RadiumOne Insights: How to Tie Digital Media to In-Store Traffic

Any data-driven marketer knows that tying digital media to real-world activity is the holy grail to any company that needs to track ROI for out-of-app events driven by mobile media.

We asked our Director of Mobile Strategy and Solutions, Jed Wheeler, to share some of the most effective digital media strategies that he has seen over the last few years when it comes tying digital media to in-store traffic and targeting media to customers based on their buying habits online and in-store. You can get his insights below.

Q: What is the strategy that you have seen work the best for tying digital media to in-store traffic?

There are three main strategies that can be used to do this deterministically:

  1. Bring the event into the app
  2. Use a coupon or QR code to tie together the mobile and physical action
  3. Use a persistent user identifier, such as a loyalty card number, to track users across platforms

Q: How did you determine that these specific three strategies were the most effective?

All of the methods shared today are based on solutions I have helped clients implement. These are not hypotheticals, they are battle tested and can work at scale for any brand that meets the prerequisites.

Q: What can you tell us about bringing the event into the app?

The first strategy, bringing the event into the app, is often the easiest. This is the classic “buy it in-app and pick up in-store” model.  Any product that can be purchased in-app and then picked up at a physical location can be tracked this way and I have seen this solution work for businesses ranging from quick-service restaurants to big-box stores. Because everything happens in-app it’s easy to use your attribution analytics tool (whichever you use) to tie the conversion back to the campaign of origin and calculate the ROI.  

Q: Wouldn’t you already have the conversion if the customer purchased in-app?

The added bonus to this solution is that you get the mobile conversion up front, and then still get the user to come into the physical store, which opens up the possibility of additional add-on conversions. Tracking the value of those add-on conversions can be challenging since they happen outside of the app, but this is where strategies two and three can come into play.

Q: How would you use a coupon or QR code to tie together the mobile and physical action?

The second strategy requires a bit more technical infrastructure. In this scenario you show the user an ad for your store and once they click it, they are taken to a page on your mobile website or in your app with a coupon that they can save. Once in the physical store, they get the items and checkout as normal, scanning the coupon from their phone to redeem the discount or incentive. This let’s your internal CRM system know that the purchase was driven by a mobile or web engagement and send a server-to-server message back to the analytics tool you use for your website and/or app to record the conversion as an event – just as if it had happened in-app.  

Q: How would you tie the coupon with both the in-store conversion and specific ad on mobile?

In an ideal deployment, the coupon includes a unique identifier so you can tie the in-store conversion to the unique coupon code, which gives you the specific user session, and you can then use your attribution service of choice to tie that session back to the specific ad impression. Again, you end up with the data you need to calculate ROI for your creative and campaign, which means you have the info you need to iterate intelligently for future versions of the campaign.  

Q: Are there any downsides with implementing this method?

The weakness of this strategy is that, because the conversion hasn’t already happened in-app, you’ll see a much higher drop-off rate between app and in-store. There will also likely be a significant percentage of users that forget to use the coupon at checkout, making your drop-off rate appear even higher than what it actually is. Because of this, many brands adopt a hybrid of options 1 and 2, driving as many people as possible to pre-purchase in-app and then providing a unique code which is scanned in-store to pick up the item or items. That way the actual in-store pickup can be tracked, along with any additional in-store purchases.

Q: Lastly, what can you tell us about the third strategy that consists of using a persistent user identifier to track users across platforms?

This strategy requires the most up-front setup because you need to have an internally-generated persistent ID for each user already in placea brand loyalty program is ideal for this. The win here is that it lets you tie the full range of logged-in web behavior and in-app behavior to the data you already have for the customer’s in-store data, providing an unrivaled picture of the customer’s buying habits. The key step here is getting the end user to enter their loyalty program ID into your app at some point. Once that’s done you can make a 1:1 match between the user profile and the device or devices on which that user runs the app. Note that apps – because they use a persistent device identifier and the user can stay logged in across multiple sessions or even permanently – make this 1:1 linkage far easier than a website where you have to get the user to login each time.

Q: There are so many digital strategies that a marketer can implement to drive in-store traffic. Why do believe these three are the most important?

These strategies are the holy grail of smart advertising and means you can target media to customers based on their buying habits online and in-store. With this type of system in place, all the guesswork around putting the right ad for the right product in front of the right customer disappears – especially if you’re using a tool like RadiumOne Mobile Analytics that lets you create media segments based on user activity. As users respond to those ads and complete actions in-app or in your physical store, you can log them all against a single privacy-compliant anonymous ID in your CRM system. The challenge becomes getting everything into a single system. For the first two scenarios, I recommended pushing the data from your CRM into your analytics tool, but in this case I’m going to recommend moving in the other direction and pushing data from your mobile and web analytics tools into that CRM. With that being said, I’ve seen this work both ways.

Q: In today’s retail environment where companies have to protect customer privacy at all cost, wouldn’t these methods be a bit controversial?

For privacy advocates who think this sounds like the premise to a dystopian novel, keep in mind that at each step of this process the end user is actively consenting to be tracked and is receiving rewards for doing so. All of these approaches can be used while remaining in full compliance with consumer protection and privacy laws. For a brand, the incentives to do so are compelling – more targeted ad spends, higher conversion rates, and stronger ROI.

Q: Are there any other approaches?

There are other approaches to solve this problem, of course, but most of them echo the general shape and structure of these three solutions. At the end of the day you have a few discrete pieces of data – the ad impression, the click, in-app actions, and actions in the physical world.  The more brands can do to tie those things together the more they’ll learn about their customers.

Now, Jed’s question to marketers is: How are you addressing this challenge?  

About Jed Wheeler

Jed Wheeler is a father, writer, and engineer.  He currently leads Mobile Strategy and Solutions for RadiumOne and is is involved in everything from new product design to go-to-market strategy and sales enablement for RadiumOne’s mobile media and analytics offerings.  

Do you have any comments or questions for Jed? Feel free to connect with him through email or LinkedIn.

On Demand Mobile Webinar

Mobile Re-Engagement Webinar

Watch Jed talk about How Marketers Can Use Mobile Data to Drive User Re-Engagement and Combat Churn on demand.

You can register to get recording here.