With multiple connected devices at the ready, consumers interact with brands in a variety of ways—both online and off—before making a purchase. They see an outdoor billboard promoting a product, use their smartphone to search for more information, visit a review site, and trawl social media for a digital coupon. As online and offline worlds merge, savvy companies understand the need to deliver integrated experiences across every channel.
As a business owner, you know investing in a digital marketing strategy is smart. Social media, websites, and search engines shape opinion about your products and services long before your customer walks through your door. Online advertising helps you reach them where they are. But how do you connect your online strategy with offline sales? How do you judge the effectiveness of digital channels to ensure your marketing dollars are delivering?
Successfully guiding your customers to purchase requires looking at the entire experience holistically. Online marketing tactics affect offline behavior and vice versa. Here are four smart ways to help you deliver a seamless experience, while closing the gap between digital advertising and offline sales.
1. Know where your customers engage with your business online
Each step on your customers’ journey contributes to the purchase decision. Every step, whether it’s reading a blog, scrolling your Facebook page, downloading an e-book, or clicking a display ad must be identified before you know which touch points have the biggest impact.
This process is called attribution. Done well, attribution creates a clear picture of the path to purchase. Did they spend time on your website before signing up for your newsletter? Maybe they engaged with your email campaign before they started following your Instagram page. Knowing where and why your customers engage with your business online is the first step in connecting these interactions with offline sales.
2. Use smart tools to better understand the journey
Once you know where your customers spend time online, you can use technology to help you better understand their journey. Web analytics software helps you track the customer path. With data from your website, social media channels, organic search results, and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, you can dive deep into not just where your customers have been, but also what they’ve been doing.
Google Analytics is one of the most popular web analytics tools available. It’s also one of the most efficient ways to measure advertising return on investment (ROI) while tracking social networking sites and website stats by demographics and location. Using anonymous, aggregated statistics, Google Adwords can help you bridge the gap between online browsing and in-store purchases by showing you how much foot traffic and sales your current ads drive so you can optimize media spend. Conversion tracking lets you see how your digital ads—broken down by campaigns, devices and specific keywords—influence store visits to better understand your advertising ROI.
Facebook recently launched a new product called Store Sales Optimization, a tool designed to help retailers drive more sales online and in stores. Using machine learning, the optimization tool works by helping businesses show ads to people most likely to make an in-store purchase.
With a few smart tools to do the heavy lifting, don’t forget to analyze and assess performance. Whether you want to look at the basics—website page views, bounce rate and conversions; mobile session length, time in app; email click through rate—or you need something more sophisticated to analyze search engine rank, landing page performance, or offline metrics like store visits, purchases etc., free tools are available to help you get it done.
3. Capture interest by personalizing and contextualizing digital ads
With data, you can start focusing on the kind of advertising that resonates with your audience. Consumer attention span is at an all-time low. Content that stands out from the crowd is essential.
While personalization is an important piece of the puzzle, adding context can be the difference between an annoying ad and one that targets exactly what you’re doing. Using social, behavioral, geographic, and demographic data, you can personalize and contextualize ads, increasing engagement.
Geo-fencing for example, uses GPS, Wi-Fi, and cellular data to create a virtual geographic boundary, with software that triggers a response when a mobile device enters or exits a specific location. This makes it easy to push targeted offers to your best prospects. For instance, send a text message, coupon or ad promoting a sale to a customer near your retail store. With geo-fencing, it’s easy to send timely, relevant offers when it matters.
4. Use complementary channels to deliver connected, continuous experiences, online and off
Combining offline and online strategy increases the number of touch points your customers will have with your business. But the key to success with any hybrid advertising model is continuity. One way to ensure digital and offline messaging stays consistent is to choose complementary channels.
In many cases, it’s possible to have continuous conversations with your customers across channels. Think about your email campaign, and how you can supplement using direct mail. Or, a mobile app that works in tandem with in-store advertising to deliver a coupon code. Pairing the right channels makes it easy to bridge the gap between digital and in-person.
McDonald’s has been doing this successfully for a few years now through printed coupons that include the address of social media channels for more special offers and savings. Other companies tie a specific hashtag to a live event, prompting customers to visit a website or social channels for “backstage access” and live streaming video of the event as it unfolds.
Encourage your digital and outdoor teams to work together by creating branding that’s consistent. With marketing strategies aligned and offline and online channels integrated, your business speaks with one voice, reinforcing your message.