Using Paid Search To Bring Customers In-Store


For the consumer, online purchases are easy and require fairly little effort, but there are a few hang-ups: returns can be a pain, paying for shipping stinks, and waiting for a shipment to arrive is even worse.

For those reasons and more, it’s no surprise that customers still prefer to shop in-store versus online.

From a business’ standpoint, bringing customers in-store provides the opportunity to immerse them in the brand in a way that can’t be accomplished online. Plus, this IDC study showed that consumers who shop online and in-store had a 30 percent higher lifetime value than shoppers who used only one channel.

So how can advertisers motivate consumers to come in-store?

Leverage Geography & Intent

There’s no doubt that a person’s proximity to the store weighs heavily in the decision to make an impromptu store visit.

Because of this, it is beneficial to set up tiered geo-modifiers around store locations in order to bid highest for people nearest the store, slightly lower for a broader radius, and even lower for an even broader radius.

Depending on your store location, the distance people are willing to travel will vary. Let’s say you have a store in NYC and a store in Louisville, KY. You will likely find that people will be willing to travel farther in Louisville because it is faster or simply because the other options may be limited.

In addition, there will be customers traveling to Louisville from the surrounding rural areas to shop. Keep that in mind as you set up bid modifiers based upon radii.

If your company happens to have an e-commerce presence in addition to a brick-and-mortar one, you should consider creating hyper-local campaigns around store locations so that you can leverage different messaging, then utilizing a broader canvassing campaign to solely promote e-commerce.

In addition to geography, search queries can provide insight into the likelihood of a consumer coming into the store. For example, searchers using keywords including “near me” or searching for specific geographic locations are probably planning a visit. Moreover, searchers using brand terms are likely willing to travel a little farther than searchers using non-brand terms.

The real magic happens when intent and geography are married together. You can begin to bid on the probability that consumers will come into the store based upon their proximity and their intent.

The table below illustrates how these insights can be used to implement localized bid adjustments for campaigns with varying intent.

Example Bid Modifiers

Note: The radii and modifiers used in the table above will vary from business to business and are used here strictly as an example of how geography and intent can impact your bidding strategy.

If you have location extensions set up, you can check out your distance report for information about how varying radii are currently performing, which can inform your geographic bid modifiers.


Granted, this report doesn’t show you the offline performance of your account, unless you’ve set up your conversion tracking in a way that provides offline insights. However, it will give you a feel for the way people engage with your ads and your brand at varying distances from your store.

Layer Audiences

In the previous section, we talked about utilizing intent and geography to bid strategically on consumers who are most likely to make a store visit. You may have noticed that the example chart above included remarketing lists, although it wasn’t mentioned.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) are great for bidding up consumers who are near the store and likely to purchase. Consider how likely a recent site visitor, previous purchaser, or loyalist might be to visit the store in comparison to someone who hasn’t engaged with the brand.

If you were using display remarketing, you wouldn’t want to continuously serve ads to people who have previously converted — at least not without a period of downtime — but RLSA depends upon the consumer to make the first move and therefore isn’t overwhelming.

Setting up an audience for recent site visitors is fairly easy. Previous purchaser audiences can be set up with pixels or a custom audience. You can set up lists for loyalists based upon people who have logged into a loyalty membership UI, or you can create audiences in Google Analytics based upon people who have clicked through via an email newsletter.

Consider using RLSA to layer these audiences with intent and geography to bid even more strategically. If nothing else, add these audiences to your local search campaigns without modifiers and monitor their performance against the average.


Optimize The Experience

If you’ve heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times: make sure your online experience is optimized. That may not mean what you think it means, though.

Generally, when advertisers think of a site that is well-optimized, they think of pushing people toward the cart, the phone or the lead form. Those are all valuable courses of action (depending on your goals), but they don’t lead consumers into the store.

Am I recommending that you should prioritize store visits over online sales? Not necessarily — only your goals can dictate the hierarchy of your calls to action. However, I am recommending you ensure that it is easy for consumers to access the information they would need to make a store visit, even if it that isn’t the primary CTA (call to action).

The following suggestions are just a small handful of ways that you can help deliver the information consumers need and want to plan a store visit:

Location Extensions

Location extensions are a great way to promote your address. They have been around for long enough that consumers know where to look for them if interested, but they’re subtle enough not to distract from the ad’s primary CTA.

Equally important, location extensions allow you to track in-store visits through AdWords and to make use of the Distance Report.

Local Inventory Ads

A Google study asked participants what information was considered “extremely helpful” in planning a store visit. Seventy-five percent responded price, and 74 percent responded availability; those were the two highest-ranked answers. Local Inventory ads allow advertisers to showcase both of these points.

On-Site Features

The following features can be incorporated into the site to promote in-store visits.

  • Store Locator & Store Hours. This is probably obvious: your site should incorporate, at minimum, the most basic details about your brick-and-mortar locations. The easier this information is to find and use, the better.
  • Find In-Store. Allowing users to find the product in stock at a nearby location gives them the option to forgo shipping costs and wait times. Similar to location extensions, this feature is useful for consumers who need it without distracting consumers who intend to complete the purchase online.
  • In-Store Pick-Up. This feature is like the “find in-store” tool on steroids. Capture the sale online, and then subsequently bring the consumer in-store. Like the previous feature, this allows consumers to avoid shipping costs and delivery wait times and makes it more likely the customer will actually follow through on a store visit. Kudos to Walmart for integrating this well — including the date that the pick-up will be available if it isn’t immediate.

in-store pickup

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