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Measure and Maximize the Impact of Online Activity on Offline Sales

by Doug Miller  |  
March 8, 2013

Measurability is the battle cry of every digital marketer; and with the drive toward measurability, entire industries have been born. First ad servers, then Web-analytics packages, then attribution vendors. And if you have seven figures to spend on technical expertise and a PhD in statistics, digital media-mix modeling is another way to measure your digital-marketing investments.

The result is a proliferation of metrics and measures for every campaign. So the challenge today is how to decide exactly which measurements make sense based on the objective of the campaign. The ultimate challenge, of course, is not how to measure your campaign but how to optimize in real time to maximize the impact on brand-marketing or direct-marketing objectives.

We work with top consumer packaged goods (CPG) and auto brands. Those brands have been advertising via traditional channels for over a century, and they now have a very specific challenge: Even in this, the "Internet Age," very, very few people buy their products online. So, all the measurement in the world with online metrics won't ever tell those brands whether they are getting ROI with their digital investments, much less exactly how much.

Those clients ask for digital campaigns to be optimized to a click-through rate of 0.1% or to see a "cost per new vehicle built" on their website at, say, $5.50. The problem is that those optimization metrics on clicks and onsite activities don't efficiently drive offline sales.

First Things First

To measure offline sales impact within these two industries, we use the same approach:

  1. We measure offline sales impact via third-party trusted research vendors. For CPG, they include Nielsen, comScore, and Datalogix. For autos, they include Korrelate and Datalogix. Doing so gives our clients independent third-party verification of the impact of their digital marketing dollars.
  2. We then optimize digital media to drive purchase intent lift among in-market consumers. With CPG, for instance, that might mean increasing purchase intent for a specific frozen dinner among frequent grocery shoppers.

The core challenge is this: How do you distill anonymous online behaviors into measurable results that will generate more product sales at local stores, or more vehicles sold and driven off local car lots?

Five simple steps can make offline sales measurable and allow digital marketers to optimize their inflight campaigns to capture more of consumers' wallets.

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Doug Miller is senior director of analytics at Rocket Fuel Inc., a leading artificial intelligence advertising company.

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  • by Alexandra Gibson Fri Mar 8, 2013 via web

    Doug- really interesting article. Thank you!

    Wondered what your thoughts were about, with CPG, overlaying individual data/information so that you can track beyond just aligned metrics--online and offline--and all the way down to John Smith did this online and then he went to the dealership and you know he test drove an Escalade and then purchased?

  • by Afsun Gurbanov Wed Apr 10, 2013 via web

    Great article Doug. Thanks!

    As you mentioned, it's really hard to track digital marketing effectiveness in auto industry. What we were implementing so far is the surveys on delivery. We are asking if they have heard about us on the internet or somewhere else. Creating internet user special campaigns are also helpful to track, however not a big ROI.

    Again, I appreciate great suggestions!

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