From the Frying Pan to the Buyer

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Prior to Oneupweb, I worked for a medium-sized retailer of home-décor products. In addition to brick & mortar, the company mailed several million catalogs annually, and had an extensive offering of products available for purchase online.

As online marketing efforts increased, so too did the online store’s sales figures – that correlation was as natural as flowers in spring. What wasn’t as easy to quantify was the impact of online marketing initiatives on in-store & catalog sales.

This quandary is all too familiar to multi-channel retailers of any size or industry. Just how much of your in-store and catalog revenue can be traced to your online marketing efforts?

I consider myself a rather circumspect shopper. It’s not uncommon for me to scour the internet for user reviews, and garner prices from at least three different retailers before deciding whether or not to buy something as simple as a frying pan. What’s worse is that after all of that online research, I will likely end up buying the item at a store where I can pick it up, hold it in my hands, and generally become one with the pan. I’m a “hands on” kinda guy.

For that buying behavior, I apologize to every retail marketer on Earth.

A couple of excellent ways of tracking online spend-to-call-center sales performance is to incorporate some unique landing pages with specific phone numbers, or Google’s new Click To Call program (beta, of course) which directly connects search engine users with your call-center operators via telephone. These ideas only help to solve a part of the problem. There’s still no easy way to measure the influences of online marketing spending on your in-store sales.

A marketer’s best answer just may be an old solution — research.

Survey customers online and offline, pre and post purchase. Test various rebate & coupon-based incentive programs, then analyze the response data. Obtain panel-based or focus group data to examine customers’ buying behavior. And spend some time with the results.

While individual conversion-level reporting may be the stuff of dreams, employing a more holistic approach to budget analysis is one of the first, and probably the most important steps toward tying brick & mortar revenue to your online marketing budget. It may not catch all my “pan in the hand” purchases, but it should help with your more typical consumer.

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