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GUEST COMMENT How to use foot traffic data to close the online to store loop

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Mobile, desktop, in-store; wherever consumers interact with brands, their movements can now be tracked with granular precision. As a result, retailers know which ads consumers click on, how many product videos they watch, and what they buy in physical stores. But many struggle to understand how these interactions fit together.

A detailed understanding of online and offline consumer activity is all very well, but without the ability to connect the two, ensuring marketing effectiveness — and therefore sales — is a challenge. Only by creating a unified view of interactions across channels can retailers close the online to store loop, and gain the insight needed to deliver engaging messages that drive results.

The key to connecting online to offline, and successfully bridging the gap between the digital and physical worlds, lies in gathering and analysing consumer location, long-term interests and shorter-term purchase intent, over time, to be able to accurately predict when consumers are most likely to buy.

So, what foot traffic data strategies can both brands and retailers employ to maximise conversions on every channel?

Start with the right data

The foundation of effective cross-channel marketing is the right data — and to obtain that data, retailers need the right tools. This makes it essential to choose a vendor with in-depth understanding of how to connect offline data, like foot traffic, with online insight. In doing so, brands and retailers can ensure that measurement of interactions on different channels is linked from the start of their campaign, as well as reducing the time it takes to set up performance analysis.

With systems instantly ready to go, brands and retailers can run test campaigns to reveal valuable insight into how their consumers shop and which marketing tactics will drive engagement, and then use these to continuously optimise campaigns.

Decipher who consumers are

On its own, footfall is a good indicator of how many consumers each store attracts, but without understanding who these people are it is impossible to link individual visitors to the rest of their journey.

By utilising audience insights to understand which consumers visit a store, brands and retailers will be able to gain a more holistic 360-degree view of their audience and learn more about the types of people who engaged with them, and how they got there.

For instance, retailers can layer in neighbourhood data to understand who is in the vicinity of the store to establish a more detailed view of shoppers – their interests, demographics, journey times and purchase histories ¬–¬ and use this to inform online and offline traffic driving activity.

Understand where customers have been

Even in today’s multi-functional retail landscape, consumers very rarely buy everything they need at one store, so by focussing just on their own footfall, retailers will miss a wealth of information that could be vital to understanding the consumer journey to purchase. To produce a comprehensive picture of each consumer’s path to purchase retailers must monitor footfall at other stores, not just their own.

While this will entail some extra analysis, the insight a broader focus produces will be worth the effort; not only will it allow retailers to identify competitors and plan how to outshine them, but it will also enhance their knowledge of the consumer’s offline shopping habits. In fact, retailers can use this data to establish whether their customers have visited rival stores on the same day, and how to better meet consumer needs to drive conversions in their own stores.

Beware of skews

To ensure a high level of data accuracy is maintained during their campaigns, retailers must guard against any factors that could cause it to be skewed. To address this challenge data should be normalised to create a reliable baseline for comparison of future results and makes it easier to quickly spot anomalies.

As retailers are well aware, there are many events throughout the year that can have a sizeable impact on campaign results, such as special holidays, season-specific weather, and discount sales. Keeping an eye on these events as factors that could skew data is paramount when measuring footfall; by preparing for them and adjusting analysis accordingly, retailers can ensure the insights they use to power current and future marketing efforts are chosen correctly.

Avoid the cookie aisle

Mobile is now an integral element of the shopping experience in stores and online; this year alone UK shoppers are expected to spend £27 billion via mobile devices. As a result, it is increasingly important for retailers to identify and engage mobile users.

Yet cookies — the former go-to for tracking consumer interactions online — aren’t effective on mobile, with many browsers not accepting them and users inclined to block them. By using online and offline data sources to gain a full understanding of the consumers visiting their stores, retailers will gain a wider and more precise idea of mobile reach, without relying on cookies.

Using the right tools and taking data from as many sources and interactions as possible ¬– both online and offline – then reviewing and analysing them together while making sure discrepancies are avoided, retailers can bridge the gap between online and offline. And armed with a detailed understanding of who consumers are, and what they want, retailers can boost targeting impact and sales for both current and future marketing efforts.

Paul Maraviglia is general manager, Europe, MaxPoint

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