In fact, a study by emarketer found that four in five internet users use digital channels to compare prices when shopping online before they buy.
For retailers, this transition from online to offline poses a problem. In order to judge the effectiveness of different marketing channels, the retailer needs to know what touch points a customer has interacted with before purchasing.
This helps to understand what had the biggest impact on conversion – a process known as attribution.
Online, it is possible to have a good overview of a user’s purchasing journey. Web analytics software can give an indication of the sources of traffic to a website or landing page, whether through 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 the pages that users visit, that data is meaningless if it cannot be linked to an actual purchase.
If the user does not complete their purchase online at all, this makes the attribution process doubly difficult.
But online-to-offline attribution is not impossible. Here are five ways ecommerce retailers can connect online marketing with offline sales:
AdWords uses anonymous and aggregate statistics to estimate the number of people clicking on an ad and then visiting a store.
To enable this feature, Google requires that your site receives a sufficient number of ad clicks and that it has multiple physical stores in eligible countries that have a significant number of visits. Without a large data set, according to Google, it can be difficult to connect ad clicks to store visits without compromising user privacy thresholds.
The potential benefits, however, are significant. For high-value purchases, users are less likely to convert based solely on photos of the product, making a visit to a physical store an essential part of the buying process. Using Google AdWords enables marketers to access the visibility benefits of a large ad network, without sacrificing the in-depth data analysis required for accurate attribution.
Geographic barriers are virtual boundaries used to track pedestrian traffic of mobile users through their location-enabled mobile devices. A brand can settle around a physical store, event, or a competitor’s store, depending on the campaign.
For an e-merchant, they offer two possibilities: collecting data on the number of customers who visit a store and serving timely advertisements to customers to encourage them to buy. For customers who convert through this channel, it can be directly linked to an online campaign.
Call tracking technology allows 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, emails, etc. This gives a good high level view of the traffic volumes from each source.
Companies like ResponseTap now allow you to dig even deeper and connect individual website visitors to incoming calls. This is achieved by placing 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 them to the user’s other online activities.
This technology is particularly useful for customer service representatives, who can see which web pages the customer visited before calling (eg, 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.
Click and collect
The main function of click-and-collect is to provide flexibility to the customer, but it can also be a valuable source of data. This is the opportunity to link an online purchase to a real person.
As the conversion has occurred online, it is 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 he has not created an account. With the growing popularity of a “guest” payment option, this is an increasingly common phenomenon.
A store visit, however, provides a great opportunity to link anonymous website data to a customer profile in a CRM – either by collecting personally identifiable information upon collection, or by connecting the purchase to a loyalty card. or similar.
Custom landing pages
A campaign or location specific landing page is an effective way to link 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 advertising runs. This strategy works on the same principle as coupons or promo codes, but without having to offer a discount as an incentive.
As the methods of data collection become more sophisticated and the popularity of mobile channels continues to increase, the opportunities to solve the puzzle online and offline will become clearer. For marketers looking to achieve a single customer view across all channels, the above strategies are a good place to start.