Is Google’s Latest Hack to Track Offline Sales Already the Next Big Thing in Digital Realm?

Google keeps surprising us with its innovative algorithm and program updates which are influenced by advanced technology and the efforts of intelligent minds. The latest in Google updates is offline tracking technology.


Google has already been monitoring online shopping. The company has taken its tracking practice to the next level by finding a way to keep an eye on offline shopping behaviours of consumers.

Google has long been making efforts to prove the link between digital advertising and real-world sales. The one thing that has been a constant hindrance in this concept was consumer privacy. Google strived for years to develop a solution that helps sell more digital advertising while meeting stringent consumer privacy requirements.

With the introduction of offline tracking technology, Google has made it possible to determine whether digital advertising encourages people to make offline purchases.

And the answer is yes.

Read on to know about the latest initiative and get insights into how it is can benefit merchants alike and Google itself.

So, what’s all the fuss about?

In an attempt to promote digital advertising, Google has come up with this initiative to track offline shopping and keep an eye on customer shopping behaviours in the real-world. Lately, Google developed a new tool to monitor how much people tend to spend in physical stores after clicking on digital ads.

According to Google, this initiative is taken in an effort to prove that online ads do play a significant role in directing shoppers to brick-and-mortar stores and encourage them to make offline purchases. Google uses massive amounts of personal data from people’s smartphones and computer devices and their web browsing habits to rack their offline shopping behaviours. This information may include anything from debit and credit card numbers, purchase amounts and time stamps to geographic details and common terms people use in their Google searches.

Though Google can’t identify the specific items purchased or the exact amount spent in a purchase, by matching the available data with ad clicks, the search engine is able to determine when online ads turn into sales at a brick-and-mortar store and notify the retailers automatically.

Earlier, if a user clicked on a digital ad without ending up making an online purchase, the advertiser might consider their ad as ineffective and useless.

What about consumer privacy?

Google’s advance initiative to determine offline sales generated through digital ad campaigns is sure a godsend for online advertisers and digital marketers which has helped accomplished the long-standing goal of connecting the digital trails to offline sales.

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However, this advance has once again brought up the on-going concern of customer privacy and complaints that customers usually raise about how their personal data is used by Google.

Google has been analysing users’ search history, geographic locations and web browsing for years by utilising personal information linked to real identities of users on varied Google-owned apps including Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps and Google Play Store.

Mining users’ geographical locations from Google Maps has particularly been a part of the effort to prove that the knowledge of physical location of individuals can bridge the gap between digital and real worlds. Users who don’t feel comfortable in sharing their location details can customise their smartphone settings to block access to their physical location information.

The location tracking ability has allowed Google to help some of the eminent retailers including the likes of Nissan, Sephora, Express and Home Depot to determine whether people who clicked their digital ads online later visited their physical stores.

Recently, with the assistance of companies that track personal information of users, Google has managed to gain access to users’ credit and debit card transactions. This data along with other information tracked from user accounts on Google apps is added to digital reports that Google create on its search engine and app users. All this information helps the company to recognise individuals and monitor their offline purchases through digital ads they respond to.

Moreover, Google is still not able to determine how much exactly an individual spent or what products they purchased.

But the kinds of data the company collects and utilises to track real-world sales could be a key target for hackers, which increases the need for extreme safety around user data and privacy. Also, by tracking information that consumers may consider too personal and sensitive, Google has somewhere made some people feel uneasy and concerned despite the assurances from the company that it already working on a program to protect its users’ personal data.

To deal with massive privacy implications, a new tracking system has been developed under the guidance and assistance of experts. The newly introduced custom encryption program uses complex mathematical formulas to ensure users’ data remains absolutely secure and anonymous when Google matches a user with a buyer who makes an offline purchase after clicking a digital ad. These mathematical formulas convert consumers’ name and other purchase information such as the amount of purchase, location and stamp time into strings of numbers in order to keep the identity of consumers anonymous to Google and retailers. In this way, Google will know every time a match is made and inform the associated retailer about the same without knowing the name of the consumer and products they bought.

Google has declined to release more details on how the new program exactly works or the names of the companies that are assisting them in tracking and analysing sensitive credit and debit card information.

How does this initiative benefit both Google and retailers?


The new technology to track offline shopping has become a revolutionary step in the world of digital advertising as it closes the loop between the digital and real worlds.

Here’ a quick rundown on how Google’s latest practice to track offline sales by analysing digital ad campaigns, benefits merchants and brick-and-mortar businesses alike and Google itself:

  • Offline tracking of debit and credit cards assists Google in informing retailers about when their digital ad campaigns lead to offline sales. Through this practice, the company is also able to analyse how much money people spend in physical stores after viewing digital ads.
  • When effective, this tracking can help merchants improve their digital advertising campaigns and efforts while making the most out of their marketing budget.
  • Google, on the other hand, would be able to increase their revenue from digital ads by facilitating merchants to improve their digital advertising efforts.
  • Another possibility for Google to increase its revenue from offline tracking is that it will persuade merchants to adopt Google’s services over television advertising which still makes up a huge chunk of merchants’ advertising and marketing budget.

To summarise up

  • Google can now track offline purchases and real-world sales by utilising consumer data available on Google-owned apps like YouTube, Gmail and Play Store.
  • By tracking consumers’ purchases made at physical stores stimulated by digital ads, Google aims at promoting digital advertising while solving the long-standing quest for the connection between digital realm and the real-world.
  • Every time a consumer makes a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store after clicking a digital ad, Google notifies the concerned retailer about the offline purchase.
  • This new move to link consumers’ online trails to their offline shopping behaviours has also renewed consumer concerns over the privacy of their personal data. The initiative has left many consumers more concerned than ever about Google and merchants knowing too much about their personal information.
  • Google has developed an advanced program, called double-blind encryption by company executives, to protect the privacy of consumers in the same process. The tracking program uses mathematical formulas to convert consumer data into coded information (strings of numbers) to keep the identities of consumers secure and anonymous to both Google and retailers.

With all the benefits that offline tracking offers Google and merchants out there, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this can be a benchmark in the world of online advertising.

Digital advertising already provides retailers and brick-mortar-businesses with excellent opportunities to increase awareness around their brand to a great extent.

Now with Google’s offline tracking ability, merchants would be able to optimise their digital advertising campaigns for high traffic and conversions. Google too would be able to drive more revenue from online ads by assisting retailers. So, this is certainly a win-win situation.

Furthermore, if you’re a retailer or owner of a brick-and-mortar business facing constant digital advertising failures, Inbound Leads can help.

Our online marketing & ppc experts can build a robust strategy for your digital advertising campaigns that will help you utilise different aspects of online advertising to your advantage.

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