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GUEST COMMENT Proving the value of online campaigns in a competitive retail landscape

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Just how tough is the current retail climate? Store closures and job losses dominated the news for the better part of the last two years. But a look past the headlines reveals an industry in transition.

Brick and mortar stores are still a vital part of the shopping experience, accounting for 80% of UK retail spend. Yet online shopping is growing faster than offline, reflecting consumer demand for flexibility, choice and convenience. Almost half of retailers cite keeping up with pure-play online competitors as one of the top three challenges they face, and over three-quarters of brands expect to increase their ecommerce expenditure this year. Rather than seeing online and offline shopping as two competing channels, forward-thinking retailers are looking to grow their online presence as an integral part of the physical shopping experience.   

Online marketing campaigns – from display banners and social media posts to video ads and email promotions – go hand-in-hand with ecommerce, giving retailers the opportunity to reach and engage consumers on the same devices they use to browse and purchase products. While overall retail ad spend in the UK dropped slightly last year, spend on digital advertising increased almost 58% year-on-year. To prove the value of these investments and maximise efficiency, retailers need an accurate and actionable understanding of what is working and what is not. 

The winding path to purchase

In theory, measuring the impact of digital campaigns sounds simple: a consumer sees a display ad or receives an email, clicks through to the retailer’s website and makes a purchase. Neat, tidy and easily trackable. 

Except we all know the customer journey is much more complicated than that. 

Shoppers might be influenced by a variety of online and offline touchpoints, from catalogues and flyers, to online display ads, sponsored posts, paid search ads and more. Once they visit a retailer’s online shop, they may not make a purchase straight away, instead browsing other websites, reading reviews or weighing up options and prices. They might then return to the site via a retargeting ad or choose to visit a store to try out the product. They may even pick up the phone to call customer service with a product-related query.   

These interactions can add up to an infinite number of potential customer journeys. To prove the value of online campaigns, retailers need a holistic view of each journey so they can accurately assess the impact of each touchpoint. This requires advanced measurement approaches such as multi-touch attribution.

Valuing every touchpoint

Multi-touch attribution can help retailers understand exactly which factors are driving shoppers to convert, both online and offline. Unlike antiquated measurement techniques such as last-touch attribution, multi-touch attribution calculates the impact that each addressable touchpoint in the consumer journey has on conversion, purchase or other desired outcome. 

For retailers looking to prove the value of their online campaigns, multi-touch attribution offers three key benefits: 


Retailers often execute and measure promotional activities in silos, with different teams responsible for social, mobile, display, search, offline marketing and more. This siloed approach inevitably results in duplication, with multiple teams taking credit for the same conversion. Multi-touch attribution reconciles all available data points into a single anonymous identifier, so retailers can deduplicate individual shoppers across a broad range of addressable online and offline channels. Linking this data helps marketers analyse how consumers move through the funnel and reach them on their preference channels and devices. And since multi-touch attribution accounts for the full cross-channel consumer journey, retail marketers can automatically deduplicate conversions for an accurate view of performance.  

Granular insight

Multi-touch attribution provides retailers with insight at extremely granular levels. Marketers can understand not just which channels are performing, but also which publishers, keywords, creatives and placements are most effective at influencing purchase decisions and other more upper funnel or brand building KPIs that matter to a business. Granular data also enables retailers to test different tactics and frequency levels to see how conversions vary across banner, text, interstitial and video ads, for example. With this detailed level of insight, retail marketers can pinpoint exactly where to shift budget to maximise results.


In-flight optimisation

The near real-time insights gained from multi-touch attribution can also be used to improve performance and increase efficiency while campaigns are still in-flight. When data is modelled fresh every day, it creates a fast, consistent feedback loop that accurately assigns credit to each touchpoint. Retailers can use this insight to continually improve their campaigns and response faster with the most effective creative messages and offers.    

Digital marketing and online shopping go hand in hand, and retailers will continue to invest in online campaigns as they enhance their ecommerce offerings as part of the overall retail experience. To maximise their performance in a competitive landscape, retailers need to reimagine how they measure the impact of these campaigns. With its conversion deduplication, granular near-real time analysis, and accurate and actionable performance insights, multi-touch attribution may provide the key to success for a retail industry in transition.  

Sandra Loeffler is regional vice president, EMEA, at Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness

Image: Shutterstock

Author image courtesy of Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness

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