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Give Credit Where Credit is Due: Offline Attribution Increasingly Important for Retailers


Consider the following stats:

  • 59% of retail purchases will be influenced by the web by 2018

  • The act of webrooming will result in $1.8 trillion dollars of retail sales by 2017

What do these stats add up to? The fact that, even with more dollars going to digital (and the growing influence digital has in shopping), many retailers haven’t prioritized making offline attribution a key aspect of their marketing efforts. That’s a mistake, as online retail behaviors can serve as key purchase influences for offline sales. Retailers can significantly increase ROI by figuring out how to both drive and attribute in-store purchases to online advertising.


The How

So how can retail marketers start attributing offline sales to digital campaigns? Again, it’s not as tough a nut to crack as they’d think. As long as point-of-sale and customer databases are linked, email addresses or other identifiers can be used to associate offline behavior to online actions. When those records have been connected, the cookies (or non-cookie identifiers) can be linked to digital ad campaigns. That means that marketers can track customers’ online interactions  straight through to purchase.


It’s not just the clicks that count, either. In fact, we encourage marketers to look beyond click-based metrics, and focus on using engagement metrics that provide more robust measures of brand engagement.  After all, when was the last time you clicked through a display ad? 


As far as collecting data, loyalty cards are an excellent source of customer data for targeting and attribution. So are customer mailing lists. Retailers just need enough data on their customers to associate them with a cookie and track a sale.

The Mindset

One of the greatest obstacles to attribution is mindset.

It’s true that attribution is more work. It’s also true that it’s not as tidy, since more than one interaction could get credit for any single sale. Retailers can’t be expected to just jump from one model to another. There has to be an education process. It’s a progression.


If the starting point for this progression is last-click attribution, the retailer has to decide if they believe in last touch. Do they believe that an ad can influence-- but not directly drive-- a purchase? Do they believe that is possible? If they can believe in it, it is the logical next step in the progression.


While it may seem like a daunting task to begin mapping both online and offline sales back to digital campaigns, it’s worth the effort. With accurate analytics, retailers will gain a much clearer picture of which half of their marketing is working. Not only will they get a better sense of the return on their digital investment, they’ll also have the means to better optimize their digital spend.


Photo from Creative Commons