You click on an ad on Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GOOGC) Google for a pair of slacks from Kohl’s Corp. (NYSE:KSSC) online site. Instead of ordering online, you decide to stop at your local Kohl’s store and buy them in person. Google software makes a note of your ad click and lets Kohl’s know that the ad it paid for on Google may have inspired you to buy in the store.
Don’t worry. You are not identified. Google works with Credit and debit card companies to match in-store purchases with profiles of people who viewed relevant ads. Google says it cannot see your individual.
Numbers Not Names
Your privacy is protected because the raw data are aggregated. Google can tell a store that their online ads resulted in 1,000 people going to the store to spend money. It can even tell the store how much money those 1,000 people spent but it can’t identify individuals.
In an early test of the system, fast food chain The Wendy’s Co. (NASDAQ:WENC) discovered that slightly less than 1 million people ate at its restaurants after viewing Wendy’s ads on Google. This is an important development for Google which, at the end of the day, still makes its money from ads.
Fine Tuning The Machine
By adding some real-world tools designed to get more customers into bricks-and-mortar stores, Google is upping the ante in its attempts to compete with other social media like Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FBB). One feature displays information for local stores on YouTube ads that includes hours and even driving directions.
Using your location history, Google is able figure out which stores are nearest your current location. The company has been using this mechanism on Search and on its Maps feature since 2014.
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And Now For Something Completely Different
The system described above depends on you clicking on an ad to drive the data to Google. To encourage you to actually click on the ad, Google is rolling out a new speed upgrade to its ads.
The system is called Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and was previously used only for news articles. This means that when you tap on a search ad from a participating company, the landing page will load significantly faster than in the past. According to Google AMP pages are able to render in less than a second on average.
Eventually the company plans to apply the technology to all of its display ads. This move was inspired in part by Facebook’s rollout of its similar Instant Articles.
All of this is part of Google’s effort to follow user buying decisions across devices and offline in order to be able to take credit (and charge for) the effects of its advertising.