Reports show that over 70% of consumers now use some form of buy online, pick up in-store, making local availability one of the biggest factors impacting purchase decisions.
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 (especially amidst COVID-19) to leverage Local Inventory Ads (LIA).
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.”
— Ashlee Wiltshire, Director at Tinuiti
Local Inventory Ads (LIA) are Google Shopping ads that show for local product searches 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-ship products available from local stores.
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 their product
- Users that click on your local inventory ad are directed to your Google storefront page
The fact that users that click your LIA are directed to your Storefront means that you can showcase even more information about your business to help close the sale:
- A description of your product or business
- Links to your website
- Phone number
- Hours of operation
- Map and navigation directions to your store
What’s more, 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.
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.”
— Roman Fitch, Associate Director of 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, 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, Brazil, Germany, France, Japan, and Australia)
- Customer’s personally identifiable information (PII) must be protected
- Additionally, 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.
Step 1: 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 My Business Locations: 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.
Step 2: Enable Local Inventory Ads in Merchant Center
Once you have your accounts set up, you need to enable LIAs in your Merchant Center settings.
- Sign in to Merchant Center
- Click Growth in the navigation menu
- Click Manage programs.
- Click Get started on the local inventory ads card
- Confirm qualifications are met
- Click the plus button
- Choose the country where your physical stores are located
Step 3: Create your Shopping and Local Products Feeds
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 My Business.
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:
Once this has been created, it’s time to give Google location-specific information about your products.
You can find a full list of attributes here, including:
- Store code
- Item ID
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.
Step 4: Register and submit inventory verification
Once your feeds are completed, you need to request and submit inventory verification 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 make 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 products are constantly being updated, it’s a good idea to send multiple local product inventory feeds throughout the day.
Step 5: 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 Adwords 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. The ads are triggered when a potential customer uses their mobile device within this distance.
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 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.
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.
“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, Senior Director at Tinuiti
4. Use LIAs and Product Listing Ads (Shopping Ads) together
There’s a big benefit to running both organic Local Inventory Ads in addition to 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 nearby 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 My Business must have all your business’s information, so ensuring this information is up-to-date is a must.
The solution also includes map pins and additional store information when searches are performed on laptops or desktops.
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 for 13X.