The missing 98 percent: why offline attribution matters

Content Takeover Display AdvertisingIf you aren’t measuring offline behavior, you’re killing your chances of success in digital marketing.

Improving your attribution models is more critical than ever in the auction-based environment for display, social, and search ad inventory. Mess up your attribution, and you under-bid for the inventory that could be driving the sales and leads you can’t see.

Perhaps the largest gap in current attribution and marketing mix models is the failure to incorporate offline behavior – including phone calls and in-store visits – into the model. The more expensive or complex the buying decision is, the more likely it is that the consumer will, at some point, pick up the phone or head to a retail store location. This is also true for many B2B purchases, where leads, or orders, or sales are more often the result of a phone call than from an online lead form.


Marchex recently issued an insightful report on how display ad exposure influences inbound phone calls accompanying the release of its Marchex Display Analytics beta. The report is available online and inspired in this column.

I was able to chat with Sundi Raman, the company’s principal product manager of media analytics. He was quite excited about the magnitude of this opportunity for marketers and shared his perspective.

“Marketers are spending billions of dollars in digital campaigns but cannot answer how much of their marketing efforts are resulting in $1 trillion sales over inbound phone calls. This is a critical blind spot marketers want visibility into to truly assess and improve ROI of their marketing efforts,” said Raman. 

Chances are, prospects or customers that decide to give you a call will probably increase when they view your ads, social media, and your site on their smartphones.

From the Marchex report, “We know from paid search engine advertising that click-to-call works pretty well. Whereas a paid search campaign that uses call extensions may see call-through rates as high as 20 percent, Marchex research has shown that it can take an average of 500,000 impressions from a display ad with click-to-call functionality to generate a quality phone call.”

This is of course, in reference to click-to-call behavior. In reality, the number of calls generated in which display media played an important role is far greater. The true impact level of display ads on future calls is quite dramatic.

According to the report, “Data from beta customers of Marchex Display Analytics shows that it can take an average of 8,000 impressions from a display ad to influence a phone call within two weeks. In other words, display ads influence 60 times more phone calls than they do a direct click-to-call.”

For those willing to use brand intercept – which can come in the form of online surveys by measurement companies, or view-through conversions, which need to be done using a control group or other normalizing method – for your display advertising campaigns, then you should be taking a closer look at the ways you can tie back phone calls to cookies. Marchex can help you with that – its display-to-call analytics is designed specifically to close the loop between the call-back and the ad impression.


Do you think you can close the loop with other methods?

Maybe someday. But right now, even the most popular method of closing the loop in retail – couponing – and offer codes is really just a biased sample of those interested enough in price to go through the hassle of coupon redemption, as they are very price sensitive and probably representative of your worst customers. Therefore, store coupon redemption or offer codes aren’t the ideal data you’d want to use to plan a display campaign, because it is skewed.

How much is a phone call worth to you?

With display ad rates ranging from 50 cents (or less CPM / cost per thousand) up to over $10 CPM for premium guaranteed, viewable inventory, you can probably drive significant incremental, measurable lift in phone calls by optimizing your media buying around display media’s ability to influence a call within two weeks. Plus, you have to account for all the other online behaviors that can be traced back to the campaign.

Do the math for your campaigns and you may find that you are under investing in display in general, misallocating your dollars within display; with the wrong placements, wrong publishers, and wrong networks.

In conclusion

Consider testing out the Marchex Display Analytics platform to close the huge gap in measuring the impact of your display media on sales. While technically it’s still listed as in beta, it’s currently fully functional. The data it reveals may be truly eye opening and, more importantly, get you the leverage you need to succeed in today’s auction-based media landscape.

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.

Article and homepage images via Flickr.

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