For traditional offline retailers where an online presence hasn’t made sense to date, the ‘almost obvious’ investment into digital marketing activities, such as online advertising, email marketing, social media, and even website development to showcase products is hard to justify. The standard answer has always been that there is no easy way to link those digital leads to in-store conversions, calculate an ROI and thus secure the budgets required for investment.

For retailers with an e-commerce store, tracking leads from the various online marketing channels all the way to conversion is easy with tracking links in URLs and browser cookies. However, this isn’t possible when the transaction takes place offline in a store or over the phone – but there are ways to try to recreate this method of closing-the-loop and tracking all the way to the offline sale. Based on recent client projects, here are three ways in which you can help close-the-loop between the digital world and the offline world:

    1. Unique discount voucher codes

This technique pre-dates our web era, when catalogues or promotional leaflets were sent by mail, and consumers purchased in-store or by phone. However, the same technique is still of use – and has been made easier to execute via the web. This method is an especially good tactic if you’re already offering discounts for new customers: you can capture basic data about the customer for your CRM system at the till through a short form in exchange for the discount

    1. Encouraging website revisit after in-store conversion

Reward your customer by giving entry to an exclusive competition or asking for customer feedback from their in-store experience. A unique competition or survey entry code can be printed on their receipt for use on your website. Because you had set a cookie from their pre-purchase visit to your site, when they enter in the unique code for the competition or survey, it will close the loop and you have will have successfully tracked from lead to conversion.

    1. Mobile Payments

Google Wallet started piloting in late 2011, using NFC chips in smartphones to make contactless payments at bricks-and-mortar retailers such as GAP and Toys R Us. With more manufacturers including NFC chips in their new phones this year and next, mobile payments could take off in a big way, especially since big-chain retailers are increasingly installing contactless payment infrastructure.

Given how important AdWords revenue is to Google, you can bet that they will soon figure a wayto connect online and mobile advertising (such as through Google-owned AdWords, DoubleClick, and AdMob) with offline purchases through Google Wallet. It isn’t clear if that is possible without the need for coupons or offers, but if it is, it would be a boon to offline retailers looking to calculate their ROI on online marketing.

Furthermore, we are already seeing that this method of using NFC to close-the-loop is especially useful for Google AdWords Express advertisers, who are local businesses running extremely local advertising campaigns in Google search and Google Maps.

And what’s in it for the customer?

With a recent study showing that 61% of UK consumers go online to read product reviews and 39% seek retailer reviews, it’s not the first moment of truth in front of the store shelf that matters anymore, but the zero moment of truth beforehand when they’re online. The key to digital marketing success is attribution. Increasingly, there’s also a new battleground, the zero-point-five moment of truth, with more than one in four consumers accessing the internet from their phone while instore, a number that is set to rise. In terms of this new-world customer journey from need to fulfilment, there are suddenly many more touchpoints available for companies to interact with the customer across web (desktop & mobile) as well as through smartphone applications. If your current marketing operating model doesn’t take into account these new touchpoints, you’re missing the opportunity and letting your competitors run away with your potential customers.

For offline retailers, the time has come where having a digital presence and digital marketing activity is moving from  nice-to-have to essential. Increasing web and mobile usage means if you are not digitally visible, your competitors are stealing all the visibility. In the past it has been difficult for offline retailers to justify investment and measure return on digital activities, but increasingly there are innovative ways to help close the loop.

Are you a traditional offline retailer thinking about how to bridge the gap? Have you already made the investment to digital and struggling to see a return? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below