If you’re looking for a simple, definitive way to tie in-store traffic to online visits you won’t find it; the technology isn’t quite there. In the words of Avinash Kaushik, co-founder of Google:
“There is perhaps no challenge greater than tracking offline impact of your online presence (campaigns or other activity). It is perhaps one of the last few complex nuts left to crack.
Why? Because it is hard. Not impossible. Just hard. And for now it is equal parts quantitative, qualitative and faith.”
So even though it’s impractical for small businesses to create a single measurement to definitively tie online and in-store behavior together, that doesn’t mean they can’t get a sense of how online marketing is affecting in-store sales. With all the data about how people shop and the analytics available on what they are doing online you can build a rock-solid circumstantial case for the value a website brings to a small business. These same metrics can tell you where to make adjustments in order to fine-tune your tactics.
Looking at ROI (Return On Investment) in the traditional sense of short run, easily measureable revenue versus dollars out only paints a small part of the picture as to what’s going on with your online marketing, not to mention it ignores valuable insights which can be used to significantly improve your business. Tracking key metrics over time will allow you to develop your website and your marketing strategy in a way which produces real results. Great websites drive sales in the short run as well as build a strong brand and establish a community around your business which will produce results for years to come.
Critical Facts About How Consumers Shop
The good news is that with a couple of basic assumptions a slew of metrics are available that provide insight as to how the website is doing and how you can fine-tune it to make it work better. It’s no longer a question of if consumers are shopping online, it’s a question of, are you engaging online shoppers in a way that generates short term and future sales?
Customers don’t draw a line between in-store and online shopping. To them it’s all one blended experience known as Omnichannel.
It’s no longer up for debate that customers are online gathering information and making purchases. The question is, do they find your business and when they do what impression do they have?
Just like people come to the store to see products, they go to a website to do the same. This makes online merchandising of products critical, consumers are making assumptions about product selection, what’s in stock and the store’s brand based off what they see online.
Based on the way consumers are shopping, if a retailer's website isn’t providing value to their business it’s likely that either the site is not optimized for their customers or the store isn’t looking at the right metrics. If you look at the facts about how people are shopping it’s really hard to argue that any business could be isolated from these trends.
This is by no means a complete list. Different businesses have different drivers and it pays to know what they are.
Each one of these steps builds on the next, and tracking each one provides an opportunity to make adjustments to your marketing tactics. It’s never as simple as launching the website and watching the dollars just fall out of the Internet. Getting return from a site often takes some work and a bit of trial and error.
For example, if lots of visitors are finding your site but you have a high bounce rate, it’s unlikely that you’ll see many micro or macro conversions. At this point the metrics are likely telling you that the website is doing a good job of generating traffic but some adjustments need to be made to the content or navigation on the site. Increasing the number of unique visits only gives you an opportunity to engage customers just as an increase in store traffic represents more chances to make a sale in a physical location.
Micro & Macro Conversions, Explained by Google
Anytime you think of conversions, you should think about “macro conversions” and “micro conversions.” Macro conversions are your primary business objectives. Micro conversions are the relationship-building activities that lead up to a macro conversion.
The kinds of macro and micro conversions you measure will depend on what the goals for the business are. If your focus is on building a community around the shop’s brand, then social shares, in-store events and email sign-ups might be very important. This type of long-term strategy can be a very effective way to utilize a website to build brand power at a local level. With a brand-focused strategy you’ll see ROI from the website, it will just happen over a longer time frame than marketing activities such as running an Ad words campaign around a spring tent sale.
Thinking about retail in terms of ecommerce or brick and mortar ignores modern consumer behavior, leaving all kinds of opportunities untapped for your business. The reality is that building a great website which is an extension of your in-store experience can engage consumers and build a community that will pay huge dividends over time. Keep in mind that the payback for the return you get by investing in online marketing might happen over a longer time frame and in a different form than simply measuring online or even in-store sales. Monitoring some of the metrics listed here can give you a sense of how the store’s website is working as well as where adjustments can be made to ensure your business continues to provide a great customer experience while your customers continue to evolve.
Use the Goals feature in Google Analytics to track micro & micro conversions when possible.