Google Pilot Program Ties Clicks to In-Store Purchases

One of the great benefits of advertising your business and selling your brand with digital marketing is that with the use of Google Adwords, business owners can track their online ads and see which ones are leading to sales on their website. Conversely, one of the great queries for business owners who use digital marketing has been trying to determine whether or not their online ads are generating sales in physical, brick-and-mortar stores. This problem may soon have a solution, as Google is currently working on a pilot program that connects cookies on a user’s computer to in-store sales information, provided by various data collection companies such as DataLogix Holdings, Inc.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Google and Advertisers Follow You to the Mall”, Alistair Barr notes that this new program will work cooperatively with Adwords. “When a user clicks on an ad, Google sends an anonymous ‘click ID’ to the advertiser. The advertiser likely has a cookie on the user’s computer, and matches that cookie to the click ID.”, Barr writes. According to Barr, if the customer then goes and makes an in-store purchase a few days, or weeks later, the data collector and the retailer can look at the purchase and link it back to the cookie on the user’s computer, which in turn gets linked back to the aforementioned click ID. At the end of this process, Google would be able to tell business owners which online ads were generating the most brick-and-mortar purchases, and the amount they were generating as well. Barr said that six companies were currently testing this program with Google, but only one, Michaels Stores, Inc wished to be identified.

Barr paraphrased a spokesman from Google, who claims that they have designed the system so that the identity of the user is never known. Generally, the data collector uses a process known as “hashing” to scramble the data into random numbers using a specific algorithm. According to Barr, this new program would add another column to the current Adwords reports that users receive, which would show these new findings. If Google can get this new pilot program implemented, that would be the proverbial “Holy Grail” for business owners who already use digital marketing, and may entice the ones who have been previously reluctant to join in on the shift to online advertising.

Ottaway Digital President, Bob Ottaway, likens this to “closed loop” marketing that his firm puts in place with clients who are willing to develop the software and programs to track sales leads and conversions, and then report the sale back to the program. It’s wonderful when it’s in place, but it takes a lot of planning to implement. “Hashing” or “closed loop” marketing is the best way to determine R.O.I. according to Ottaway.

The author, Bob Ottaway, is President and Founder of Ottaway Digital.  Established in 1999, it has been a pioneer in SEO, digital advertising & social media since 2006.  

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