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Google Store Visit Conversions: from ad clicks to in-store purchases

Over nine out of ten purchases are still taking place in brick and mortar stores. But how exactly does an interested consumer become a customer? Online ads are becoming increasingly important to measure this conversion. Google’s Store Visit Conversions in AdWords aims to measure the actual impact of online ads on buying behavior - and this tool is increasingly precise.

Online ads are a modern, convenient and relatively cheap way of advertising. Many retailers and service providers, however, question the effect that these ads actually have to attract customers to their locations. What is the probability that a clicked ad will attract a customer into a store? And which keywords have the best chance of success? Measuring this online-to-offline conversion is still a very tricky matter and is being addressed by various providers. In fact, successfully closing the gap between digital and local seems to be the holy grail of the industry.

Facebook’s marketing platfrom, Atlas , provides insights into consumer behaviour by tracking logged-in users who watch an ad all the way through purchase through its Offline Actions and Path to Conversion tools - which are accessible across platforms, devices and apps. The new service Attributions Powered by Foursquare also aims to address this issue and uses the data of more than one million users and even provides A/B testing with control groups.

Google has offered the Store Visit Conversions tool in AdWords since the end of 2014 which formed part of the Estimated Total Conversions solution. In conjunction with a Google My Business account, ad clicks can be matched to a later store visit. This is a big step forward to assess the effectiveness of advertising through AdWords. Thanks to the use of Store Visit Conversions, retailers in the US have on average four times more total conversions, and ten times more conversions in the mobile space.

How Store Visit Conversions Works

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Very important: For privacy protection reasons, Store Visit Conversions does NOT allow its users to read into the buying habits of individual customers. Instead, it provides anonymous location data of consumers who have activated their location settings on their smartphones.

With AdWords, businesses select a display with relevant keywords. When a consumer types in these words in the Google search bar, the appropriate advertising automatically shows up. By clicking on the ad, the user is lead to the site of the advertiser. All ad clicks in AdWords, as long as the user is logged in to a Google service, are recognized by the system - whether they are made on mobile, tablet or desktop. Based on location data, the AdWords algorithm can then registers whether the user has visited the business’ store. The visit rate is extrapolated to the estimated number of customers not logged into Google.

Google explains further in this video through an example: A sporting goods retailer with multiple locations uses AdWords to advertise a new product. The ad is clicked on 10,000 times. In this scenario, Store Visit Conversions shows a totoal of 2,500 store visits during the last 30 days - 1,000 registered visits from logged in Google users plus an estimated 1,500 from non-trackable customers.

The data of the store visits can be analyzed by the advertiser at different levels: campaigns, ad groups and keywords. They can also be broken down by device type.

Google promises these advantages

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Conversion tracking sheds light on the cost-benefit of online advertising. According to Google, the user can identify which campaigns and also which devices have generated the majority of the store visits.

These questions can be taken into account within a company’s advertising strategies:

  • What kind of wording appeals most to customers?
  • Where is advertising spending particularly effective?

At the end of 2015, Store Visit Conversions added a few more functions to allow more accurate conversion estimates. The system can display, among other things, the days of the week or month in which most customers have visited the store. Accordingly, the advertising budget could be scheduled to yield higher returns.

Store Visit Conversions also provide information on which keywords associated with an ad generate the most clicks and visits. Google stated in a November 2015 announcement that “for example, a toy store may learn that certain dolls or action figures bring in the most visitors.”


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Google Store Visit Conversions is not open to all users of Google My Business and AdWords. As the example video above shows, the tool is currently only applicable to enterprises with multiple locations and thousands of clicks on ads. The reason is that only with larger data samples is Google able to provide accurate estimates. “To evaluate your campaign performance, we recommend using reporting levels with at least 100 store visits” advices Google. Otherwise, data could be distorted, as Google uses modeled and anonymized numbers and small click data sets may not reflect reality.

Anyone who meets the requirements, can enable the conversions tracking function on their AdWords account. From that point forward, the Store Visit Conversions are found in the campaign reports column under the “all conversions” section.


Google Store Visit Conversions currently only serves companies with several branches and significant customer reach. Given the ever increasing availability of location and consumer behaviour data, it is conceivable that the leading online advertising will offer this or a similar service to smaller retailers in the future. Another reason to claim and complete - if not already done - a Google My Business account and optimize your online presence in order to instill confidence among customers.

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