In a blog post announcing Google Attribution, a new AI-powered marketing tool to help clients measure the impact of cross-channel marketing campaigns, the tech giant revealed that it has tracked more than five billion in-store purchases over the past few years. Google says they use "double-blind encryption", meaning that while retailers know if a user came to their store, the person's identity will be anonymous. Tracking will only pick up collective purchases and money spent, according to Google - it won't be able to examine individuals and specific products. By matching ad clicks with this data, Google says it can automatically inform merchants when their digital ads translate into sales at a brick-and-mortar store.
Just days after news that Amazon looks set to bring its heavily automated stores to the United Kingdom, the Washington Post is reporting on plans for Google to monitor your credit card transactions in order to serve more relevant adverts.
Google can do this because of the amount of data it has on nearly all Internet users.
Regardless of device or marketing channel, Google wants Attribution to be a home for evaluating marketing campaigns. Miro Copic, a marketing professor at San Diego State University, told the Associated Press that "the privacy implications of this are pretty massive, so Google needs to tread very carefully".
Currently, Google Attribution is only available in beta to a limited number of advertisers.
Google's recent brand safety problems with YouTube, plus Facebook's bevy of measurement mishaps, have eroded marketers' trust in the walled gardens and renewed cries for independent measurement.
With every search you make and video you watch, Google knows your likes and interests.
"Why yes, John Smith did see four ads for your coffee drink online yesterday, before spending exactly what one of those drinks costs at a location of yours near his office".
The new program takes that tracking into physical stores. On Tuesday, Google said it is improving that proposition by letting marketers buy search ads that appear only for "in-market" shoppers, meaning they've previously searched for suggestive terms like "spacious SUV" or "SUV with best gas mileage", for example. By the same token, Google is blocked from seeing personal information held by its partners.
The executive claimed it is an important data-gathering platform to sustain the upcoming store sales measurement tool, which will be rolling out to advertisers in the coming months. The whole thing is made possible by a wider data set than ever before, alongside advanced machine learning tools, which Google has recently put some work into optimizing for this very objective. Instead it aims to provide insights about how earlier ad dollars perform in areas like TV, digital video, store visits and search.