To understand the impact that digital marketing has made on our lives, imagine purchasing anything today without it.
No Internet to do online research or shopping. No smartphones to text friends or scan bar codes and QR codes in the store for more information and competitive pricing. No tablets to seek out user reviews or ask acquaintances for opinions via social media.
The fact is the digital world is inextricably intertwined with our lives. According to Google, 90% of media interactions today are screen-based. That number includes TVs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets. More significantly, Google also says that 67% of us start shopping on one device and continue on another.
Smart marketing dictates that you invest your money where it will do the most good. But how do you know where that is?
Historically, retailers have used the "last click" to measure their campaigns. Whether the purchase was made online at home or in a store, the last action the consumer took before making a purchase is the one given sole credit for the sale.
The reality, however, is that often many clicks on many different devices contribute to a sale. Attributing a sale to the last click is like saying the waiter is responsible for the quality of the food in a five-star restaurant.
Here are three reasons why you need to be able to accurately attribute the sale to all the marketing efforts that contributed to it.
1. Every transaction today is faster
We live in an "instant oatmeal, microwave popcorn" world. During the past 30 years, consumer expectations for speed have become increasingly greater. In particular, Millennials are unaccustomed to waiting for anything. They want instant gratification and demand nothing less.
That expectation is fueled by the fact that they have the world in their pockets. According to Nielsen's 2014 Digital Consumer Report, nearly two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone. As a result, shopping can occur anywhere, anytime at the speed of a mobile browser.
If you can fulfill those customers' desires, that's great. That's not so great if you can't because, with a few clicks on their smartphones, they can purchase that same item from a competitor while they stand in your store.
You need to understand what motivates customers to come to your store or e-commerce site—and what it takes to keep them there. You can't do that without being able to accurately attribute your marketing efforts.
2. Every market is larger
Thanks to the Internet, remaining a local-only business is largely a choice. Today, your customers can come from anywhere around the globe.
The number of mobile phone subscriptions worldwide is approaching 7 billion, according to research by McKinsey & Company. To put that into perspective, that is roughly equivalent to the total world population in 2014. In addition, nearly 3 billion people have Internet access.
To tap into this huge potential market, you need to put forth some marketing efforts so the first generation of customers can find you. You can then use the information you glean from your successes to increase your efforts in the areas that work to find successive generations.
If you can't attribute your success to all the marketing vehicles that contributed to your sales, you'll be firing arrows into the darkness as you attempt to refine and focus your program. You may get lucky and hit some targets. The question is: Are you willing to risk your global market on luck?
3. Every store is more than a store
Up until the last decade, the basis of a retail transaction in a store was simple: Customers walk in, see an item they'd like to purchase, hand over payment, and walk out with the item. If they didn't see something they wanted or it wasn't available in their preferred size, color, or configuration, they would walk out empty-handed.
High-touch service stores might have called to see whether another store in the area had the item and sent the customer there. Most stores, though, let the customer walk out—because customers accepted this treatment as the norm.
Internet shopping began to change that model.
It opened up a larger world of inventory. If the item wasn't in the store, the customer could check online, and, if it was available, have the item delivered. Then came "order online, pick up at the store," which offered the convenience of online shopping without having to pay for shipping—or wait to obtain the item.
Of course, there were often glitches in these systems because there was a virtual Great Wall dividing online and offline sales. In most cases, retailers had their online inventory and their brick-and-mortar inventory, which were contained in two separate inventory management systems and run by managers with individual P&L responsibilities. As a result, there was little incentive for online and offline to work together.
None of that means anything to consumers.
They don't care about your P&L; they see ABC Retailer as a single entity, a brand. To deliver the experience your customers expect, you had better see the situation the same way.
If customers see an item they want in the store and it's not available in their size, color, etc., they expect someone in the store to check inventory system-wide to find it—and then have it shipped to their preferred store or to their homes.
Customers don't care how much time or hassle it will take to move that item or how much doing so costs. They want it when and where they want it. If you're not willing to make that effort, they'll pull out their smartphone and find a retailer who will.
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Retailers are no longer in control of the selling process. Customers have the information, and the customer experience will determine who gets the sale.
Retailers can't afford to burn time and money guessing how to reach their customers. They need to act quickly and precisely. The companies that can do so are the ones that will win.