The increasing role of the Internet as a marketing and sales channel offers numerous opportunities to marketers, of course. But it also gives rise to new challenges. One of them, says Steve Tamke, senior vice president at Hackensack, NJ-based marketing services provider Mokrynskidirect, is “how to measure the success of online programs and how to use this information to scale them appropriately.”
Cookie-based tracking, site activity reports, and similar sources of data provide important information regarding brand awareness and product interest. But because these data are more detailed than most other information that marketers are used to working with, too many merchants forget that even such online data are “woefully incomplete,” Tamke says. “When we forget that no tracking program can gauge the full benefits (or detriments) of any marketing program, we do a disservice to our marketing dollars and ourselves.”
For instance, “the man who views an end table on your site from his office computer but buys it via his home machine that evening represents lost data,” Tamke says. “The couple who spend countless hours using the Internet to research appliances before coming into your store to buy a washer/dryer represent lost data. The woman who spends 45 minutes viewing clothing on your Website but calls the call center to place an order represents lost data.”
To capture or reconstruct this data, it’s critical to avoid thinking about online marketing programs in a vacuum; rather, you need to assess their impact on business as a whole. Tamke suggests several ways to do so. Building Websites that encourage a user to log in on each visit, for instance, can help establish a link when the same buyer uses different computers during the buying process. Online coupons and easily printable product pages can provide a valuable link between Website visits and in-store purchases. These printouts can even be encoded to include such valuable information as sourcing the advertisement through which the shopper arrived at the site.
“One of the most effective methods for catalogers is to establish a tracking link between your Website and your call center,” says Brad Glaser, vice president at MakeBuzz, an online marketing management firm. “Just giving the site a single unique phone number is a good first step, but it does not provide rich data from which to make decisions. Much more effective is the establishment of a true Web-to-phone tracking system that returns unique phone numbers based upon the actual ad served. Thus, a site visitor arriving from a banner ad would see a different phone number than one who arrived through a search-based keyword.”
Furthermore, different keywords (or keyword groups) can be linked to unique phone numbers. This method can show you not only that a given phone center order was generated, but also from which search engine and through which search term, the customer found the site. “Upon beginning tracking of this data,” Tamke says, “some catalogers have found that up to 20% of the Web-generated sales are actually coming in through the call center.”
Accumulating this data is a terrific first step, but you then have to interpret the information and use it correctly. Is the Web-to-store shopper of the same value as one who purchases directly online? How does the Web-to-phone shopper compare? The answers to these questions will obviously vary with the company, the brand value, the cost of call center time and any number of other questions. By making these determinations, you can then make more-informed online marketing decisions. “It may prove out that one search term for which we were bidding $0.50 per click is actually worth $2.00 when further factors are considered, while a $5.00 CPM banner campaign may prove no longer worth running,” Glaser says.
“This is not just pie-in-the-sky brainstorming,” Tamke says. “The technology exists and is already in use today. Just as catalog/Web companies have embraced match-backs to ascertain the sales that catalog mailings bring to the Web, it’s now time to begin tracking the reverse effects: the sales that online advertising programs are driving to offline media. The companies that embrace this technology will position themselves to capitalize more effectively on the opportunities of our multichannel marketing environment–being there with the right product, at the right price, whenever and wherever the consumer is ready to buy.”