Mobile phones are increasingly becoming the “remote control” of the physical retail store — at least, if Google has anything to do with it.

At today’s Shoptalk conference in Las Vegas, Google Shopping introduced a handful of updates that are designed to facilitate the interaction between mobile shoppers and physical retailers, starting with the browsing stage and carrying consumers through the purchase and pick-up process.

Google sits at such an amazing crossroads between consumers and retailers,” said Google Shopping vice president of product management Jonathan Alferness while explaining the updates. “And mobile continues to be the change agent.”

Thus Google has taken a “mobile first” point of view to connecting consumers with retailers, starting with the top of the funnel: The inspiration and idea stage. To that end, Google is introducing Shopping ads on image search. This means when mobile users browse using Google Images, they will also see ads that display related products. Current Google Shopping advertisers who have opted into the Google Search Network are automatically eligible to appear in an image search, so retailers don’t have to do anything differently to appear.

In addition, Alferness said that the increase in mobile shopping searches — which have grown 30 percent in the past year — has made local context even more relevant. Searches with a local intent, including those with a zip code, for example, or with “near me,” have doubled in the past year.

After introducing Local Inventory Ads, which shows if a product is nearby when a shopper searches for it on Google, Alferness said that Google is showing these ads four times more often in the past year.

Starting today, that feature gets an upgrade, as retailers can add a store pickup link to their Google product page. This will help to inform shoppers that they can reserve or buy online, then pick up the purchase in a nearby physical store. In testing, Alferness said, Kohl’s site experienced a 40 to 50 percent increase in clicks from its Google local storefront with this feature. Sephora reported $8 of in-store sales for every dollar of ad spend spent on local Google inventory ads.

In addition, Google is making it possible for advertisers that use local inventory ads to have their inventory searchable on “There is still a minor fear that it won’t be there,” Alferness said. “So this makes it as if the store’s in-stock inventory is searchable on, so I know if I am going to a local store to pick up a USB cable, I can make sure it is available when I go to pick it up.”

The inventory will appear in the local Knowledge Panel, which is the place where mobile shoppers go for information like store hours and directions.

After some pilot tests, these changes will begin this week, starting with mobile browsers. Alferness said that he anticipates that they will also come to desktop browsers, but explained that because of the challenge of managing browser tabs on a mobile device, it made sense to start on mobile.

“The big challenge,” he said, “is helping retailers understand how mobile is shaping the way we shop. It continues to impact the retail landscape whether you’re a retailer or a consumer, and these updates help retailers ‘lean in’ to mobile shopping.”

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