Google Introduces Local (Inventory) Product Listing Ads

Google today announced that it’s going to integrate local product inventory data into its Product Listing Ads. To start the company said it would be working with a select group of retailers (REI and Sephora were named).

Users who search for products will see a pin icon indicating local product availability. After the initial click users are taken to a local landing page that shows where the product can be purchased nearby. There will also be a gallery of “related items” on the landing page (“local storefront”).

Ads will appear on the PC and mobile devices. Here’s a Google-provided screenshot of what the experience looks like on  a smartphone:

Local PLA

Local inventory needs to be fed to Google through its Merchant Center. The company is taking merchant interest inquiries right now during the early beta period. Ginny Marvin at Search Engine Land has a good discussion of how Local PLAs will be treated vs. conventional e-commerce PLAs.

Here’s what Google explained on its blog post about how the ads are set up and how they’re charged:

Both local availability for Product Listing Ads and the local storefront are based on a local product feed managed through Google Merchant Center, which allows retailers to provide users with up-to-date, item-level price and availability information for each physical store. Participating retailers pay for clicks on the Product Listing Ad to the local storefront on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. All clicks and interactions on the local storefront are free. Retailers can also see separate local click performance.

While Google has played with local product inventory for several years it really hasn’t made a big, high visibility push to get retailers to provide their inventory data. This may become that push.

The move, beyond being consistent with consumer interest and online-to-offline behavior, is also consistent with Google’s effort to more accurately reflect online-driven offline sales through its new Estimated Total Conversions program.

Retailers to varying degrees have real-time inventory available today. Many may be ambivalent about giving their data to Google; however many will see this as an important opportunity and will do so. I suspect the program will be successful.

Google will be tracking clicks, calls and potentially other actions (map directions lookups). However the company will only charge for clicks. I suspect at some point in the future we’ll see this data make its way into the broader Google advertising universe — followed by offline analytics.

What do you think of this and how likely do you think retailers will be to turn their inventory data over to Google?

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