By mid-summer, a little voice inside almost every consumer—no matter his or her age—says, "Go buy a Trapper Keeper. Get a cool backpack. Find a new pencil sharpener. Go. Now."

Back-to-school shopping is such an ingrained tradition, one might think it should be an easy win for marketers. Today, however, consumers have far more products from which to choose, and marketers have many more channels through which to deliver their messages.

How can a brand be sure that its investment in television, Internet, radio, or other media is paying off at the checkout counter? Companies must follow the entire customer path and attribute the sale correctly. Otherwise, marketers can flunk one of the most profitable sale seasons of the year.

1. Do your math homework

According to Forrester Research, US shoppers will boost their online purchasing 45% in the five-year period ending 2016. Increasingly, online shoppers are turning to comparison shopping engines (CSEs), such as Google Shopping, PriceGrabber, and Shopzilla, among others, to find good deals on highlighters, glue sticks, calculators, and wish-list wants. For that reason, CSEs are an important tool for marketers.

However, not all CSEs are equal, and the ways in which brands are evaluating the value of CSEs is often flawed.

Cost per click (CPC) is the wrong metric for CSE investment decisions. Far beyond the surface-level data a marketer gets from CPC is revenue per click (RPC) information. RPC tells marketers how much revenue each click generates, so that brands can get the right answers to their questions about pay-for-performance marketing.

Paid channels are now part of the back-to-school-shopping story, but they require marketers to look closely at the right numbers. To build a CSE budget that delivers returns, companies need access to granular RPC data.

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image of Jeff Zwelling

Jeff Zwelling is co-founder and CEO of Convertro, which provides marketers and agencies with cross-channel analytics, insights and recommendations to monitor and optimize marketing strategies.

Twitter: @Convertro