Omnichannel Retailing: Why and How to Integrate Online and Offline Customer Touchpoints
That’s the question omnichannel retailers often have to ask themselves. As today’s customers tend to interact with businesses through multiple channels, companies that fail to answer the question, or simply ignore it, risk making costly mistakes. Say for example, you cut down on investments in an advertising channel that feels like it doesn’t really pay off, and as a result, offline sales drop drastically.
Keep reading, and you’ll find out how you can combine the data about the online and offline behavior of your customers, and how doing so helps you drive your business forward. And if you have any ideas or comments about this approach, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments.
Here’s the challenge: today’s shoppers don’t limit themselves to one retail channel. Today’s consumers’ purchasing behavior may include:
- Finding and buying products of interest online.
- Examining and buying products in brick and mortar stores.
- Researching products online and buying them offline (ROPO), a.k.a. webrooming.
- Examining products in offline stores and purchasing them online, a.k.a showrooming.
There are a lot of studies on research and purchase behavior. For example, Consumer Barometer with Google provides detailed statistics about how people use the Internet, with detailed reports on different business niches, regions and product groups. The Research and Purchase behavior report shows that 28% of the survey respondents in the US choose to research products online and buy them offline, while 9% of the respondents did the exact opposite.
In order to see the actual number of sales and the revenue generated by online and offline channels, marketers need to integrate customer behavior data across online touchpoints and offline retail stores. In addition, combining the data may give you clues about why your customers don’t buy online, but rather go to your offline stores or, in the worst-case scenario, switch to your competitors. Let’s say you see that your customers research products on your website and then purchase them in your offline store, using a pickup discount or a rewards card. Does the website allow your customers to take advantage of discounts? If not, this may be the reason why customers prefer shopping offline. Think about it. Bringing the data together will help you improve the entire online experience of your customers, in terms of advertising campaigns, range of products, payment and shipping options, etc.
Integrating customer behavior data across online and offline touchpoints
Any reputable advertising and analytics services offers its own tools for conversion tracking. Among such services are Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Facebook, not to mention the others. However, each service provides statistics only about its own performance. In addition, they do not take into account all the data available in your CRM system. Getting a complete picture of their performance becomes a challenge, especially if you’re advertising through multiple channels.
What should you do then? Integrate user actions across channels using email addresses or User IDs. The User ID is a unique identifier that represents each signed-in user and is stored in a CRM or other internal system. When a signed-in user visits your website, their User ID is sent to Google Analytics. This enables you to associate user sessions, and all activities from those sessions, with the particular user who performed them on the website. Also, what if someone visits your website without signing in, or otherwise providing identifiable data?
That’s right, you’ll only see unrelated data points. That’s why if you’re looking to more accurately analyze your customers, you should make them want to sign in. The best way to do that, is to show customers you care. Let them know the benefits of having an account on the website. For example, you can enable your customers to:
- Activate their loyalty cards online.
- Track their orders directly on the website. By doing so, you’ll also make the life simpler for your your call center, by reducing the number of calls from buyers who call to know the status of their orders.
- Subscribe to a special offer newsletter.
- Sign in to take part in promotions and contests online.
- Get discount coupons by signing up.
- Take a free trial (this in particular is often offered by SaaS and service providers).
- Download useful content: guides, transcripts, slides, etc.
- Connect with your company’s managers by filling out contact forms.
- Sign up to attend webinars, seminars, training sessions, etc.
- Get extra month of warranty by registering the receipt online.
- Provide their email addresses to get video manuals and advice on how to use the product.
In addition, you can get measurable results by adding campaign parameters to the URLs in your emails. You’ll be able to merge the data about users who visit via a link with a special identifier appended to it, even if they don’t sign in. Here’s an example of the link with the user identifier in red:
Note the get-parameter huid which is used to pass the id of the user.
Let’s take a look at the two most common scenarios for connecting the online and offline data about your customers.
- A customer browses products on your website. At this point, Google Analytics assigns a unique Client ID A unique identifier representing browser/device of each website visitor. .
- The same customer makes a purchase in your offline store and opts to receive newsletters and promotions by email.
- You send out «special offer» emails to offline subscribers.
- Once customers land on your website by clicking on links from inside the email, you can associate their email addresses via the Client ID. Thanks to this, you can also identify the advertising campaign that brought the customer to the website and then to the physical store.
- A customer visits your website, browses a product and opts in for a newsletter. At this point, you get the customer’s email address and the unique Google Analytics Client ID representing the customer’s device and browser instance.
- In a few days, the customer gets your newsletter, learns about a discount for the product in offline stores, comes to the store, makes a purchase and provides the same email address again when filling out a form to participate in the loyalty program.
- You can now match the data by the email address, and relate the data about online and offline purchases to the same person.
How to make sure you did everything right
In our experience, it’s best to combine the online and offline data in Google BigQuery, as it allows you to supplement the previously processed data. For example, if a user first purchases offline and then authenticates on the website, you can connect that data retroactively. You won’t be able to do so in Google Analytics. In addition, the data from Google BigQuery can be used by OWOX BI Attribution to evaluate how your advertising campaigns perform, with account of offline purchases.
By encouraging visitors to enter email addresses on the website and combining data across online and offline touchpoints, you’ll be able to see how many visitors are ready to share their information with you, and why:
As a result, the number of identified users will grow as you introduce improvements to the website. Here’s an example:
At first, there were only 10% of the total number of website visitors identified on the website. On March 5th, you added an email subscription form, and the number of users who provided their email addresses increased to 29%. On May 10th you introduced an online order status & tracking feature, and the percentage of identified users increased to 42% as more people registered to track their orders. And so on.
With the help of OWOX BI Attribution, you can do what all marketers dream of — see the complete customer journey, from the first interaction with your website to making an offline purchase.
In addition, by supplementing the data from your website with offline purchases, you’ll be able to more accurately measure the performance of your online advertising campaigns.
This chart demonstrates how the return on ad spend may change if you consider offline activities in the calculations of your attribution model. The second bar stands for the ROAS with account of offline sales. The ROAS has increased in some campaigns and decreased in the others because of the order cancellations.
Answers to possible questions
How can I connect engagement data from customers who don’t authenticate on my website?
In this case, you may try using DMP systems offering third-party data. For example, such systems can provide you with email addresses of visitors who haven’t yet signed in to your site.
What should I do if I can’t associate all the engagement data points with all the visitors to my website? In fact, it’s impossible to identify all the visitors. Let’s just say that the more visitors you can identify, the more accurate your data will be, providing for better, statistically sound decisions. Much better than nothing, isn’t it?
To sum up
By connecting user touchpoints across online and offline channels, you’ll be able to:
- More accurately evaluate the performance of your advertising campaigns, taking into account their contribution to purchases in offline stores.
- Discover what prevents your customers from purchasing online. Let’s say they create a user account, browse the website and then leave without placing any orders. What do these customers have in common? Let’s say you see that they tend to opt for extended warranty when buying smartphones, something that your website doesn’t offer at all. By adding this option to the website you may turn future website visitors into grateful customers, reducing the risk that they leave your website and go looking somewhere else.
Share your thoughts about this blogpost and ask your questions in the comments below. We’d love to hear about your experience and answer any questions you may have. And if you’d also like to easily measure the ROPO effect, try the ROPO reports in Smart Data.