The Next Step in Online to Offline Attribution

A case study recently released by Placed Attribution in conjunction with RetailMeNot shows paid search campaigns are an effective and efficient catalyst to in-store visits. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a few steps back and review what this means.

What is offline attribution?

Offline attribution in this context is the ability to connect online impressions to in-store visits. This specific model uses mobile and location data to paint a more accurate picture of the impact of online marketing campaigns.

Why is offline attribution important?

Offline attribution is required for determining the true efficacy of digital advertising. While e-commerce shows promising sales figures, 90 percent of retail purchases are made in-store. Offline attribution allows brands and marketers to tie digital efforts to the in-store foot traffic that makes up the overwhelming majority of purchases. This is especially important when considering that advertisers are now spending more on digital media than television and other traditional media. Offline attribution provides the rationale for such spending.

How does offline attribution work?

This is where it gets hairy, and our understanding of offline attribution is still very much developing. The good news is the industry has made vast leaps in technology as well as its understanding and analysis of the information gleaned from that technology. Here’s how Google is measuring and verifying its data:

Google is measuring store visits using data from users who voluntarily opt in to location history on their devices. This ensures the most accurate data without compromising the security of users. Google maintains that its methods for measurement are statistically sound and held to the strictest of standards.

Google also is using “deep learning models” to enhance the accuracy of its store visit data. More thorough data sets allow Google to more accurately measure visits in challenging scenarios, such as multiple-story shopping malls or other densely populated areas of business.

In addition to these innovations, Google is scaling its long-standing efforts to map the world’s geography accurately and instantly.

“We’ve refreshed imagery from Google Earth and Google Street View to get the most up-to-date, external views of where different buildings begin and end,” Google said in its inital announcement. “Around the world, on-the-ground teams are also partnering with more businesses to scan Wi-Fi strength inside buildings to figure out their true boundaries.”

All of this data is then verified through surveys to select users. When a user confirms their visit, Google is able to not only measure that visit, but analyze and confirm with their data predictions.

Placed Attribution describes its methods:

“Placed Attribution for Search directly measures the search click through a redirect implemented by the advertiser. This click redirect allows Placed to map keyword clicks to its audience that generates over 140 billion latitudes and longitudes on a monthly basis. Placed’s location platform represents the largest set of active locations in the industry. Using these raw locations, and patented models to identify visits and assign them to places, Placed can directly connect paid search to store visits.”

The Results 

  • Time to Visit:  38 percent of retail store visits attributable to RetailMeNot’s paid search campaigns occurred in the first 48 hours.
  • Clicks to Bricks:  RetailMeNot search campaigns outperformed Placed’s retail benchmarks for lift by an average of 4.3x.
  • Return on Ad Spend:  Paid Search returned a 4.0x return on ad spend (ROAS) that was incremental to the ROI driven online.

(Source: Placed)

Why does this matter?

As technology has improved, brands have been able to fine-tune their targeting and messaging to reach the right person at the right time. But as we’ve discussed, that progress must be ultimately realized in-store, where consumers still overwhelmingly make most of their retail purchases.

The ability to accurately connect online and offline presents a massive opportunity for brands and marketing teams. The teams best capable of understanding the correlation between digital efforts and in-store visits, as well as capitalizing on the opportunity to scale these techniques, will reap the rewards. And if the aforementioned study is any indication, those rewards will be efficiently managed campaigns that increase foot traffic, and ultimately, sales.

The next step in this evolution is providing the most effective tools to gain the most accurate understanding in order to set up the most efficient campaigns. Stay tuned.

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