Google tracking digital ad effectiveness through credit card data

Shopper with smartphone
Google is using data from across display, video search and social to match user data with transactions at POS.

Google is now using credit card transaction data as proof that online ads are prompting consumers to make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. The advancement, called Google Attribution, allows Google to determine how many sales are generated by a digital ad campaign. Or, as the Google blog post announcing the product said, it can answer the question, “Is my marketing working?”

Google is using data from YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store—in other words, across display, video search and social—to get the identities of these users and match them up with transactions at POS.

How does it work? Data-driven attribution uses machine learning to determine how much credit to assign each step of the consumer journey, from the first engagement to the final purchase. However, the announcement brings up concerns of consumer privacy.

Google Google claims that the products was developed years ago and has been fine-tuned to meet tough privacy requirements and includes custom encryption technology to keep users' data private, secure and anonymous.

“Given the nature of Google and their commitment to cybersecurity, I’m sure the data collection is done in the most privacy-friendly way possible,” Nels Stromborg, managing director, Retale, told FierceRetail.

Stromborg says companies should be happy to see Google developing solutions in this end of the market, as it will raise the overall value of all advertising efforts.

“Across the industry, we are seeing growing demand among advertisers for greater transparency and accountability from their media partners. In-store traffic is one of the top KPIs that retailers and brands look to when measuring the success of a platform and their media choices. As a result, more advertising solution providers—including Retale—have seized the opportunity to tackle these demands head-on by rolling out products that provide more transparency and better reporting of in-store ROI,” Stromborg said.

In the announcement, Google also hinted at a new product that will be released in the coming months. Store sales measurement will allow marketers to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by a retailer’s Search and Shopping ads.

“Machine learning and AI are the next wave across all things digital. While initially it has been used to solve much more abstract challenges, slowly but surely, we will see it applied to more 'real world' challenges. As those challenges are solved for, we should see greater efficiency across a number of industries, processes and businesses,” Stromborg said.