So dramatic is the trend of online activity affecting in-store behaviour that Google and other online companies have been under pressure to show advertisers how their online ads impact in-store behaviour.
So based on this, Google launched a metric at the end of last year to gauge the impact of search ads in driving in-store traffic in AdWords.
It works by Google determining a store visit based on user proximity to the advertiser’s location on Google Maps from users that have Location History activated on their Apple or Android smartphones.
The store visits metric is a result in the Estimated Total Conversions and draws on search ad clicks across all devices — smartphones, tablets and desktops — and campaign types, including product listing ads and local inventory ads. Estimates are based on store visits within the last 30 days of an ad click.
Small business retailers can make use of these insights to connect with their customers by providing consumers with local information online before they go to stores and then customising their experiences as much as possible once they're in-store.
In fact, so strong is the shift towards online research that new research from Google conducted with Ipsos Media CT and Sterling Brands suggests the relationship between digital and in-store shopping is growing.
A common myth is that shoppers will only visit e-commerce sites as a result of searching online.
The recent study found three out of four shoppers who find local information in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores.
Shoppers are actually inspired to visit after successfully finding out information such as the in-store availability of an item, store location and hours or pricing at a nearby retail location.
But when that information isn't available, shoppers may stay away. In fact one in four shoppers say they'll steer clear of a nearby store altogether to avoid the risk of items not being available.
This is an important reminder to small businesses in Australia. Digital is definitely a powerful way to connect consumers with stores. One way to do this is by using local inventory ads. These ads allow retailers to provide helpful details such as whether a product is in stock at a nearby store.
The study also showed that 42% of in-store shoppers search for information online while in-store. For the most part, they're using search engines (64%) but almost half of shoppers head to the retailer's own site or app.
Savvy retailers such as Sephora are using mobile to deliver a better in-store experience to consumers. Sephora designed its Sephora App to assist shoppers, giving them direct access to product ratings and reviews.
More than 85% say they'd be more likely to shop in places that offer personalised coupons and exclusive offers in-store. If you’re a small business you could offer deals that shoppers can use at a nearby location such as ‘50% off today only at a store near you’. Customers could also receive promotions for goods with free home delivery if the product is out of stock.