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Google tests technology that follows mobile users to see if they visit the stores they search for

Google is beta-testing a programme that can track smartphone and tablet users everywhere they go, which could allow advertisers to find out if users who search for a store online actually visit it in the real-world.

The programme works by accessing user data via Android apps or Google’s iOS apps including Google search, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Maps.

If someone is using an app or has one running in the background, the smartphone location data can then be used to determine if and when they visit bricks-and-mortar stores.

Digiday, which first broke the story, suggests for example that if someone searches for ‘screwdriver’ on a Google mobile device or app, a local hardware store could bid to have its store listing served to that user.

Google can then pair that person’s location data with its database of store listings, ultimately allowing advertisers to see if the person who saw that ad subsequently visited the store.

However, this all depends on the user having their ‘location services’ switched on, something experts are warning users may not realise they have done.

Despite concerns, Google is already talking to advertisers about the technology, claiming it will allow them to more accurately measure in-store conversions.

The news comes on the back of a report Google recently commissioned by Nielsen. The tech giant wanted to estimate how much time consumers spend researching on mobile sites and apps, finding that the average was around 15 hours with 55 per cent of consumers wanting to purchase within an hour.

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