7 Strategies for Growing Online-to-Offline Conversions

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It’s no secret that mobile activities are driving traffic to brick-and-mortar businesses. However, the majority of national retailers, brands, and even local merchants still have no idea how well their digital marketing initiates convert. With a whopping 78% of U.S. digital shoppers now researching products online before going in-store to make purchases, it’s becoming increasingly important for merchants to be able to understand and maximize the impact that online initiatives are having on offline sales.

“If businesses can’t accurately measure the foundational metrics in their physical stores, it’s impossible to understand the relationship with their online initiatives,” said Will Smith, founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Euclid, a location analytics firm. Euclid is one of many hyperlocal vendors that are rushing to meet the demand from merchants for more online-to-offline metrics, using the latest location tracking technologies to accurately measure things like traffic, bounce, durations, and conversions at scale.

Here are seven strategies that businesses can use to grow online-to-offline conversions.

1. Layer data sources on traditional sources. “To make the most out of online-to-offline conversion tracking, brands should ensure they’re looking at consumers as multi-dimensional, and work to create a unified view of consumers across their CRM, DMP and digital channels. They should layer as many data sources as possible on top of traditional sources. There’s so much more involved in the consumer journey aside from being exposed to a product or brand online. Consumers are constantly traversing the physical and digital world—insights into how they interact with the world, from what they watch on TV to where they shop, to their affinities for certain brands, can optimize brands’ consumer understanding.” (Duncan McCall, PlaceIQ)

2. Create the ideal offline customer experience. “Armed with the right data and an understanding across their online and offline worlds, companies can then ‘pull the right levers’ to create the perfect customer experience within their physical locations. For example, which online ads drive the most traffic to the stores? Which merchandise is typically browsed online, but ultimately purchased later offline — and needs to be stocked physically within the stores?” (Will Smith, Euclid)

3. Take advantage of features that bring visibility to offline experiences. “Many businesses don’t take advantage of features that can bring visibility to offline experiences and allow businesses to improve the effectiveness of advertising. A simple example for call analytics is adopting an IVR to distinguish customer service calls from sales calls. We’ve seen businesses get much smarter about their advertising just from that. Cutting-edge companies are adopting channel-based solutions, such as our recent platform release that provides keyword attribution and for every phone call from mobile search and pipes it into paid search automation software.” (John Busby, Marchex)

4. Use test vs. control methodology. “With quality media and shopper data, advertisers can measure any ad type, compare the impact of different placements and creative, and understand how different audience segments responded. Using test vs. control methodology, it’s possible to match households that have been exposed to an ad with a nearly identical unexposed ‘control’ group, by matching them on 500+ attributes to isolate the effect of the advertising. It’s possible to measure incremental sales, total sales, penetration, dollar buying rate and purchase frequency.” (Adam Paulisick, Nielsen Catalina Solutions)

5. Incorporate data from different devices. “The marketing data ecosystem is advancing quickly in its understanding of the path to purchase and the role that advertising plays in both online and offline sales. Brands are working hard to consolidate all of this data into a single view of the customer for better insights into how their marketing dollars are being spent. Most commerce still happens in the real world, so being able to attribute purchase data to the right ads is key. This includes the ability to incorporate user data from different devices, garner insights from their digital behavior and to actually measure attribution at the store-level.” (Alistair Goodman, Placecast)

6. Utilize A/B testing. “Businesses need lots of A/B testing and learning. The nice thing about store-level measurement is that you can do multiple tests in real time for small cells of like stores, and get a read quickly on what is working—what creative, what offers, and how it changes over the course of the day or based on attributes like weather. Store-level data in real-time—even just views and clicks—is becoming an integral way of optimizing campaigns.” (Alistair Goodman, Placecast)

7. Optimize digital campaigns while in-flight. “By knowing the retail sales impact of digital—or TV, or mobile—campaigns, and understanding what drove the sales lift, advertisers can improve the performance of their ad campaigns by reaching the audience segments that are the most sales responsive with the most impactful creative. Digital campaigns can also be optimized while in-flight, so better results can be immediately realized. This also makes sure they’re spending their limited budgets in the most effective manner, increasing overall return on ad spend.” (Adam Paulisick, Nielsen Catalina Solutions)

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.