SEO – Learn how to build an online to offline attribution model for local businesses

SEO - Learn how to build an online to offline attribution model for local businesses

This year, nearly half of holiday shoppers said they would shop online exclusively, if they could. On the other hand, results from the same study showed that 61 percent of shoppers would rather shop with brands that have a physical location than ones that are online only.

While these may seem like competing interests, it’s indicative of an overall shift in the customer journey. Mobile has made it easier, more than ever for consumers to discover new products and brands online, comparison shop and validate their choices with reviews. When it comes to a consumer completing a purchase, many still prefer to shop where a connection can be made, a local storefront.

Complex mixed market models help us understand which individual online source provides better visibility, but our line of sight into the consumer journey falls short when consumers leave their online searches behind and go into a store and transact. Online to offline attribution is critically important for all forms of local businesses including SMBs, franchisees, or multi-location brands.

Here are some of the more current and innovative ways that are available to holistically track and attribute earned media sources to an offline transaction performed in-store.  Ad serving attribution solutions are not being considered for this article.

The new funnel equals blurred lines

Google recently took a deep dive into the journeys of over 2,900 real-world consumers by tracking their cross-device click data over a period of six months. While each consumer’s journey is unique, this study gave us a decent look at how the “average” funnel has been transformed.

The constantly-connected consumer journey is no longer a linear path from discovery to purchase. In fact, Google found that a single makeup purchase generated over 40 organic searches and 125 digital touchpoints. In the end, the consumer searched for a nearby location to complete the purchase.

In another example, even a lower price-point candy bar purchase generated over 20 touchpoints as the consumer researched different products and retailers to meet their needs. Ultimately they, too, decided to visit a local store to complete the transaction in person.

You can assume that people are still finding your store in the real world and dropping in. People live in your neighborhood and know that you’re there. But how can you tell how many customers have been influenced by your digital marketing efforts? And is there any way to tell which ones saw your maps listing via organic search versus those who spotted your store while driving by?

This is the problem plaguing local stores – large and small, private and corporate, solopreneur and franchisee alike. Last-click attribution models simply don’t account for the many touchpoints that may have influenced the consumer’s decision to cross your physical threshold.

Unfortunately, there’s no single solution that gives you 100 percent insight into every online-to-offline transaction, but you can use these methodologies to widen the lens – even if inferred.

Facilitate offline pickup with online ordering

To further localize and monetize your store’s local landing page with “smart-bars” that highlight local store products consumers can reserve online and pick up in-store (ROPIS). Localized data can help tailor content based on a variety of sources like eComm browsing behavior, store-level inventory, weather, POS transactions and more.

This is one of the easier online-to-offline transactions to track, and you can use this data to extrapolate to larger audiences and groups of locations.

Targeted online-to-offline coupons

Offer your local landing page visitors a geo-targeted, serialized coupon. In-store couponing is the new old in online-to-offline attribution, made more powerful with personalization options driven by consumer data. Adding a single-use coupon can eliminate the biggest negative of this methodology and eliminate sharing. The acceptance of the coupon and redemption of it within the store can be used to attribute that an online to an offline transaction.

Post-click device tracking

In this model, all users that visit your local landing page receive a measurement pixel. The user’s mobile ID is tracked to a geo-targeted, presumably in-store event. Some solutions allow you to serve a survey to learn more about the consumer’s complete journey, digging deeper into other touch points, what the consumer ultimately purchased and the total of their order.

Depending on the reporting functionality of the solution, you can add store level transactional data to each market to understand possible nuances between markets.

You can take this even further with omnichannel solutions that can match anonymized mobile IDs against in-store POS transactional data for household intelligence gleaned from identifying a user via credit card data. This gives you greater insight into what action your customer took and who they are, as well, through detailed segment analysis.

Post-transactional attribution

An identity resolution service that connects online to offline consumer identifiers is another way of closing the loop and offering truly people-based marketing. Through DMP solution providers, consumers can be served a cookie and tracked through other anonymized consumer identifiers post-purchase or transaction at the desired location.

Siloed first-, second- and third-party data can be resolved to a persistent identifier, enabling brands to find their audiences online using offline data. This option provides marketers a greater level of insight into attribution throughout the entire consumer purchase cycle.

Building your ideal local attribution stack

It’s important to accept that even if you were to implement any of the above solutions, you’re still going to have gaps. The point here is, there’s no single solution that provides absolute coverage of the online-to-offline consumer journey.

So which online-to-offline attribution solution is the best for measuring your local marketing success?

First, determine which metrics give your business the information you need, so you know where it makes sense to focus your tracking efforts. For example, do you want to know that a visitor went into your store? That they made a purchase? Or both? What do you need to know about that consumer to inform your marketing strategy going forward?

This informs which methods can be used to measure what matters. You’ll need to make sure your methods comply with privacy regulations in your region, as well.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Brian Smith is Director of Local Search Strategy at Rio SEO, a leading local search marketing software company for enterprise brands. Over more than a decade, clients relied on Brian’s local marketing expertise for solutions to their most vexing local visibility challenges. When this Montana native isn’t busy delivering brands exceptional value for their local efforts, you can find him chauffeuring his kids to dance practice and sporting events.

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