Retailers need to sharpen their online skills and pay as much attention to merchandising online as they do in their stores.

“They need to actively manage their digital shelf space and what they offer in the same way that they manage, or arguably obsess, over their shelves in the store,” Jason Spero, Google’s director of global performance solutions, told WWD. Google unveiled the second edition of its Mobile Playbook, at, Wednesday morning. Billed as “the busy executive’s guide to winning with mobile,” this is the first significant update to The Mobile Playbook since it was originally released in April 2012.

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“They have to give the same level of attention from a digital perspective to engaging the consumer when they’re on a smartphone. This envelops everything,” said Spero of the importance of merchandising e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. “Retailers need to have a holistic view [and that’s knowing] how that consumer engages with them in-store and how that’s complemented by how they engage in the digital world, specifically the mobile world.”

He cited Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Chase, HBO, State Farm and Mercedes-Benz as brands that have “thought deeply” about what their consumers want from mobile and have excelled in the space. Within the retail world, Spero highlighted Target, which offers free in-store Wi-Fi, price match and QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones, as well as Macy’s, which is carrying more exclusive goods.

“That isn’t something that you can price compare,” Spero said. “In the era of showrooming, it’s about having key products to get them into stores, but you also want to sell them the products that won’t drive you to the absolute smallest margin.”

According to Spero, who wrote the Playbook, Google’s research shows that 17 percent more shoppers plan to turn to their mobile devices this year when it comes to holiday shopping. Since 2011, smartphone penetration went from 31 percent to 56 percent, and 80 percent of smartphone shoppers use their devices to research prior to going into the store. Similarly, four out of five customers are expected to use their devices in-store. But possibly even more telling are the actions consumers are taking after conducting a search online. More than half end up in the actual store, 48 percent make a phone call and 29 percent end up making a purchase in the store — with 75 percent to 80 percent of these visits happening within five hours of the initial search.

“What’s coming into focus is a picture of a consumer making an informed decision based on devices. The first part is [that they’re] taking action, the second part is that they’re taking action quickly and the third part is the way that they’re taking action is in new modes,” Spero said.

That’s data many companies aren’t used to having access to.

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For retailers to win at mobile, Spero maintains that two models must be addressed: one that understands the consumer when she’s planning and researching and one that is more transactional, catering to the shopper while they are in the store and looking up customer reviews or additional colorways.

Another likely scenario: A person searches for an item on their smartphone in the afternoon, continues the search that evening on their tablet and ends up buying said product the following night via their desktop computer. As an industry, Spero explained that these instances were viewed as three separate users until recently — and Google’s introduction of cross-device conversions last week addresses this. Now technology can tell marketers the number of people who searched and then come back again using a different device.

Spero is also keen on retailers making the most of technologies that allow them to target by location — like local product listing ads, ads with pictures that turn up in top search results and bidding by proximity. Starting Oct. 7, when a consumer searched for an item on Google, PLAs, or product listing ads, for local retailers popped up, and upon clicking on an ad, users were directed to a local storefront on Google. Proximity-based bidding launched in March — which enables marketers to bid more to reach a consumer when they’re within a certain distance of the store.

“Proximity plays a key role in conversion. If someone is closer it’s more likely that they’ll transact,” Spero said.


20% of searches on, Google Maps, Google+ or Zagat have local intent

94% of smartphone users search for location information

80% of mobile search-triggered store visits happen within five hours of initial search

40% of users have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience

68% of mobile searches occur at home, according to a Nielsen study

90% of consumers move between devices to complete a task

40% of smartphone users watch TV while browsing their smartphone

SOURCE: Google’s Mobile Playbook

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