Awesome Attribution: Meet Google’s Beta Online-to-In-Store Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking isn’t always easy.

While online conversion tracking can handle these variations to a certain degree, it’s often a lot more difficult to track users to take their custom offline.

If your business runs a bricks-and-mortar store as well as a digital storefront, it can be very hard to know which marketing actions have led to a sale.

In spite of the growing popularity of online purchases, many customers still prefer buying from stores – there are often very few ways to track their movements to see what methods of marketing are working and which ones are just leading to potential customer drop-offs.

Many companies, when faced with this confusion over where potential customers are going, will choose to follow ‘better safe than sorry’ logic and pour more money into marketing towards these ‘almost sales’.

Thankfully, as is often the case with analytics and online data tracking, Google has a solution.

How Does It Work?

Google’s been working for years to find better ways of tracking sales conversion data.

One of the most useful sources of data that Google has access to – and which it’s finding new ways to take advantage of – is smartphone information.

Obviously, there are plenty of holes in this system that need to be worked out. A lot of the time, Google’s having to put together their data with a fair amount of guesswork to be able to tell what’s going on.

Data collected from Google’s in-store conversion tracking has to be taken with a pinch of salt, and it’s for this reason that Google is constantly working to improve its algorithms and the data it records.

To make its results more accurate, Google’s been running a beta test lately to try out some new data tracking for businesses.

Not everyone is eligible, but those who are involved are reporting massive growth as a result of their ability to further track customer behavior both online and in-store.

Boosting Sales with In-Store Data

Google has a lot of faith in their in-store metrics, and rightly so – those who’ve already been using in-store tracking have been making interesting discoveries:

Beyond this, there’s a particular benefit for companies who focus on mobile customers.

It’s been found that a customer is far more likely to look up a product on their phone before heading into a store than they are to do their research on a desktop:

For those who are interested in understanding online customer mentality (and for companies looking to increase their sales), this is really interesting data.

Before being able to track the relationship between online and offline customer interactions, there was no way of knowing the extent to which an online search influences offline behavior.

This means that companies can better focus their online campaigns to not just encourage internet purchases, but also to drive customers towards physical stores as well.

The Future Isn’t Quite Here Yet

Google’s rolling out new features for their in-store tracking every so often, and are hesitant to give wide access until it’s been proven that the stats that are being collected are reliable.

There’s also a problem of technology proliferation:

Several of these roadblocks don’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

This being the case, Google’s method for dealing with these problems is to create smarter and smarter tracking algorithms which can piece things together with less than perfect data.

In the meantime, there are plenty of ways for businesses to get involved tracking their site visitor stats offline that will already provide some helpful insight into customer behaviors.

A simple version of in-store tracking is already available through Google AdWords – this is a great place to start until the current beta provides more tools and improved algorithms for tracking customers.

So if you’re looking to join the current beta, you’ll probably be disappointed. But the current tracker available for AdWords is a great place to start in the meantime.

An Exclusive Club: Eligibility Criteria

Not every business has access to Google’s data on offline customers.

At the moment, before being eligible for trialing the tracker, companies have to meet the following requirements:

You’ve probably spotted that the in-store tracker is designed specifically for large companies.

If your business is eligible for the tracker, read on to find out how to go about setting it up and how to access your data.

Alternatively, skip down a bit, to where I discuss an alternative option for smaller companies or businesses who don’t sell through a storefront.

Getting Set Up

As this tracker is currently limited, there’s no automated process to start Google tracking your customers’ real-world purchases.

Alternatively, Google might decide that your business isn’t a perfect fit for the tracker.

Accessing Your Data

If you’re eligible for the in-store tracker, your customer data will appear in your AdWords dashboard, under the campaigns tab.

To view the data:

Your reports from AdWords will now include all of your conversion metrics.

This will include all online conversions, as well as the new in-store tracking metric to show you when people who visited your site through AdWords then took a trip to a physical store.

It’s also possible to see all of your conversions separately, which is worthwhile if you’re wanting to know just how many customers visit a store after seeing your site online.

This is simple enough to set up:

Now instead of showing you reports with a single conversion metric, everything will be separated into their own columns.

Minus Numbers

The tracker isn’t exactly perfect.

It won’t give you numbers for individuals, which has meant that Google’s noticed a fun little quirk which bears mentioning.

If this happens, don’t worry – it doesn’t mean that a customer has returned a product, reducing your sales.

For privacy, and because of the scarce nature of the data, Google can’t give accurate metrics for individual customers, so the tracker rounds figures down instead. This shouldn’t throw off your AdWords conversion metrics, as it’ll only happen when there’s a tiny number of in-store sales being tracked.

If you are interested in tracking individuals, the alternative tracker below might be more helpful for you.

An Alternative Option

Obviously the in-store tracker isn’t perfect.

For businesses that aren’t going to gain much from the in-store tracker (or for ones that can’t get approval for the tracker in the first place), Google also has a manual offline purchase tracker that can be used instead.

Offline Conversion Tracker

This tracker is useful for a lot of businesses.

For every visitor to your website who arrives via Google AdWords, you’re given a unique ID number (known as a ‘GCLID’) which you can use to track your potential customers.

Once a deal is signed or a purchase is made offline, you can enter the customer’s GCLID into AdWords along with the details of the sale, and AdWords will calculate your data as a result.

There are multiple ways to set up offline tracking, and different tools available depending on your specific needs, so it’s wise to read up on everything that Google has to offer in this respect and spot what will work for your business.

That said, while this tool might come in handy, it has a fair few downsides:

Of course, these weaknesses will depend entirely on your business and the resources you have available – while it might not be perfect for everyone, there’s plenty of benefit to be gained from the offline tracker.

If your business isn’t large enough or doesn’t have enough physical sales locations to make the in-store tracker a viable option, it’s a solid alternative.

The Future of Conversion Tracking

As time goes on, companies are going to find more impressive, nuanced and elaborate ways of keeping track of customer activity.

Google’s current in-store tracking beta and its ongoing efforts to find out more about buyer behaviors will only become more sophisticated as time goes on.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of opportunity to make use of their publicly available tools, and anticipate the possibilities that come from getting a better understanding of what your potential customers are doing after they visit your website.

Tracking your customers might not be easy, but it’s getting better.


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