Clicks to Bricks: Proving the Impact of Search Marketing on Brick-and-Mortar Sales

By Mike Kowieski, Paid Search Specialist, Advertising Solutions

With more dire economic news released every day, it’s no surprise that return on investment (ROI) is now, more than ever before, the primary concern among every marketing decision-maker. Search marketing, particularly paid search, continues to be seen by marketers as the most efficient advertising vehicle, delivering superior ROI. But not all clients sell their products online. In these cases, we often track lead generations and other actions such as store locators, e-mail newsletter sign-ups, and more. How can we be sure that these actions are leading to actual sales and revenue? Can paid search provide a tangible boost to brick-and-mortar sales, especially for clients without e-commerce functionality on their website?

Our team partnered with Google and a major national retailer (with more than 1,200 stores in North America) to answer these exact questions. The result was a three-part test that gave us conclusive results.

  • First, the client shared their sales, unit, and transaction data for one month before the testing period, the three week test period, and two weeks after the test, for both this year and the same time last year.
  • Second, we selected 59 dominant marketing areas (DMAs) to receive heavy paid search marketing during the three-week test period, focused on keywords targeting the client’s brand name and industry. 93 additional markets were selected as a control group, which continued to receive our national paid search campaign, minus the brand and industry keywords.
  • Third, 60 out-of-market DMAs continued to receive the standard national campaign with no keyword exclusions.

The result? We proved that paid search advertising produced a 2% lift for in-store, brick-and-mortar revenue during the 5-week period during and after the test ran. The return on investment was over 300% for our client. This sales boost was even greater in those specific stores that had sales comparatively lower than the retailer’s national sales average per store, with a revenue boost as high as 5.3% in those under-performing outlets. Not too shabby.

Perhaps most impressively, the test ran in the middle of a time when grim news on the economy dominated the headlines: Lehman Brothers went under, the Dow saw the largest one-day point drop in its history, and the U.S. government outlined its Troubled Assets Recovery Plan. Not exactly an environment that inspires consumer confidence - but paid search came through and drove sales growth for our client.


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