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Google PLAs Tell Me What Local Stores Have Those Jimmy Choo Flats In Stock

Local product availability will become the most profound update to Product Listing Ads. The company announced the feature Monday, along with something they call "local storefront."

Just as the title suggests, Local Product available on desktop and smartphones will tell consumers where they can find the product in their local store. Once the consumer finds the product at their local store, clicking on the PLA takes the consumer to the store's local site or storefront, where they can browse a selection of the inventory before visiting in person. Services from companies like Local's Krillion already offer the feature, but apparently Google has become the first to offer the service through voice search, as well.

It's still early days, so reporting doesn't tie ad performance with in-store purchases, according to a Google spokesperson, not yet, anyway, but we're likely to see that soon.

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The services are based on a local product feed managed through Google Merchant Center that allows retailers to provide users with near real-time, item-level price and availability for each physical store. Retailers pay for cost per click on PLAs to the local storefront, but clicks and interactions on the local storefront are free. Retailers can view separate performance reporting for their local clicks. The features are available to few U.S. retailers.

PLAs are more focused on product specific terms, making it easier for consumers to search for product categories. Overall, retailers are taking a more aggressive role, as they become increasingly savvy about bidding strategies. The cost per click remains relatively low, with better return on investment because of the ad's format, and the segment of keywords that serve-up tent to focus on consumers in the market for specific items.

The idea isn't new, but retail stores have been trying for years to successfully tie online product searches to local in-store inventory availability. Milo.com, a startup from co-founder Jack Abraham that let shoppers check product inventory at local retail stores, served images in 2009. Then in 2010, eBay acquired Milo for a reported 75 million. Abraham jumped shortly after to invest in Pinterest.

Even before Milo, stores like Metro in Europe tried to tie in-store availability with online inventory information through Web software and radio frequency identification technology. Store clerks would take inventory at the end of each day by scanning RFID tags with the ultimate goal of putting that information online for consumers searching for local product availability.

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