Over the past several years, digital marketers have worked diligently to connect their individual customers to the many devices they use each day. By developing powerful cross-device targeting and measurement capabilities, brands and agencies have enabled themselves to link every online purchase to the multitude of touchpoints responsible for driving the sale.
Yet for all that cross-device tracking has done to help companies better understand their ecommerce activity, many marketers are still struggling to decipher how their digital activations influence sales at brick-and-mortar stores. Indeed, even if you know that John Smith has clicked on your ads on three different devices, this information alone won’t be able to tell you whether he bought your product at the shop later in the week. And given that even giant companies like Sainsburys and Tesco are still only generating about five per cent of sales through e-commerce, offline attribution remains a massive barrier to determining whether a multi-channel digital marketing effort is actually improving the bottom line.
Fortunately, this metric is improving. Marketers looking to bridge the divide between their digital touchpoints and the real world should look no further than the device their customers carry with them throughout their waking hours. By collecting and analysing smartphone data, advertisers can illuminate the customer’s path to the cash register and build stronger cross-device campaigns in the process.
How mobile closes the online/offline gap
What makes smartphones special from an attribution standpoint is that marketers can use them to collect anonymised location data from their customers virtually everywhere they go. This data collection usually occurs either one of two ways. In some cases, people opt in to sharing their mobile location data whenever their phone is connected to the internet. In others, marketers retrieve the location of the ad requests that are sent out while people browse ad-supported websites and apps. Either way, the marketer receives valuable insight into what their target customer is doing at any given moment, regardless of whether they’re listening to music while running in the park or watching a movie while on holiday by the pool.
Most importantly, this contextual location data can be used to discover when a target customer has entered one of a brand’s brick-and-mortar stores. By linking the customer’s smartphone to the other devices they own via cross-device tracking tools, marketers can use this in-store location data to determine which of the people who saw their ads went on to visit a retail outlet. Crucially, this allows marketers to give credit for in-store visits to all of the channels that led the customer there. While a brand might be otherwise unable to discern the effectiveness of its advanced TV ads (since customers can’t click on them), cross-device location data can identify when a customer who saw the TV ad later took their phone into a physical store.
Marketers with the budget to invest in third-party data can go one step further by acquiring credit-card sales information from a provider like Cardlytics. By integrating this data into the measurement apparatus, marketers can follow the entire customer purchase journey – from seeing the ads on multiple devices, to visiting the shop, all the way through to swiping their credit card at the till.
Mobile data makes your digital campaigns smarter then ever before
In addition to helping marketers gauge digital performance, mobile location data provides a wealth of customer insights that can be used to build more effective multi-channel campaigns.
For instance, breaking out in-store visits by region can give you a sense of where your digital campaigns are resonating most. So if your advanced TV ads are driving people to the store in London, you can set aside additional budget to devote to that campaign. Meanwhile, marketers who are struggling to drive people to stores can use location data to show an enticing mobile ad to customers who are near, but not inside, their retail locations.
If you’ve decided to link offline sales data to your location data, you can even try comparing the people who visited your store and made a purchase with those who went home empty-handed. What do the people who made a purchase have in common? Which ads did they see? What are their interests? What can you do differently to encourage the non-buyers to change their behaviour? With the right data analysis, you can answer these questions and get to the bottom of what makes your customers tick.
The next wave of offline attribution
While offline attribution continues to evolve and improve, mobile data provides a fast and effective means of closing the loop between your online touchpoints and your in-store sales. With the right data tools, you’ll be well on your way to building a measurement strategy that can at the very least tell you which campaigns are driving in-store purchases.
Over the coming years, we expect that more and more resources will be devoted to developing stronger offline attribution technologies. Though there’s no way of knowing exactly what’s coming next, we’re fairly confident that mobile data will be the lynchpin of any successful solution.
James Patterson, GM, UK, The Trade Desk
Tel: +44 (0) 203 826 7105