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Marketers can feel pressured, by blogs like this, into believing they are lagging in the race to master omnichannel attribution.

In the real world, what marketers need are discrete ways to track discrete actions. That's why I thought a roundup of some methods of tracking online to offline conversions (and back again) might be useful.

Please add your own two cents in the comments.

Tracking online marketing to offline sales

1. Tracking estimated store visits from PPC ad clicks

An estimate of store visits was introduced to Google's conversion tracking in AdWords at the end of 2014.

The concept is simple, link a verified store location from Google Maps with your AdWords account and Google will give an estimated number of store visits within 30 days of your PPC ads being clicked.

Google does this by aggregating data from smartphone users who have location history enabled and are signed in to Google.

Although only an estimate, this method will reveal which PPC campaigns are driving more traffic to store and hence are likely to be more impactful than their mere online conversion rate suggests.

2. Importing offline conversions that start with a PPC ad click

This is a method of tracking, again within AdWords, that involves capturing customer details on your website (perhaps via a contact form or a phone call) and saving these details alongside the globally unique tracking parameter (Gclid) generated by their incoming PPC ad click.

When a sale is closed off the back of this customer contact, it's up to the advertiser to regularly upload these conversions and Gclids back into AdWords, which will register a sale against the appropriate campaign and keyphrases.

3. Call tracking

Call tracking solutions allow each caller to be assigned a unique phone number, so leads and sales can be assigned to site visitors who move offline and pick up the phone.

These solutions allow the marketer to look at page visits and keyword referral. Call tracking is particularly important for considered purchases where a sale is completed offline.

From mobiles, the click-to-call functionality in Google search is becoming more common. This is enabled in AdWords as a call extension.

A recent study by Econsultancy and Response Tap showed only 18% of respondents were using call tracking. See the Econsultancy Understanding the Customer Journey report for more.

adwords call extension

4. Coupons

The oldest trick in the book and one that works on-to-off and off-to-on. Of course, the rub here is that a discount is necessary as the incentive.

A coupon's success is usually used at the campaign level, with number of redemptions and order value being tracked by store. 

5. Ask the customer how they heard about you

If all else fails, simply ask the customer how they heard about you. This may not give any detailed insight and will probably work better for considered purchases where interaction with the customer is increased.

6. Click and collect

Click and collect is obviously not solely a tracking method, it's a customer expectation in many sectors, improving the experience for online and offline shoppers.

However, it's also obvious that click and collect creates data around customers and products, showing which customers shop where and when.

This may help to tailor future messaging to customers based on store locations.

click and collect

Tracking offline marketing to online sales

1. Adding UTM parameters to links

Using Google's URL builder, you can append a link with information about its source. Traffic from these links is then shown as a unique campaign within Google Analytics.

Of course, for offline campaigns, you'll want to use a catchy URL.

You can shorten your appended link and customise it (a vanity URL) using Bit.ly. However, bear in mind that this involves a number of redirects and can be unreliable.

It's probably better to create a custom landing page (point number two, below), with UTM parameters mostly used for tracking across digital channels.

Here's a how-to that will take you through the UTM process, step by step. 

2. Creating custom landing pages

Using landing pages for offline campaigns is a time-tested way of measuring engagement and ultimately sales. Simply use a catchy URL in your offline marketing.

Remember not to allow indexing of the landing pages within search.

Deciding not to index will prevent search traffic hitting the page and should give a clearer picture of campaign success.

Using analytics to also account for social visits to your landing pages may be appropriate, although it's arguable this falls within the context of an offline campaign as customers share it among themselves.

direct line landing page

3. Using redirect domains

For services marketed at a local level, marketers may want to use a more relevant domain that is then redirected to the appropriate page on their 'real' website.

For example, if I happened to be the owner of Marquees.com but wanted to run a campaign aimed at the mill town in North West England I grew up in, I might purchase the domain BuryMarquees.com in the belief that this would drive more website visitors.

Redirecting BuryMarquees.com to my main website and using tracking code to set the redirecting domain as the referrer, I could keep tabs on success.

4. QR codes

This is essentially a method of directing users to a URL, so is just a delivery method for custom landing pages or tracked URLs.

QR codes are a bête noire for many marketers, often used in the worst way conceivable. NFC is similarly controversial.

qr code

5. Direct traffic increase

If offline campaigns are big enough, for example a big Christmas TV advert, the increase in direct web traffic and sales is usually visible as a very obvious correlation.

This is, of course, only a comfort to those with big above-the-line media budgets.

Joining up online and offline sales data

Honourable mention must be made here for two tactics that don't fall into either of the camps above - loyalty cards and e-receipts.

These are techniques to unite sales data and give a single customer view.

Both can allow a retailer to unite a customer's online and offline sales data and build a more accurate picture of customer value and behaviour.

E-receipts in particular are surprisingly uncommon. Shoe retailer Schuh uses them to improve the customer experience (makes 365-day returns easier).

It's conceivable that e-receipts would allow retailers to match email addresses given in store to their CRM, to give a similar view to that provided by loyalty card data.

Ben Davis

Published 14 October, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (6)

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Jed Mole

Jed Mole, European Marketing Director at AcxiomEnterprise

It's worth thinking about onboarding too. Look at www.liveramp.com for onboarding and the customer link (the vice versa bit)

over 1 year ago

Roy Cowup

Roy Cowup, Inspector at Infinity Investment Plan

Nice and very helpful article, Ben. You have shared good ways to track conversions.

I have to agree that marketers need ways to track discrete actions. If they are not able to track and monitor what they are doing and what other departments are doing, we can imagine nothing but a struggling business going nowhere.

Perhaps the best thing a marketer can do to collect data from customers is to ask visitors direct questions by conducting a survey. Just as you mentioned “ask the customers how they heard about you”. I have personally seen a massive increase in conversions when you ask visitors these types of questions and try to personalize things.

I like campaigns with coupons. For ecommerce stores there is nothing better than showing customized coupons to their visitors by tracking web based behaviors.

I use exit intent technology to do this. Picreel.com is not a bad option for doing that. Besides, reasonable pricing makes it available for startups. Now, when the holiday season is coming, I’ll set it up to throw special discount coupons when visitors are abandoning my site.

Overall, a great article that every marketer must read, bookmark and follow. Thanks again!

over 1 year ago

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Brian Mathers, Internet Marketing Business Growth Consultant/Director at ICTADVISOR LTD

Enjoyed this article. Being more of a marketer than a programmer (I tend to have to rely on programmers to assist me in projects where I am hired to have the site actually make money) so focused more on conversion. But I am intrigued by the point raised in redirecting domains. There seems to be lots of different views on how to actually set that up. Would you be willing to share here or by email what the best practice method is to ensure you could effectively track traffic from that additional domain setup to point at a particular page in the main website?

over 1 year ago

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Mayuresh Kshetramade, Managing Director at Conversant Personalised Media

Attribution is hugely being misinterpreted as a correlation exercise when it should be a causation-focused accountability discipline. On boarding CRM data for the purposes of deploying a Digital Advertising CRM allows you to create a single customer view - basically, it allows you to recognise individuals as individuals and not merely a set of cookies and device IDs. A lot of DMP efforts are driven by creating this view but what's next? Some tie this up with other technologies that could potentially help you deploy media programmatically (DSPs). Some go a step further and tie the deployment with correlation-based fractional attribution or click-based attribution. These multiple integration efforts significantly reduce the match rates thus making DMP efforts ineffective. But more importantly, these do not allow you to measure causation - "incremental" sales that any advertising activity generates identifying sales that wouldn't have otherwise occurred. IN today's multi-channel world, measuring the impact of digital advertising on offline sales is becoming extremely important. To be able to do this right, you should create an individual-level test versus control design of experiments that allows you to isolate the impact of digital advertising. It allows you to net out the effect of this oen form of advertising given consumers will indeed be influenced by all other forms of advertising as well! Three areas are key - recognising individuals as customers or prospects, personalising your conversation with them, and measuring the incremental impact on sales. To do this right, a seamlessly integrated digital CRM platform will be critical - that stops match rates leakage and allows for clear accountability of media spend.

over 1 year ago

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Curtis Humphreys, Digital Marketing Consultant at ReachLocal

Great article Ben!! Tying these in with unique tracking numbers and conversion tracking software like ReachEdge (link Below) would make for a really powerful marketing strategy! Thanks for sharing!

http://go.reachlocal.com/aus-contact-us-edge.html

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Deputy Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Brian I see a lot of people have used a redirect to a page with tracking code added. See this page for explanation https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/analytics/3CXhpq8MD_s

over 1 year ago

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