Local Inventory Ads: Google, Facebook & Microsoft side by side


A 2018 report by Forrester found that half of US retail sales were influenced by digital with this number expected to reach 58% by 2023. Coupled with the fact that physical store purchases still make up over 80% of all retail spending, marketers working in the digital space need to ensure that they are focussing their efforts not only on driving online sales, but also on the impact digital is having on in-store spending. If you can create a positive experience for potential customers online, they are more likely to shop in-store.

As well as traditional offline channels, such as OOH advertising, print and TV, marketers should be taking advantage of ad formats specifically designed to help create a bridge between the digital universe and those customers who still wish to shop in-store. These new formats from tech giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft will give your customers a better experience and help increase your brand’s sentiment.

In this post, we explore 3 of the main advertising options for turning online browsers into in-store customers.

Google Local Inventory Ads

Google’s Local Inventory Ads (LIAs) are an extension of Google Shopping ads. They allow you to show your products and store information to nearby users when they are searching on Google. When a user near a store clicks an ad they are directed to a page hosted by Google called a local storefront. Here they can view available stock, opening times, and get directions to the nearest store.

When setting up Google LIAs you can target shoppers by specifying a radius around your store, you can schedule bids so ads only show when the store is open or when you know that demand is high, or you can offer the option for people to buy online and collect in-store.

Google LIAs can be fully measured by connecting them to Google Analytics to help you understand users’ behaviour. Insights include geo-event reporting using location data, device reporting so you can see the split between desktop and mobile, and time of day reporting. Sharing these insights with your offline marketing teams can help them optimise the in-store experience, for example, by ensuring they manage customers’ expectations by having enough inventory and staff available during peak hours.

Facebook Dynamic Ads for Retail

Introduced in 2016, Facebook Dynamic Ads for Retail (DAR) offer targeting that is similar to Google’s Local Inventory Ads. The main difference is that they are not dependent on search-based intent. Instead you target an audience based on variables such as demographics and interests, in much the same way as you do with regular Facebook Ads.

With Facebook DAR retailers can customise creative for every store location based on product availability, pricing, and promotions. This means a user will not see out-of-stock products or incorrect prices for their local store. It is also possible to show similar products and to encourage the user to take different actions, such as visiting the store, contacting the store, or saving the product for future reference.

Microsoft Local Inventory Ads

Although Bing has a much smaller market share than Google, searches on Bing lead to a higher average spend as it has an older audience that generally tends to be more affluent.

Microsoft LIAs are currently only available in the US but as they have recently rolled out of beta we expect them to arrive in the UK before not too long.

The ads work in just the same way as Google’s LIAs. A user searches for a product and local retailers can show ads for stock in nearby stores. When a user clicks on the ad they are directed to a Microsoft-hosted page that includes the product and store information.

If you are already running LIAs through Google then you should think about extending this to Microsoft to find a new audience of different shoppers.

Which ad format is right for me?

Case studies by both Google and Facebook have been shown to increase footfall and purchases in store.

Google’s LIAs resulted in a 17% increase in store visits for River Island with a 33% increase in sales. And with Facebook US grocer Albertsons was able to decrease the cost-per-store visit by up to 40%.

But how do you decide which is the best network to help you reach your goals and objectives?

Here are the main features of the different types of ads:

AudienceUsers looking to make a specific purchaseRaise awareness and interest among online browsersUsers looking to make a specific purchase
PlacementSearch engine results pageFacebook and Instagram display adsSearch engine results page
CreativeHigh quality product imagesEmotional, branded images for inspirationHigh quality product images
AnalyticsThrough Google Ads console and/or Google AnalyticsThrough Facebook Ads ManagerThrough Bing Ads/Microsoft Advertising console
Offline AttributionStore Visit conversions and Store Sales DirectStore Visits and Offline ConversionsNot available
ResultsEncourage physical store visits and salesEncourage physical store visits and salesEncourage physical store visits and sales

For most marketers, running ads across all networks is the ideal solution as customers use multiple touchpoints, both physical and digital, before they make a purchase.

Facebook ads are great for helping generate awareness of new product lines, store openings, and promotions. In essence they are ‘push’ ads which means you can target potential customers even if they are not searching for a particular product.

Google and Microsoft ads will help convert high-quality leads both in-store and online. They are ‘pull’ ads reaching users when they are in buying mode after they have searched for a product or category. Conversion rates for ads run on these networks are typically higher than those activated on Facebook.

Activating ads on mobile is essential to ensure you are targeting users when they are close by stores, and all formats are useful for remarketing.

The best way to find out how you should use local ads in your marketing mix is to test, gather data and insights and to find out what works for you.

Do you want to find out more about using local ads to drive customers in store? Contact us at or request a live demonstration.