In fact, a study by emarketer found that four out of five internet users use digital channels to compare prices when shopping online before purchasing.
For retailers, this transition from online to offline presents a problem. In order to judge the effectiveness of different marketing channels, the retailer needs to know which touchpoints a customer interacted with before purchasing.
This is to help understand which had the biggest impact on the conversion – a process known as attribution.
When online, it’s possible to get a good overview of a user’s path to purchase. Web analytics software can give an indication of traffic sources to a website or landing page – whether that’s via organic search results, through a PPC or retargeting campaign, or through social shares.
Despite this, tracking a customer’s progress through the funnel is by no means easy. And while there are tools that provide a surprising amount of useful data on which pages users visit, that data is meaningless if it can’t be connected to an actual purchase.
If the user doesn’t complete their purchase online at all, it makes the process of attribution doubly difficult.
But online-to-offline attribution is not impossible. Here are five ways ecommerce retailers can connect online marketing to offline sales:
AdWords uses anonymous, aggregated statistics to estimate the number of people clicking on an advert and then visiting a store.
To enable this feature, Google requires your site to receive a sufficient number of ad clicks, and to have several physical stores in eligible countries which garner a sizeable number of visits. Without a large data set, Google says, it can be difficult to connect ad clicks to store visits without compromising their user privacy thresholds.
The potential benefits, however, are significant. For high-consideration purchases, users are less likely to convert based on nothing but photos of the product – making a visit to a physical store an essential part of the purchase process. Using Google AdWords allows marketers to access the visibility benefits of a large ad network, without sacrificing the in-depth data analysis required for accurate attribution.
Geofences are virtual boundaries used to track foot traffic of mobile users via their location-enabled mobile devices. A brand might set up aroud a physical store, an event, or a competitor’s store, depending on the campaign.
For an ecommerce retailer, they offer two opportunities: to collect data on how many customers are visiting a store, and to serve customers timely ads in an effort to encourage them to purchase. For customers who do convert via this channel, it can be tied directly to an online campaign.
Call tracking technology enables marketers to better connect online activity with calls to a call center. One strategy is to list a unique phone number for each channel – one for the website, one for the Google My Business listing, one for social platforms, email etc. This gives a good top-level view of traffic volumes from each source.
Companies like ResponseTap now allow you to dig even deeper and connect individual website visitors to calls received. This is achieved by dropping a cookie on each website visitor and dynamically generating a unique phone number for that user on the contact page. When a visitor dials the number, the system can connect it with the user’s other online activities.
This technology is most useful for customer service representatives, who can see which web pages the customer visited before calling (e.g. product pages, FAQs etc) to better understand their issue. However, it can also be used to help understand which channels influenced customers who converted over the phone.
The primary function of click-and-collect is to provide flexibility for the customer, but it can also be a valuable source of data. It’s an opportunity to link an online purchase to a real person.
As the actual conversion happened online, it’s possible to see the user’s journey through the site (and beyond, if the right systems are in place). But the user will remain anonymous if they have not created an account. With the rising popularity of a ‘guest’ checkout option, this is an increasingly common occurrence.
An in-store visit, however, provides a prime opportunity to link anonymous website data with a customer profile in a CRM – either by collecting personally identifiable information upon collection, or connecting the purchase to a loyalty card or similar.
Custom landing pages
A campaign- or location-specific landing page is an effective way to tie display or OOH advertising to online traffic.
A unique URL and QR code can be used to track traffic sources from offline to online – for example, using a different code for different print advertising runs. This strategy operates on the same principle as coupons or voucher codes, but without having to offer a discount as an incentive.
As data collection methods become increasingly sophisticated, and as the popularity of mobile channels continues to rise, opportunities to solve the online-offline conundrum will become clearer. For marketers seeking to achieve a single customer view across all channels, the strategies above are a good place to start.