Marketers have become quite knowledgeable about the online customer journey.  

They collect more digital touchpoint data than ever before and have tools to piece this data together.

One thing which is still eluding brands, though, is how to continue tracking customers when they move from online to offline.  

That is, marketers know their customers’ online behaviours but when customers step foot in the store they lose track.

Some companies have come up with a number of solutions to this problem, as shown in a recent Econsultancy report, Understanding the Customer Journey

As none of the systems listed in the graph are being used by more than two in five marketers, however, it seems that many companies are still struggling with how to track customers from their various online platforms to offline locations.

To find out more about what successful companies are doing, we spoke to a number of marketers at our recent Digital Cream Singapore at a table sponsored by Universal Data Hub provider, Tealium.

The result was five key requirements, or ‘pillars’, for an online to offline tracking programme.

1. The business case

According to one participant, tracking customers from online to offline is a long-term project and will require resources and buy-in from senior management.

In order get buy-in, though, the project needs to be a priority to the business and so marketers need to draw up a business case.

It doesn’t have to be extensive, but the business case should include resources required and let management know why tracking customers from online and offline is important to the business.

Ideally, it will also include data which gives the business a reason to invest. One source of this data is the Google Consumer Barometer which offers data about how customer behaviour has changed in recent years.  

This can form the basis for the argument that if the business doesn’t cater to these new behaviours, customers will start doing business elsewhere.

Additionally, one attendee noted, the business case should offer a ‘clear vision’ of why the department heads should support the project. Otherwise, an initiative of this size may never get off the ground.

2. Responsibility

Once senior management is bought-in, marketers need ensure that the right departments are on-board.  

Tracking customers between online and offline is not just a marketing project, said one participant. IT and sales, at the very least, should be involved from the start, as well.

Responsibilities need to be assigned, too. Without defining roles, it is likely that the project managers will face resistance from departments which will, naturally, be protecting their domains.

One participant noted that, at their firm, IT initially protested that adding tracking tags slowed down the website. Additionally, the CRM team was hesitant about sharing customer data with marketers.

Getting support from the CTO and the CIO was the only way to overcome these objections.

Through ensuring that these departments are on-board at a senior level, marketers will have the leverage they need to access the relevant data and push through the changes required to implement customer tracking.

3. Goals

In addition to drafting a business case and assigning responsibilities, project leaders will also need to set goals for the initiative. That is, what exactly is the team trying to achieve?

One suggestion was that the goal should be to ‘stitch together online and offline data’ to obtain ‘a single view of the customer’ throughout the organisation.

To find out more about what this goal achieves for the project team, and indeed the business, watch this short video by the table subject matter expert, Andy Clark.

4. Tactics

After plans are signed and goals are agreed upon, marketers need to get to work.  

The consensus at the table was that the team should not try too many tactics at one time, but instead they should ‘chip away at small blocks’.

This could be as simple as implementing tracking codes on online coupons or collecting customer data at point-of-sale.

Participants encouraged those just starting out to use free services at first and learn about how the technology works. After some time, they will likely need to upgrade to a more feature-rich solution but, having learned from their initial efforts, they will have data to support their requests for more budget and resources.

5. Measuring success

The final pillar of tracking customers from online to offline is to agree from the outset about how the team should measure and report success.

This should not be an afterthought, said one delegate, as project members will have so much data on their hands that it will be ‘coming out of their ears’.  

Agreeing on metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) beforehand will help the team avoid ‘data overload’ and assist them in producing reports which are meaningful to the team and to the business.

One suggestion was that marketers should look at customer-based metrics as well as ones which are more business-oriented.  

This is because tracking the customer between their device and an offline location may not immediately demonstrate financial ROI and so expectations need to be set accordingly.

Marketers should, instead, look for uplifts in customer satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty and include these both as goals and as ongoing KPIs.

Without agreeing on achievable success criteria, one attendee suggested, a programme which takes this much effort and resources will struggle to get the continuous support from management that it requires.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day, our table moderator, Econsultancy trainer Martin Ross, and our table sponsor for the day, Tealium.

We hope to see you all at future Singapore Econsultancy events!