Admit it, you secretly live in the fear of your Senior Management finding out that your online greatness is less a result of your online campaigns and more a result of the tons and tons your company has invested in the real world.
The real world. "Offline" to you and me. :)
We tend to often overlook the pesky offline real world. Sooooo booorrring ! (Say that with a Paris Hilton'ish brush off. :)
I think most of it is not malicious.
For one thing it is really hard to measure. For another thing your "online" presence is probably three geeks (says the proud geek!) living in Seattle and your "offline" presence is 15,786 people in the company with power concentrated in New York and Atlanta. Hard to coordinate and get "them" to listen to us and pay attention to us.
Meanwhile you are the smart one, know that it is important that our "online analytics" morphs into true Multichannel Analytics, i.e. non-line analytics.
Recently we had covered how to measure offline impact of online activities.
In this post, dedicated to Sandra Dowker, we'll cover the reverse: how to measure the online impact of offline campaigns / activities.
Then you'll have a blue print for doing nonline analytics: Offline -> Online -> Offline .
Why should care about offline at all?
For most companies radio, tv, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, retail stores, call centers, etc still form a bulk of their business advertising and marketing expenditure. All these touch points have a online impact (intended or not).
The online channel often, though not always, can be a lower cost channel. Showing exactly how to use it (which campaigns, mediums, products) and for whom (visitor personas, geographies) and why (recession baby!) will ensure your job security and the channel's security as well.
Know that pesky "direct" (or in some web analytics tools: "unknown") bucket that you never seem to be able to understand? Many of those visitors are certainly "url typers", but depending on your business a good chunk of them could be visiting as a result of your offline activities. Give them due credit.
Culturally there is no better way to get your company (HSN or NFL or Dell or B&H Photo & Video or 1-800-Flowers or….) to pay attention to "lowly and under appreciated" web analytics than show you can quantify the online impact of their massive (or little) offline spend.
I have never known a better strategy then to understand and align yourself with the largest money maker in your company (and no its not online). So there.
Sure you are.
If it is not the enticing prospect of understanding the data better then it has to be craving to be loved by your greater organization. :)
So what's the problem here?
Like in the case of the offline impact analysis, the problem here is also one of the missing primary key (see that post please if you don't know what this is).
Our goal is the figure out how to tie your visit to our website due to a stimulus from a offline campaign. How do I know that it was a tv ad that drove you to the site or a magazine article or a banner by the side of a road etc.
Once you have collected that piece of data you can do any of the other analysis you want for that offline to online traffic stream, be it conversion rates or site abandonment rate or task completion rates or even non-ecommerce outcomes.
Let's get going. . . .
Tips for measuring on-line impact of the offline channel:
Here are the most common offline-to-online movement channels and how to collect data for end-to-end analysis of each:
#1 : Use redirects (vanity url's).
The grand daddy of them all. Plaster your billboard (or magazine article or tv ad) with a easy to remember url and boom (!) you got yourself some tracking.
A magazine ad with the call to action Visit www.usequickbooks.com redirects to www.quickbooks.intuit.com/tracking_code=newsweek_dec_2008 The rest of the analysis is a piece of cake (simply segment out visits with that tracking code).
A box of 12 krispy kreme doughnuts to your IT person will ensure all redirects are coded with the correct tracking code.
If you are super cool like my former employer then you will have web based interface where the Online or Offline Marketer can attached a tracking code to any url, hit save and be in tracking heaven!
(today, dec 22 here in Maldives) redirects to
Note the amount of specific tracking that the folks at Dell have attached do that redirect. Bravo folks!
Contrast that to HP which has a ton of tv ads running and has a working redirect that leads to no trackable information:
In closing it is a crime of the highest proportions if your magazine, catalog, tv, radio, bus, billboards are:
1) not using easy to remember vanity urls and
2) ensuring these vanity urls are permanent redirects and that
3) they are encoded with the correct tracking parameters (version of the ad, name of the magazine, location of the billboard, offer in the radio ad, etc etc).
That was not hard right? You are on your way to measuring online impact of your offline channel!
[I can sense the Smarty Pants amongst you snickering at the prospect of data pollution because people posting your vanity url's online. That is the reason #2 above is important. Permanent redirects (301's) will pass the referrer's data to your website. You can then split out online referrals from the offline referrals (offline will have a blank referrer).
For example the Analysis Ninja at Dell will easily be able to split out visits from my blog from clicking the links above, www.dell.com/tv, and easily exclude. Now stop snickering.]
#2 : Use unique redeemable coupons / offers codes.
Pretty much all multichannel merchants now do something similar to this. . . .
The offline mediums (a magazine in this case) carry unique promotion (or offer or config) codes that must be typed into a form on the website. This allows those visits to be tracked as being from a external "motivation".
This works well for tv, magazines, radio, catalogs and other such mediums where it is easy for people to remember the codes.
For example the ads for www.1800flowers.com in the NYC Taxi Cab I was riding close to thanksgiving asked me to use the coupon code taxi to get $5 off a $50 order. It was easy enough code for me to remember it and use it.
Catalogs for pretty much every major or minor company, including yours I am sure, is using this exact strategy as well by providing unique coupon or offer codes.
Bonus Tip: Another great strategy is to use the same coupon code between your channels. For example you are giving $65 off the Apple Ipod Touch. Your ads / catalogs / tv campaigns can say something like "call 1800 Hot Hot Now or visit Hot Hot Now . com and use the code ipod65".
The benefit of this is that you are providing people a choice in terms of channel preference (use the phone or the site if you want) but since the code is the same you can track it delightfully later. This helps you understand channel preference by media type (tv / catalog / radio) and also by product type (electronics / food / meds etc) and by region (what's up with people in Florida 100% using the phone channel to order their Viagra) etc etc.
#3 : Use online surveys / market research.
You can easily adopt that methodology to ask two more questions of your website visitors:
"Which of the following were the source of your visit to our website?" [The answers can be: A tv ad, A radio spot, A google (:) search, You received a catalog etc, wordsmith your options.]
"What is the likelihood that as a result of a visit to our website that you'll make a purchase?" (or sell your kidney etc) [The answers will be something like More likely, Less likely etc.]
These two simple questions, drop down single choice, will help illuminate both the drivers of visits to the website (and a real chance here that you'll explain your very high "direct visits" number here) and also the preference in terms of the purchase channel (and of course you can use this for tech support or other non ecommerce websites as well, just twist the second question a smidgen).
In our online to offline article I had talked of the possibility of using primary market research to understand outcomes that happen offline. You can also complement surveys like the one above with primary market research to understand channel use by your customers.
#4 : Correlate traffic patterns with offline ad times / patterns.
My wife was watching HSN the other day (that is how hard it is to find something to watch on tv in the age of 900 channels!) and saw Wolfgang Puck talk about his genius kitchen knives and a "extra special deal just for you right now for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling". (Imagine that with a Austrian accent.)
So Jennie of course went to the website instead of the phone and two minutes later (well a week actually) we were proud owners of Wolfgang Puck limited edition extra special for a limited time only with a chopping board knives (with knive covers!).
Now this is not a unusual customer behavior. Offline media stimulus causes us, lemmings like, to run to the site and do stuff.
Yet it is extremely rare that a Web Analysis Ninja sit down and overlay the company media plan on top of the traffic patterns and deduce the impact online of the offline media spend.
Sure you have to beg, plead, and practically sleep with someone to get your hands on the comprehensive media plan for the company. But take one for the team and do what you have go.
Once you have the magazine / tv / catalog / postal mailings / radio / billboard plan for your company then do the correlations with your website traffic and see what the impact is.
My tip would be not to just look at overall traffic (or All Traffic) for the site, you may or may not detect something. Correlate it with your Direct Traffic. You might see a sudden spike in traffic there. Or with Direct and Search (organic or paid) referrals. When you do stuff on tv / radio / retail stores people search (what can I say!).
I had covered exactly this strategy in this post: Excellent Analytics Tip #12: Unsuspected Correlations Are Sweet! You can find out exactly how to execute this analysis in your company from that post.
Here is a picture of the correlations that I had shared there (for one company who ran radio campaigns and the resulting impact, not just directly from visits from the vanity url mentioned in the radio ad but also from Direct Visits, Branded Search etc, very impressive, and surprising, holistic outcome):
Please see that post for detailed explanation and guidance.
Of course it is always most optimal to identify causality as well (because correlations don't always mean causality). The keywords you drill down when you see the search spike perfectly matching your offline campaigns for example, that has intent. Or you are perhaps running the survey I just mentioned, that will show causality. Or you sold a bunch of Puck knives exactly when, or slightly after, the tv ad ran, that will indicate causality.
UPDATE: #5 : Use the power of controlled experiments!
Jim Novo's comment below reminded me that I forgot to add this super awesome way to measuring multi channel impact.
I had covered it as a key strategy in my multi-channel analytics post, tip #6 for measuring impact of online to offline outcomes.
Please see that post for more details. I share stories about using newspaper inserts or conducting geographically isolated experiments in retail stores (or fast food restaurants) etc.
The strategy works for on-line to off-line, and it works even more brilliantly for off-line to on-line.
There you go.
Four Five simple things that anyone can to to get started on their journey to identify online impact of their offline strategies.
Remember your goal is to identify the complete picture: Offline -> Online -> Offline.
Those of you who have my book, Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, will know this handy dandy reference picture from page 235… it shows how to track your nonline world efforts and capture the key pieces of data to do true multichannel analytics:
You can use this multichannel value analysis framework to plan out how you will make sure you are passing the various primary keys and forth and also use all possible techniques at your disposal.
Ok now your turn.
What are the strategies that you have use to measure online impact of your offline campaigns? Have you used any strategies above? What has worked for you?
Please share your experiences, your best practices and tips.
Hello from the absolutely gorgeous Maldives, more specifically the Conrad Rangali Island. It is lovely here, warm, the staff are wonderful, snorkeling is great (and I am committed enough to all of you to still squeeze in a, hopefully, valuable blog post!).
Here are some pictures. . . .
This is one of the two islands that forms the Conrad:
You take a sea plane from Mali to get there, this is one of the island resorts from the air:
A typical sunset:
Lots and lots of snorkeling, absolutely wonderful, and my one high was running into a 4.5 ft shark. It passed by my nose, I was absolutely petrified, it was not [Tweet]. Here's a small one close to the shore:
Tiny little hermit crab, hard trying to get this close to it without scaring it:
Other than that lots of personal time (also hard to photograph):
Hope your holidays are fun wherever in the world you are.
Ok, don't forget to share your online to offline analytics tips using the form below!