4 ways integrating online and offline data improves attribution

In case you haven’t read through all 334 slides of the just-released Mary Meeker 2019 Internet Trends Report, here’s the one that’s making headlines: Over 25% of U.S. adults are almost always online.

Considering our hyper-connected personal and professional habits, this probably isn’t a surprise. If you have teenagers, well, this number may even seem low.

But as a marketer already struggling to derive customer insights from myriad digital touchpoints for cross-channel measurement and attribution, this is like rubbing salt in a wound—a pain that can be felt all the way down to a brand’s bottom line.

As marketers, you must account for every ad dollar spent, an increasingly complex calculation as consumers adopt new cross-device, cross-channel habits.

However, it’s not the mathematics behind attribution causing the problem (after all, there’s a million ways to assign a value to a specific event). The real issue is that marketers are not using data from all the right channels, both online and off, to gain a complete view of buyer journeys.

By missing the many assisted touches along the way, attribution becomes a guessing game—and diminishing ROI a sure thing.

Think about the shopper’s new norm. She may start a search on her laptop, compare items on a brand’s website, check for email offers on her mobile device, seek advice via her favorite social app and then visit a store to make a purchase.

Now, it’d be easy to attribute her sale to the sponsored post she clicked on in the social app. But what if it was because of the in-store promotion at her local store? Or the loyalty member email offer she opened? Or the personalized ad she was served while on the brand’s site? Without insight into all of her behavior, we can’t truly know. This is why offline data is so critical.

Offline data is key to online success

Offline data, such as purchase history, product preferences, demographic info, loyalty status and even call center inquiries, adds underlying context. If marketers aren’t connecting these rich sources of information to their digital data, they can’t possibly gain the holistic understanding of a customer necessary for creating relevant, connected experiences that lead to conversions, brand loyalty and, ultimately, high lifetime values.

Following are four ways integrating offline and online data can help improve not only attribution, but also overall digital marketing performance.

1. Measure the impact of marketing more accurately

By connecting all of a brand’s offline and online data, marketers can see how a customer moved from an email to a website and then to a mobile app before completing a purchase in store, which is still where over 80% of U.S. retail sales occur.

In fact, think about your attribution without offline data: If you’re missing 80% of your conversions, how accurate can it really be? This more holistic view of each customer ensures you can see every interaction point across their buying journey.

2. Stop annoying customers

Odds are you’ve been stalked by a display ad long after you purchased an item in store. And—admit it—it’s annoying. Connecting offline historical data with in-the-moment digital behavior provides the most accurate understanding of where buyers are in their path to purchase. This helps marketers ensure they aren’t sending repetitive or irrelevant ads, reducing over-saturation, ad fatigue and ad waste.

3. Optimize ad strategies and media spend

Integrating offline data allows marketers to more accurately measure the effectiveness of campaigns across touchpoints, analyze attribution and gain measurable results more quickly than digital alone.

With a complete view into the customer journey, marketers can optimize creative campaigns, inform smarter budget allocations and understand how online engagement affects in-store sales.

4. Drive personalization at scale

Marketers can use offline knowledge, like in-store purchase history or loyalty member activity, to customize messaging across channels. Even more, marketers can use these insights to predict future behavior and enhance customer relationships with more relevant engagements, including opportunities to upsell and cross-sell.

Let’s be honest, we didn’t need Mary’s annual report to confirm that we spend most of our time online. But by no means does that make our offline behaviors any less important to defining who we are. It’s these underlying insights that shed light on what we need, what we desire and what we may want next. And it’s the marketer who uses all the right data that knows the best place to find us.

Interested in learning more about common attribution challenges and mistakes? Hear our SVP of Product, Dave Scrim, discuss the topic with The CMO Club.