Google’s PLAs Get Local

Google Shopping implemented two new features Monday to better serve those who might be looking to shop in a store nearby.

Google wants to help retailers market goods in their brick-and-mortar stores.

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Google Shopping implemented two features Monday to better serve those who might be looking to shop in a store nearby. The search giant is now offering product listing ads, or PLAs, and storefronts for local stores.

Now, when a consumer searches for an item on Google, an ad with a picture, or a PLA, will pop up for a local retailer. Upon clicking on the ad, users will be directed to a local storefront on Google and encouraged to browse and research products before going to the store in person. The storefront provides shoppers with relevant information such as directions, store hours and similar items in stock. Previously, PLA’s focused on big-box retailers with no location component.

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“Traditionally, PLAs have focused on e-commerce sites as the place to buy. Local PLAs give the consumer a choice to explore local retailers as well, while giving local retailers a chance to compete on equal footing with their online counterparts. We’ve emphasized local stores even more on mobile because we believe people who are on the go tend to prefer local stores,” said Paul Bankhead, Google Shopping senior product manager.

Local availability for PLAs and the local storefront are based on real-time data overseen by Google Merchant Center, where participating retailers provide timely information for each physical door. In terms of shopping search volume on Google, apparel is the fastest-growing category. And with the holiday shopping season approaching, retailers want to be sure to drive foot traffic to physical stores.

Coupled with a focus on local shopping, research shows rapid acceleration in the area of paid search — and the numbers become ever more significant when taking PLA’s into account.

Earlier this year, Brian Pitz, managing director of Jefferies & Co., told WWD that from spring 2012 to spring 2013 there was a 410 percent increase in the amount of PLA advertisers in the clothing and footwear space, with 145 percent growth in the number of total ads. From March to July of this year, PLA usage for 9,400 advertisers was up 54.7 percent.