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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.