Following Facebook and Twitter, Google Starts Tracking Offline Purchases

Internet-influenced offline consumer spending is roughly 10X the value of e-commerce but no one has been able to clearly see or track this phenomenon until recently. Most marketers have focused on online clicks and conversions because they have been much easier to track and measure.

There are now a range of methodologies to track online-to-offline conversions. Some involve tracking smartphones. However some involve CRM or sales data and the matching of that data to online or mobile ad exposures. This methodology is utilized by Facebook, Twitter -- and now apparently Google. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is involved in a "pilot program" with six advertisers that matches online cookies to store sales data and other information provided by Acxiom Corp. and DataLogix. Facebook and Twitter both work with DataLogix as well. 

Apparently the Google pilot involves search ads for the time being (but I'm sure it contemplates display as well). According to the WSJ, the in-store tracking pilot "adds a new column that shows in-store sales spurred by the ads."

Google is also in beta with a program called "estimated total conversions," which measures cross-device visits and extrapolates conversion rates from a subset of signed-in Google Chrome browser users. The company is planning on extending the program to offline store visits (tracking Android users exposed to ads into physical retail stores). 

IAB biggest ad categories  

Retail is the largest spending category of online advertisers according to the IAB. In 2013 total digital retail advertising was worth roughly $9 billion out of a total of nearly $43 billion. Retailers are also major mobile advertisers.  

As indicated, there are a variety of methodologies that can now be used to track online-to-offline conversions:

  • Media-mix modeling 
  • Conversion "proxy" metrics: call tracking, map look-ups
  • Coupons
  • Check-ins, scanning QR codes in-store
  • Mobile payments and matching of CRM + online databases
  • Geofencing and indoor location
  • User surveys 

DataLogix and similar vendors have data on trillions of dollars of consumer purchase behavior. The internet-influenced product and services market is worth more than $2 trillion, while e-commerce in the US is worth between $210 and $260 billion. 

Online to offline ad tracking and its impact on the larger digital media world will also be one of the themes of Place 2014.