Google (GOOGL) Beta-testing A Program That Tracks Shoppers’ Purchasing Habits

Google (GOOGL) is said to have launched a pilot program which will help it determine whether online ads fuel sales in retailers brick-and-mortar businesses.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the search giant is helping about six advertisers, including the nation’s Nr.1 arts and crafts retailer chain Michaels Stores Inc., match the anonymous browser cookies on users’ PCs to in-store sales information compiled by data providers like Acxiom Corp. (ACXM) and DataLogix Holdings Inc.

“We are running a number of tests to help clients use their own sales data to measure how their search campaigns impact sales,” a Google spokesman said to the Journal.

But as consumers increasingly engage digitally, making Goolge’s tracking-click system through AdWords an effective way to measure a Web ad’s impact on online sales, the system, notes the report, breaks down when shoppers enter brick-and-mortar stores — once the center of consumerism — where their behavior is harder to monitor.

“Clicks are just the beginning, and everyone knows that there’s more value to tying ads to purchases,” Benny Arbel, chief executive of myThings, an ad-tech company that works with Google but isn’t involved in the pilot program, said to the publication. “If Google can demonstrate that people did not just click on an ad but that they actually bought something, that is the Holy Grail.”

Google’s new pilot program called  “In-Store Attribution Transaction Reporting in AdWords” is designed so that Google never knows the identity of the user, the search giant said.

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