How to drive footfall to your shop through online marketing

5 Minute Read

A range of strategies to help you turn local search interest into store visits, including Google My Business optimisation, attributing store visits to Google Ads campaigns, running local campaigns in Google Ads and using local inventory ads.

More than 85,000 UK businesses launched online stores or joined online marketplaces in the first half of 2020, in response to Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions. McKinsey estimated that the pandemic forced ten years’ worth of digital adoption in the space of 90 days as shoppers turned to online shopping and thousands of businesses turned to online channels in the hope of survival.

While the UK economy is on the path to recovery, the country has more online businesses than ever before and, for many, the focus is now on getting customers to walk through the door again. In this article, we look at how you can use digital channels to bring retail foot traffic back into your store.

Build your digital storefront on Google My Business

If you look at this Google Ads Help page, the first tip Google has for driving in-store sales from online ads is to build your digital storefront on Google My Business. The search giant calls this the “essential first step towards driving and measuring visits” to your business locations and there’s no better place to start.

With an optimised Google My Business account, you’re in the best position to drive in-store visitors from organic and paid search.

Throughout the pandemic, Google has updated Google My Business and its integration with local search and Google Maps. This is the perfect platform to help people discover your business, keep them informed about any changes (eg: opening hours) and drive footfall to your business locations.

If you need help with setting up your Google My Business account, take a look at our tutorial video:

We’ve also got a series of articles on setting up and optimising Google My Business:

Get advice from our local SEO team

Attribute store visits to Google Ads campaigns

In Google Ads, you can track shop visit conversions to see when your ad campaigns inspire users to visit your business. This is crucial for attributing value to campaigns that generate footfall. Without this attribution, you can’t determine which campaigns are bringing customers to your business, measure results or optimise campaigns to increase footfall.

Google outlines three key benefits of using shop site conversions in Google Ads:

  1. See which campaigns, keywords and devices drive the most shop visits to your business
  2. Understand the full impact of your return on investment (ROI) and make more informed decisions about your ad creatives, spend, bid strategies and other elements of your campaigns
  3. Evaluate and optimise omnichannel performance by including shop visit conversions in your Smart Bidding strategies.

The only limitation is that users must be signed into their Google Account and opted into location history in their account settings for shop visit conversions to work.

As long as these two requirements are met, Google logs the location of users who interact with your ad, whether they’re at home, at work or on the move. When the same user then visits your store, Google connects this visit using their location data to register the visit.

When Google detects a store visit, it then asks the user for feedback to confirm they did, in fact, visit your store and it also asks select users about their experience in your store. This data feeds back into Google’s algorithm to verify its location tracking and machine learning models are working properly.

Run local campaigns in Google Ads

In Google Ads, you can also run local campaigns to target potential customers in your nearby area across Google Search, Maps, YouTube and the Google Display Network.

Local campaigns are an optimised campaign type so you have to keep this in mind while using them. You provide Google with your shop location(s), campaign budget and assets when creating the campaign and Google automatically optimises bids, ad placements and asset combinations to deliver ads to nearby prospects and maximise store visits.

Google uses machine learning to match your ads to users across its products and you’ll normally find most of these impressions occur in the local pack of results in Google Search and Maps.

Example of local business on Google Maps

As with any campaign where Google automatically optimises bids, you sacrifice some control so you have to keep a good eye on performance to check that local campaigns are always justifying the ad spend.

You can edit certain aspects of your local campaigns after they’re up and running, including assets, audiences and locations – more details here.

Use local inventory ads

Local inventory ads are one of the most powerful ad formats for driving in-store visits. The ad format allows you to show local searchers that you have the products they’re looking for, in-stock and ready to buy.

Example local inventory ad showing product in stock

Google outlines three key benefits of running local inventory ads:

  1. Promote your in-store inventory: Let local shoppers know that your shop has the products that they’re looking for, at the moment that they search on Google.
  2. Bring your local shop online: Use the Google-hosted local shop front as a robust, digital local shop-front experience.
  3. Measure performance: Monitor the impact your digital ads and free local listings have on online and in-store sales.

Another key benefit of local inventory ads is they show for searches demonstrating a high purchase intent and, typically, an urgency to get their hands on a product. For example, if someone types in a query like “Sony TV near me,” they’re showing a clear desire to visit a store with relevant products in stock – either because they want to see the product in-person or they want to buy one right away from a store that has the item ready and waiting for them.

Example of search results for Sony TV near me

You’ll also find local inventory ads are particularly effective when locals are in a rush to get their hands on a product when demand is high or time is short. The obvious example is Christmas when people need to buy everything they need before the shops close on the 24th but local inventory ads are also great for situations like a sunny bank holiday weekend when everyone’s rushing out to get their hands on BBQ goods.

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Promote your opening hours to drive in-store visits

People want to know a business will be open when they pay a visit so make sure your opening hours are always clear for local searchers to see. Promote your opening hours in your ad copy for local campaigns and use ad scheduling to only show these ads during opening hours.

This way you’re only spending money on local ads during the times you’re ready to welcome customers and they’re always informed about your opening hours.

Also, make sure your opening hours are always up-to-date in Google My Business as this information shows in local search results and Google Maps. If you need help with adding or updating your opening hours in Google Ads, we show you how to do it in this article.

Bringing it all together

Whether you made the online transition to cope with Covid disruptions or you’re looking to make the most of the economy opening back up, search marketing is the perfect digital channel for generating footfall and online traffic.

The strategies we’ve looked at in this article build your local search presence to make you more discoverable for people in the nearby area and we’ve also seen how you can target people ready to buy through local campaigns and local inventory ads.

If you need further help with local search or maximising post-Covid recovery, you can speak to our search marketing team by calling 023 9283 0281 or emailing us at info@vertical-leap.uk.

Sally Newman profile picture
Sally Newman

Sally is an SEO Specialist at Vertical Leap and has been in the world of digital marketing since 2012, specialising in local SEO, strategy and eCommerce. In her own time Sally enjoys travelling, keeping fit by walking her dog, Pedro, and doing just about anything to hunt down a great view or skyline.

More articles by Sally
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