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Mobile Search Ads Influence In-Store Sales, Google Finds

Mobile search ads have a significant impact on consumers’ in-store purchase decisions, according to new research from Google first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The results suggest that Google is getting closer to untangling one of the most vexing issues in digital marketing, by giving digital ads proper credit for their role in prompting brick-and-mortar purchases.

Working with data firms like Acxiom and Datalogix, Google links a variety of aggregated, anonymous data from mobile devices, including location data, email addresses, and purchases, to connect the dots from mobile search to in-store buying.

Google and retailer Target shared proprietary research with the WSJ showing that people who clicked on mobile search ads spend more when visiting stores than people who clicked on desktop search ads. Furthermore, one third of Target’s mobile search ads resulted in a visit to a Target store in the 2014 holiday shopping season.

These findings echo data from Deloitte suggesting that mobile devices played some role in 28% of all in-store sales in 2014 -- a figure that translates into a whopping $970 billion (using federal government math, we can just round that up to a cool $1 trillion). That dwarfs total e-commerce sales of around  $300 billion.

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The WSJ points out that this new research may help Google convince advertisers to spend more on mobile ads, which many clients previously viewed as less effective simply because they were less likely than desktop ads to result in an online purchase. Better attribution for offline sales could help change perceptions about mobile search.

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