here is the good news: for 91% of your potential customers, the very next step they take after reading reviews will land them in spaces you own. 51% will head to your website, which you fully control, 27% will visit your place of business, which you also fully control, and 13% will contact you, and it’s you who control your phone and text lines, your email, forms, and live chat. Apart from the 8% that will move from reviews to the profiles you rent on social media platforms, management of customer experiences is almost all on your side and in your house.

Barring mishaps like your website being infected with malware, a temporary closure of your premises due to illness, or a power outage bringing down your phone lines, it turns out that you remain in charge of key customer/brand experiences during nearly all of the post-review consumer journey. Great news, indeed! But it carries some big responsibilities with it.

Converting on the next step after reviews

The wide funnel begins to narrow as consumers transition from reading reviews to their next steps. Winning maximum conversions from their next actions depends on having the right welcome in place in all three of these spaces:

The local business website

Whether customers click from the review profile to your website homepage, or to a landing page your listing is linked to, prepare this welcome for them:

  • An accessible, secure, technically-clean, optimized website housing the multi-media content and features the customer needs to take their next steps towards a transaction.

  • Highly visible information on every way in which the customer can contact and visit you, including phone, text, chat, messaging, email, forms, hours of operation, maps, and written directions.

  • Additional first-party reviews to provide further proofs of your good reputation and tide you over in times when bugs make your third-party reviews go missing.

  • A unique selling proposition to seal the deal.

Your place of business

Whether your place of business is your physical premises, or your clients’ locations, you can shine on this main stage with the following:

  • Exceptional customer service based on the training of your staff and good management of the entire customer service ecosystem. With 65% of review writers saying they’ve written negative reviews because of experiencing bad or rude customer service, building an employee-centric company that radiates both happiness and helpfulness is your best bet for building an excellent reputation.

  • Careful guardianship of your supply chain. 63% of review writers say they’ve written negative reviews after purchasing bad products. The quality of your inventory supports both repeat purchases and high ratings.

  • Accurate online local business listings. 52% of survey respondents have written negative reviews after encountering incorrect business information on the Internet. Use of listings management software like Moz Local can ensure that what’s published about your business online (like hours of operation, addresses, and key services) matches what the customer will experience in the real world, preventing inconvenience and disappointment.

Your contact options

Whether a review reader turns next to your phone line, text line, live chat, website form, or email, assist them towards a next conversion by:

  • Reducing on-hold times on your phone line to the bare minimum

  • Ensuring all public-facing representatives of the business are well-trained in your products, services and policies

  • Providing realistic estimates of when a customer will hear back if they are required to leave an email address on chat instead of speaking immediately to a live person

  • Reducing the number of form fields the customer is required to fill out before reaching you

  • Offering an after-hours support option

  • And, of course, for the 8% who will visit your rented spaces on social media platforms as their next step after reading reviews, be sure your full contact information is included on your profiles.

Despite the market disruption of the Internet, so much about local businesses remains the same

Infographic depicting the cycle of consumer engagement. Top middle: blue circle with image of person working at a computer, text:

While technological innovations are ongoing, it’s apparent that deeply-rooted consumer behaviors continue to follow a traditional pattern that’s existed for hundreds of years. In summary, people in your town want to know what others say about your business >>> people want to connect with your business for a possible transaction >>> people then tell others about what they experienced with your business. All of this cycle has always happened offline, and the only real change is that the means for some of this communication has partly transitioned online.

Just as business owners always had to do without the ability of controlling the word-of-mouth reputation their community was creating for them on front porches and over fences, modern business owners can live without directly controlling the online brand sentiment that exists in spaces they have to rent rather than owning. While it’s true that traditional PR may have had more power to shape public perception before online local business reviews made individual consumer voices so loud, the not-so-secret ingredient to brand longevity and loyalty remains unaltered: great customer experiences at and around the time of service are the foundation of success.

What every local business needs today is a thoughtful plan for managing the digital assets that now contribute to these positive consumer experiences. The winning recipe, then, is developing high standards for the spaces you own (your website, place of business, and most contact methodologies) and being as hands-on as possible in the spaces you rent (the online profiles containing your local business information, reviews, and social content). With a workable strategy and good quality tools for managing this ecosystem, the development of your good name in the community you serve will follow.

Knowledge is power; read Moz’s full survey report: The Impact of Local Business Reviews on Consumer Behavior

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How to Run A Content Audit in 2022

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How to Run A Content Audit in 2022

As a marketer, how often do you run content audits? How do you keep track of how content is performing? Do you use those metrics to improve future campaigns? (more…)

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Feds finally file anti-monopoly suit over Google’s adtech

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Feds finally file anti-monopoly suit over Google's adtech

The Department of Justice has filed its long-threatened antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of using its adtech to create a monopoly. The suit seeks to force the tech giant get rid of its ad businesses and stop the company from engaging in allegedly anticompetitive practices.

“Having inserted itself into all aspects of the digital advertising marketplace, Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful means to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” the lawsuit says.

Why we care. Google simultaneously acting as broker, supplier and auctioneer of online ads has always been problematic at best. As Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) put it, “The conflicts of interest are so glaring that one Google employee described Google’s ad business as being like ‘if Goldman or Citibank owned the NYSE.’” Cracking down on monopolistic business practices does great things for the consumer and the economy. The breakup of AT&T in the 1980s is why communication is so inexpensive and widespread today.

In the past, Google has rebutted monopoly claims by pointing to the large number of other companies which facilitate online advertising. The company did not respond to a request for comment today. 

Dig deeper: Google offers adtech unit changes to fend off antitrust lawsuit

This is the fifth antitrust lawsuit filed by state and federal officials against Google since 2020. That year a group of states led by Texas filed an antitrust lawsuit over the company’s advertising technology, while the DOJ and another group of states sued Google over claims that it abused its dominance over online search. In 2021, several states also sued over Google’s app store practices.

Dig deeper: Antitrust bill could force Google, Facebook and Amazon to shutter parts of their ad businesses

Google and other tech giants are currently under pressure from governments around the world trying to restrain their power over online information and commerce. In the European Union, Amazon, Google, Apple and others have faced antitrust investigations and charges, as well as new laws limiting the use and collection of consumer data.


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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