Connecting Rings and Bricks to Clicks (Connecting Online to Offline)

If your company has conversions that occur offline, either on the phone or at a brick and mortar store, you need to understand if those offline conversions are a result of your online advertising. If you don't figure this out, you're undervaluing your advertising, which leads to poor optimization decisions.

Rather than trust the myriad studies done by search engines and other third parties about the impact of online advertising to offline conversions, you need to implement a system that truly ties your online ad spend to your offline conversions. What most marketers don't realize is that some simple techniques actually allow you to do this.

The Trick

Most companies track how visitors make it to their site by using a cookie technology. If a visitor to your site decides to purchase offline, your online tracking data would look like there was an "abandoned" path (i.e., a visit, but no conversion).

The trick to determine if this visitor may have converted offline is to get this consumer back to your website, so that you could match the cookies and recognize that this online visitor converted offline. To pull off this trick, a marketer needs to have an incentive in place that makes the person that converted offline need/want to go back to your site so you can close the loop.

The Incentive

Some businesses inherently have a reason for a customer to go back online after an offline conversion. Yet for other businesses, it isn't normal customer behavior to visit the website after an offline order takes place.

Companies need to create incentives or reasons for a consumer who purchases offline to return to the site. Some incentives could be to set up a "My Account" feature, redeem a coupon, get a rebate, register for a warranty, enter a contest, receive future offers, track a shipment, or review an itinerary.

My Account Feature

Many businesses, such as travel and wireless phone companies, understand the "My Account" concept. Basically, customers get a personalized section of the website that can tell you things such as usage details, order history, shipping information, itineraries, etc.

For these businesses, it's common that the customer is incented to go back online and utilize the My Account feature after an offline conversion takes place, which closes the loop.

In order to have a "My Account," one must be customer. If there is no record of this customer converting online, they must have converted offline. Through the use of cookies, a company can look at what this customer purchased offline through the use of the "My Account" feature and connect that to any online advertising the customer engaged with prior to their offline order.

Loyalty Cards

There are two scenarios when it comes to loyalty cards.

  • A consumer logs into a website each time they visit. They then decide that they want to buy a product offline. At the time of checkout, they utilize their loyalty card, which is linked to their e-mail address and online ID. The company then has the ability to look at their web records and see when the last time this user logged in, and what advertising was involved. Assuming the consumer logged in within a reasonable time relative to their offline purchase, a marketer could attribute the offline order to the ad(s) that got the consumer there.

  • The consumer who purchases offline doesn't log into the site prior to their purchase, though they were on the website. In this scenario, the marketer doesn't have the advantage of knowing the person was on site. Therefore, they need to create a method to getting this customer back to the web site to see if there are cookies present.

In order to do this, a marketer would need to leverage a third technique...

E-mail

After an offline conversion takes place, sending an e-mail with an embedded link is one of the easiest methods to get a customer back to your site.

To get the consumer to provide their e-mail address at checkout, and to get them to want to open the e-mail and click the link, an incentive must be presented. Some businesses offer the e-mailing of receipts, warranty info, rebates, future coupons, enrollment into a loyalty program, entry into a contest, etc.

Because e-mail is another form of trackable online advertising, a business would know that a visitor to a site from this specific e-mail converted offline. It's possible to embed in the e-mail the order ID or some other identifiable information about the order. Once the consumer makes it to the site, the business can match the cookies to see if they were online prior, and if so, attribute the offline order to the online ads.

Closing the Loop

The process of tracking online to offline is all about closing the loop. If you have a tracking technology in place already, you're 90 percent of the way there.

Every company can leverage the e-mail method and create enough incentive to get at least a sample of your offline consumers to open it and click the link. Once you have an understanding of the number of e-mail addresses you collect at checkout compared to the number of offline sales, and you know the open and click-through rate of those e-mails, you can use some simple statistics to extrapolate the sample that provided an e-mail address and clicked-through to your entire offline population.

Connecting your rings, bricks, and clicks will surely increase the value of your advertising today, thus causing you to make different optimization decisions that will definitely increase your ROAS.

About the author

Adam S. Goldberg serves as ClearSaleing's Chief Innovation Officer and is one of the interactive advertising industry's leading authorities on Attribution Management. Prior to ClearSaleing, Adam worked at Google where he was hired to start their first inside sales team in 2003. While at Google, Adam helped to build the inside sales team into a $500 million a year organization. He also created Google's proprietary B2B search engine to help his sales team identify prospects and to help Google better understand its customer base.

Prior to working at Google, Adam started Actuate Software's inside sales division. Actuate is a leader in Information Delivery software. He grew this team from 1 person to 20 when he left Actuate in 2003 to join Google. Prior to working at Actuate, Adam was a salesperson for Oracle Corporation and managed major accounts such as Nike, Wal-Mart and Frito Lay. Adam holds a B.S.B.A. degree in Marketing from The Ohio State University.