Online-to-offline attribution in the mobile age

Content Takeover Display Advertising

Marketers’ interest in better attribution of offline purchases across paid and earned media channels continues to grow, and for good reason.

According to recent data from Deloitte, mobile’s influence on brick-and-mortar sales rose to 28 percent in 2014. In fact, mobile influenced in-store sales will reach nearly $1 trillion this year. Click-to-call commerce – when a consumer calls a business directly from a smartphone search to make a reservation, appointment, or purchase – will contribute to an additional $1 trillion in consumer purchases this year. Mobile is clearly no longer a niche channel.

When digital or mobile media was relatively inexpensive, using rough estimates of conversions to store visits, or conversions to phone calls was considered acceptable, even though everyone knew that the data was far from perfect. Now, however, it’s become more important than ever to know the value of all your marketing touchpoints, both in respect to advertising and also for earned media, because the data loss is far greater than you could imagine.

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This data loss is largely explained by the explosion of use of mobile devices to surf the net and gather information. Have you looked at your analytics (or, if you’re old-school, your web-logs) recently? If you have, you’ve likely noticed a surge in visits to your site on smartphones, phablets (large phones that are almost tablets) and tablet computers. And when a consumers is exposed to an online ad, app or Web page to make an offline purchase or phone call, it is often a blind-spot for marketers.

Aruna Paramasivam, senior director of Data and Partnerships at MediaMath emphasizes how important it is to get this online-to-offline measurement right for the world of programmatic display buying.

“Though the advertising decision in programmatic is made in real-time, the consumer outcome and experience is often made offline or outside of the digital attribution loop. Tracking offline activity is critical to ensuring marketers are delivering the right ad at the right time and place,” she says. 

Bottom line: you’d better get your mobile house in order before your competition does.

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Luckily, solutions for better attribution are being developed for marketers that want to get phone calls, and for those who use phone numbers as a key index to identify customers (think about your pharmacy loyalty card or supermarket rewards card: they both have your phone number).

Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Adarsh Nair, senior director, Product Management and Engineering at Marchex, a long time leader in call tracking, to learn about how they’re helping marketers solve the mobile attribution problem. They’ve made tremendous strides in expanding their platform beyond traditional call analytics to connecting display advertising exposure to a future inbound phone call.

Adarsh had the following to say about the latest addition to their platform,”The Marchex Display Analytics platform provides an industry-first view-through conversion metric for inbound phone calls, enabling digital marketers to measure the ROI of programmatic campaigns by connecting offline phone calls with display impression data. The reports are delivered real-time, providing marketers with actionable intelligence to shift towards display tactics that work.”

That’s a bold statement, so I dug deeper to better understand exactly what drove Marchex to invest heavily in tying cookies to phone numbers. It turns out that Marchex’s customer needs were important drivers behind the product roadmap for Display Analytics.

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Marketers and agencies need accurate data, and as MediaMath’s Paramasivam observes, “For a marketer, making a decision based on bad data is a worst case scenario. With the rise of mobile content consumption and ad opportunities, it is critical that we use the most accurate attribution methods. For companies with national call centers, it is critical that inbound phone calls are front and center of the attribution model.”

No attribution platform is perfect, but you’ll do a much better job optimizing your campaigns if your agency or marketing team has access to timely, accurate data around the behaviors you care about, including phone calls or conversions that include phone number data. Perhaps with the right analytics, you can get your mobile attribution — and your media allocation — closer to perfection, which to me represents the “holy grail” of media and marketing.

Article images via Flickr.

Marchex *Sponsored content in collaboration with Marchex. Views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect ClickZ’s opinions.

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