How Retailers Can Use Google Analytics Store Visits To Measure In-Store Visit Rates

by Ed Finn

By Ed Finn & Chris Wright

Napkyn works with enterprise marketing and ecommerce teams, which means we often have our attention fixed on online acquisition and online conversions. But, as we all know, the purchase journey isn’t limited to the web. After getting initially inspired, a customer can learn about your product across multiple web pages and videos, compare prices on multiple sites, read reviews, and then take their journey to the real world to, say, check the fit of a piece of clothing, test drive a car, or attend a store promotional event before purchasing something. It’s the ability to measure these real world conversion points that excites us when we explore Google’s newest beta: Store Visits in Google Analytics.

Store Visits for Google Ads has been around for some time, but its release in Google Analytics for more in depth analysis is still new. Today, the tool provides estimates on how visits to your website influence visits to your physical location. These estimates leverage Google Signals, and are based on aggregated anonymized data from users who have turned on Location History.

One of our customers that recently got access to the Store Visits beta wanted our help to get value out of its capabilities today. Here’s how we’re helping them use Store Visits reporting to generate insight and measure changes in in-store visit rates. 

Understanding The Value Of Store Visits In Google Analytics 360

By default, Store Visits reporting in GA360 looks like this:

It’s hard to spot in this graphic due to client confidentiality, but the Store Visitation Rate is displayed as a percentage. Let’s say for the sake of this exercise that this number is 10%. What does that mean?

  • Does it mean that 10% of sessions on my website result in a physical location visit? Not exactly
  • Does it mean that 10% of Google searches for my brand result in a store visit? Nope
  • Does it mean that out of the people who live near a store, 10% visited both the website and the physical location? No sir/ma’am, it does not

Specifically, it means that the total number of store visits divided by the total number of sessions is 10%.

Sadly, that figure really means nothing unless you have physical locations in every single municipality that trafficks your website. If I push an email to my international clients my Store Visit Rate (as defined) will likely drop, causing alarm bells that really never needed to go off.

Let’s establish a metric that means a little more …

Store Visits By City

By navigating to the locations report and selecting the primary dimension ‘city’ you can start to filter for only the cities where you have physical locations.

The easiest way to build a large inclusive list of filtered cities is to build a regular expression. To make a list, just write out a city name followed by a vertical bar ‘|’ and continue until your list contains all the cities where your organization has physical locations. Be aware there is a limit of 255 characters. 

Ex: “New York|New Jersey|Las Vegas”

Note: If you proceed with this method, we recommend excluding cities that share a name like London (Canada or France?) or Paris (The one with Hot Chicken or the one with the Eiffel Tower?), because you don’t want to accidentally include the wrong city.

Once your city filter is in place, you’ll see a new Store Visit Rate. This Store Visit Rate is the ratio of store visits to sessions where visiting a physical location did not require intercity relocation. This rate will still be impacted by all the parameters in the real world like weather and mobility issues, but you can use this to measure the impact of all kinds of changes.

For example, if you use Google Optimize to change the homepage hero banner to advertise an in-store only sale to the same regex you used to filter above cities then you can use this view of your data to see whether your store visit rate increased or not! You’re not far away from taking credit for actual sales.

Store Visits Referred By Store Locator Page

Set a secondary dimension to landing page, and see what the visit rate is for users who land on your Store Locator Page, or other content you think should push users to brick and mortar stores.

If you come up with another idea, let us know!

Store Visits Beta Limitations

It is worthwhile making plain the assumptions that are required to support this analysis as this method is not without caveats – the major one being that, while we can estimate visit rates and gather insights on what caused a lift/decline, we can’t prove that any sale occurred directly as a result of the specific action/behavior (seeing a banner, landing on a store locator) using Store Visits alone.

Also, this feature is still in beta, which means it has limitations that you need to be aware of when performing analysis. Google lists all feature limitations here. Consult this file from time to time as the feature is updated. 

Finally We Can Get Insight Into Store Visits

Google Analytics Store Visits is shaping up to be an extremely useful addition to the existing suite of reporting features available in Google Analytics. Linking your online user interactions and marketing efforts to in-store increases in traffic and sales is powerful, but we’re only just scratching the surface.

Give it a try. The workflow is straightforward and the upside is tremendous. Need help? Give us a shout.

Ed Finn

Senior Practitioner, Analysis

Ed’s passion is turning data into knowledge. As a Senior Practitioner on Napkyn's Analyst Team, Ed is responsible for driving the strategic direction behind some of our largest and most complex programs.

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