Newsflash: The web is populated by more than just ecommerce websites.
Once you’ve picked your jaw up from the floor, we can move on. Ready? Ok.
One of the biggest challenges with digital marketing is that it seems like the whole system is designed for ecommerce sites. There’s a really simple reason for this: the data is clean. With an ecommerce conversion, you can track — from a keyword or an impression in many places — the path that users take from marketing to purchase. Furthermore, you can assign direct ROI to all of your online efforts, and optimize for cost per acquisition (CPA).
Long story short: In the ecommerce world, you can find your ideal profitability for each of your channels then scale from there. Easy, right? Well. No. But for purposes of this conversation, let’s just say that it’s easy.
Ok, great. But what can you do when your online marketing efforts are driving offline conversions?
A lot of businesses have offline conversions or KPIs that are either difficult to tie back to online efforts, or downright impossible. The clean, simple ROI that can be seen with ecommerce data just doesn’t exist when you’re working offline. That being said, there are a few ways to track offline conversions, and none of them are ideal.
You can try running an exclusive offer/discount through your individual channels. One of the other difficulties in any kind of commerce is that whenever there is a step between where the user is presently and the conversion, there will be drop off. I don’t know if you noticed or not, but leaving a website and converting offline is a pretty big step in the process, so there’s guaranteed to be significant drop off.
However, you can combat this through user-incentivization with the aforementioned exclusive offer. From there, just look at the number of users who were presented the exclusive offer verses the number of redemptions, and you’ve got your conversion rate. The downside? You’re not just testing the strength/ROI of the channel— you’re testing the strength of deal as well. Any time you introduce variables like this, you’re muddying your data.
If you’re lucky enough to have at least your offline conversion data, chart it over time. Look for spikes or valleys that correlate with either the launch, refinement, or bungling of your marketing efforts.
Are there any other metrics that line up with your conversions over time? Take a look at paid search impression share or even time on site from all channels. Once you know the metric from your online efforts that most closely mirrors changes in your offline conversion rate, then you’ll know what metric you’ll want to optimize your marketing for to have the largest impact on your business.
This method still makes it difficult to assign direct ROI, but it goes a long way towards showing you relative value.
Three years ago, we were pretty terrible at tracking cross-device conversions (that are strictly online). Nowadays, we’re pretty good at it (though still not great). Google and other analytics giants are just getting better.
Take brick and mortar retail stores, for example: just recently, a new company called Taggalo launched a new product that’s coming pretty close to closing that gap. Long story short, their new product, which shares a name with its company, is a simple, discrete device that sits in stores, and uses a combination of video tracking, Wi-Fi tracking, and beacon tracking to provide retailers with greater insight into not just how users are shopping, but which users are shopping.
See the link here? If you’re tracking a device in store, and you’re tracking a device on your website, doesn’t that make it a lot easier to get true ROI data? Again, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.
Ultimately, offline businesses or services need the Internet. Look in your pocket, pull out your phone, and know that the Internet is always with you, and you with it. Philosophical implications aside, this is not just how we shop, communicate, learn, and watch cat videos — it’s how we do everything else too. Knowing the role that it plays in transforming users to customers is paramount.
If nothing else, you should know now just how hard it can be to find the true value of both your website and your marketing efforts. At the end of the day, that’s all the more argument for either having an experienced and knowledgeable in-house team, or for working with a savvy agency that knows what they’re doing.