As you scale, it’s important to stay up to date with new tools that will help you grow your business. We have the pros at e-commerce platform Bigcommerce (which you can connect to your Square account in Square App Marketplace) here to walk you through the latest Google changes you should be familiar with as we head into 2016.
The holidays just passed, so it’s no fault of your own if you missed some of the bigger announcements from Google over the past few months. The great news is that this doesn’t involve another algorithm change that might threaten your SEO standing –– though keeping content relevant, fresh, and engaging ensures no Google algorithm change hurts your search ranking.
Instead, all of Google’s most recent changes directly help stores with both a brick-and-mortar and online presence further succeed. Here is what you need to know about how Google is helping to drive traffic and sales for omnichannel merchants.
Google Adwords update: Nearby store reminders in AdWords
Location-based reminders — mobile notifications based on a person’s proximity to a given address — are not new to Google Now and iPhones. But Google is working on increasing their visibility with a new AdWords feature that prompts users to ask for location-based reminders when they see a pay-per-click (PPC) ad.
AdWords reminders are not generally available and appear to be in limited testing with a few major retailers including JCPenney, Macy’s, and Kohl’s. Although they may not be widespread for some time, their mere existence is indicative of a larger trend: Omnichannel merchants using online marketing campaigns to simultaneously promote an online presence and physical store.
These campaigns allow omnichannel merchants to maximize the awareness and potential return on investment (ROI) from a single message. It’s unlikely that any web user would see a Macy’s ad and be completely unaware that Macy’s has a storefront. But omnichannel marketing is all about making it as easy as possible for customers to get what they want, and this type of effort leverages a physical store location to appeal to customers who may not want to wait for shipping or who might be more inclined to visit the brick-and-mortar location.
This isn’t the first time AdWords has offered a platform for cross promotion. Some headers allow omnichannel merchants to advertise a store’s opening time while also driving traffic to their website. Google is clearly making a concerted effort to let merchants get the most out of its multibillion-dollar advertising platform, and as the consumer experience continues to transcend channels, the opportunities will only increase.
Google Maps update: Incentivizing Maps reviews
Google has long offered review functionality on Maps listings, but engagement has paled in comparison to review giants like Yelp. Google is trying to change that. The program previously known as City Experts has been rebranded as Local Guides, and Google is offering incentives for users to improve and expand upon business reviews. The points-based system offers a user badge at the low end and tops out with a trip to the annual Google Summit. So what does this mean for omnichannel merchants?
If successful, Google reviews could become one of the most visible sources for “review”-type queries. Fair or not, people’s feedback on in-store experiences could rank extremely high for branded review queries — especially given Google’s propensity for geotargeting. Google’s algorithm factors quantity and quality of reviews into related search engine result pages (SERPs). If its own review system picks up steam and grows rapidly, it could become the most common way for users to read online reviews about omnichannel businesses.
Though the success of Local Guides is still very much in question, its potential is undeniable. The biggest takeaway for omnichannel merchants is to view all forms of brand validation — reviews, testimonials, and PR — as one collective perception. A disgruntled customer leaving a negative review for a particular store location can still very much affect the perception of the online experience. Take all public feedback seriously and assume it will be seen by a wide audience.
Google Shopping Insights
Google recently released a Shopping Insights beta that will further enable brands to increase their revenue via locally driven merchandising. Here’s how it works:
Shopping Insights tracks search data on Google and highlights popular products and major retail trends happening in specific regions.
Brands can then localize their own Google Shopping product ads for the same or similar items to focus on one specific geographic location with high demand.
Doing so is likely to drive up brand awareness and sales based on its popularity.
For brands using Google Shopping and local inventory ads, this beta feature can provide additional data-driven insights to inform the strategy around these programs.. Not familiar with these types of programs? Here’s a quick run-down:
Local Inventory ads
Used by big-box brands including Macy’s and Sephora, Google’s Local Inventory advertising works to bridge the gap between digital and physical storefronts. Utilizing these ads, your products appear to people searching nearby for the things you offer. When those shoppers click on your product, they’re redirected to a Google-hosted store page where they can view your store information including inventory, store hours, and directions from their current location.
Brands utilizing local inventory ads often have in-store teams ready for customers coming in after they’ve seen the online promotion. This is especially true if they’re asking for things like a specific color or size, which, based on the ad, they were told were available in the store. If customers prefer to shop online, Local Inventory ads allow them to do that as well. In all, for brands with both brick-and-mortar and online storefronts, Local Inventory ads push traffic to both locations, giving you a better chance of making a sale.
When using Local Inventory ads, be sure to turn on Product Ratings to further encourage purchases. High ratings increase shopper trust for your product and brand. For low ratings, be sure to reach out to customers who were dissatisfied and resolve the issue. Studies show that resolving complaints in customers’ favor increases the chance of them doing business with you again 70 percent of the time. So it’s worth your time to monitor your reviews carefully.
Beyond local ads and product ratings, Google also allows merchants to offer promotions on products featured within the Google Shopping feed to further entice customers to their site.
Remember, you pay per click, not per purchase, and including a promotion is likely to produce a higher clickthrough rate. This means your campaign with a promotion is more expensive than usual, but you also gain brand awareness and a higher chance that one of those clicks will produce a sale. Weigh your options here to determine if running a promotion for a product in your Google Shopping feed is a worthwhile return on investment.
Google Trusted Stores
Google Trusted Stores is a trustmark that improves shopper confidence and increases sales. Certified stores must meet excellent customer service standards and performance requirements, including processing at least 600 orders on a rolling 90-day basis. This badge also appears on Google Shopping, alerting customers that your site is a safe and reliable place to shop.
Meeting these requirements also qualifies your business for seller ratings, which appear on Google ads and in search queries. Google also offers customers up to $1,000 in purchase protection through Trusted Stores. In all, this badge is a trust seal, and as we know, trust is a major determining factor in whether a customer checks out or abandons the cart.
Bigcommerce has an automated Google Trusted Stores experience to help you get certified.
And what about those customers who do click on your product but then bounce off or abandon their cart? Google has a solution for that as well: dynamic remarketing. This allows you to show previous visitors ads based on products or services they viewed on your site, ideally bringing people back to complete what they started.
In all, Google offers retailers a full suite of marketing capabilities suited for both online-only and omnichannel brands. Its newest beta offering, Shopping Insights, is yet an additional tool for retailers to better target product offerings with things like location-based merchandising, overall producing an increased ROI for both your online and offline businesses.
Google is stepping up its cross-channel advertising and marketing suite for retailers. Now is the time to begin testing each option out, measuring ROI, and then doubling down on the outlets that provide the highest conversion rates.