From Search to Store

Google’s new ad formats & the rise of location-centric search

Google announced last week that they’ll be revamping their mobile ad offering to cater to location-related mobile searches; a category growing 50 percent faster than other searches. Words and phrases like “near me,” “closest,” and “nearby” are increasingly common across the billions of queries on Google every month, and there will be a host of new local search ads to help businesses capitalise on the trend.

Google’s new look

You’ll start to notice promoted pins (“markers” with a company’s logo) placed on your Google Map results, so if you love drinking Starbucks you’ll see a latte discount en route to your destination. Google Maps search ads will also contain more detailed information like what products are in stock.


According to Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President of Ads and Commerce at Google, these changes are “designed to help you increase foot traffic to your stores.”

Their renewed focus on local is no surprise, given the rise in “near-me” searches (up 34X since 2011). Consumers are searching on-the-go and they expect the right answer, right when they want it.

Google calls them the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy moments; those instances where you turn to your trusty smartphone for an immediate answer to whatever problem presents itself. That may be where the closest coffee shop is or the location of a store selling Nike shoes near you.

i want to go moments

Retailers take note

We’ve known for some time that the opportunity is there, retailers now need to capitalise on the increase in location-centric searches so they’re found by the right shopper at the right time.

Whether you’re a global brand or a small local boutique, knowing how to deliver on these searches in the moments that matter is crucial – when people are actively looking to discover, find or buy.

Still need convincing? Let’s look at the numbers:

  1. Google search interest in “near me” has increased 34X since 2011 and nearly doubled since last year. The vast majority comes from mobile – 80% in Q4 2014.
  2. 90 percent of sales happen in physical stores and nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location.
  3. 50 percent of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, and 18 percent of those searches lead to a purchase within a day.
  4. 82% of Millennials and 80% of Gen Z think it is important for brands to have a physical store.

The Convenience stakes

The increase in hyper local searching is good news for smaller retailers.

According to the data, majority of the top searches for “near me” are generic queries like “restaurants near me”, “breakfast near me”, “coffee near me”, or “shoe shops near me”.

Specific brands don’t pop up as frequently, which means convenience trumps brand loyalty.

Travellers are a great case in point. Near-me searches spike 55 percent during Christmas and New Years, which is expected: you don’t have your go-to places when you’re on holiday. 

What now for retailers?

We spoke recently on thinking about your store as a media channel. It’s so applicable here.

To recap (credit to Doug Stephens, the Retail Prophet), your store is not just a place that sells products, it’s another channel for shoppers to experience you. Retailers need to use metrics to measure its effectiveness accordingly.

While sales might not come directly from within the walls of the shop, the shop influences those sales (much like how other media outlets influence sales).  If you want to get the most out of your store as a media channel, people need to be able to find it as easily as possible.

Being readily discovered by nearby shoppers who are searching for what you sell is the first step.

The future is local

There is no doubt about it: location-centric searches will continue to rise. The more useful the results from such searches are, the more this behaviour will grow and become a habit. Retailers who don’t cater to the way shoppers are searching now will fall behind.

Booodl forms a key part of the solution; a search service that addresses location-centric physical retail store discovery intent.

Shoppers want a personalised list of stores selling the product they want, in the location they want it. Google’s location inventory ads and Google Map features are great, but appearing high up organically for ‘product’ + ‘location’ searches is even better.

Retailers and brands currently spend huge amounts of money on directories and SEO/SEM services to drive shopper visits. By shifting some of this spend to a better service – one that makes the results Google provides even more useful – is a no-brainer.

We call the whole process Store Discovery Optimisation, or SDO for short (more on that here) and we believe it’s the best way to help shoppers find the right store, for stores to get discovered and increase shopper visits and sales, and for brands to ensure their stockists get found.

Are you optimised for discovery?

Register your store today:


This blog post was originally published by Booodl CEO & Co-Founder, George Freney, on LinkedIn.

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