Most marketers and advertisers still don’t have a clear view of customer behavior. For every metric related to click-throughs, conversions and engagement, much of the data does not present a unified view of the customer. Instead, decisions are being made based on separate and distinct actions.
Consider the number of touchpoints a consumer has with a typical brand. Are they finding information or interacting with the brand on its website, via its Facebook page, on its Twitter feed, using a Groupon deal or through a mobile app? What about an in-person visit to a store or a call to customer service?
The challenge for marketers is not to track this data—they already do—but to aggregate it so they get a consistent view across all online channels and also account for offline behavior.
In fact, many marketers who believe they’re making decisions based on a unified view don’t
really have one. A survey from IBM found that among marketers that said they had an integrated view of customer behavior, only 30 percent were viewing mobile behavior and just 34 percent were looking at social media behavior.
The industry should continue to go toward enhanced audience data, Offline data should begin to play a bigger role.”
No place is this holistic view more crucial than the retail industry, where customers may exist across almost every online and offline channel. In her keynote at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Boston, Stephanie Tilenius, VP of commerce for Google, said that for retail, “The lines between online and offline are going to blur and become one…The addition of the smartphone and new technology like geo-targeting and near field communication technology is going to enable new dialogue between retailers and their customers—much more of a one-on-one dialogue.”
The growth of smartphones and tablets is further muddying how advertisers and brands reach consumers, since much of the action mobile users take is done in an “offline” environment. For example, Nielsen found that roughly 40 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices daily while watching TV. What are they doing? Checking email was the top activity, followed by surfing for unrelated information, and visiting social networks. Interestingly, these actions were done consistently during programs and during commercials.
Which is one reason apps related to TV shows have seen solid results on mobile devices. HBO, for example, created a rich media mobile ad campaign to promote the premiere of the third season of True Blood. The ad, developed by Medialets, was placed in iPhone apps from Flixster, Variety and inventory on Jumptap’s mobile ad network. The apps were populated with bloody fingerprints, which led to the messaging for the show. Both auto-expand and user-expand versions of the ad ran, and despite it being an interruptive experience, 7.9 percent of users watched the video in the auto-expand version, and 2.9 percent who received the user-initiated ad watched the trailer.
Watching buyer behavior
A clearer picture of how mobile and offline behaviors are beginning to merge comes from Tesco, the global supermarket chain. In South Korea, Tesco rolled out a virtual supermarket in the Seoul subway system. The pillars and screen doors of the Sonreung station became virtual displays of more than 500 of the market’s most popular products, including milk, apples, pet food and stationery. Commuters could scan the QR code beneath the desired item into their smartphones and the items would be delivered directly to their homes.
In fact, buying behavior is not just a multichannel issue, but the full decision-making process typically crosses between online and offline resources. A 2011 analysis that examines consumer behavior during the purchase path; Smart consumers, they note, move frequently between online and offline options during research, decision-making and purchase.
Consider, for example, what consumers told them about shopping for clothing and footwear. Since it is mostly about look and feel, “going to a store to look at products and try them on is the most helpful thing people do.” However, they will go to the manufacturer’s website to see what is available, and once a purchase decision is made, they will use a price comparison engine to get the best price. Issues such as “speaking to specialized sales personnel” have lost favor, since many customers feel they have more expertise than the staff, they noted.
Other companies are looking to move offline behavior online in an effort to get a clearer measure of what customers are doing. It’s old hat for stores to ask for a customer’s email address at the moment of sale, or to have a place for customers to sign up for special offers. Today, these same stores are turning to mobile devices to empower their customers to share their experiences because these engagements can be tracked. “The mobile device is increasingly blurring the lines between online and offline integration,” said the CEO of a frozen dessert chain. “We are actively working on innovating mobile technologies that will allow our customer to engage online as part of the in-store experience.”
At Lucky Brand Jeans, online and offline are integrated to provide more of a unified view. The chain operates more than 170 retail stores across the U.S., and it also operates a well-trafficked webstore. Yet its customers exhibit different behaviors depending on which segment they come from, according to Charlie Cole, Lucky Brand. The company has an email list of 1.1 million names, of which more than half are verified Lucky Brand purchasers. Cole notes that 500,000 of the names are from people who typically buy in-store, and 100,000 buy only online. Offers vary depending on that buying behavior–it would be silly to tempt an in-store buyer with free shipping, for example. “There’s surprisingly little cross-over,” Cole says. “People are creatures of habit. I don’t want to pound them with offers [that are not appropriate].”
In-store customers can be notified of specials via email, and on the flip side, Lucky Brand also wants to be sure to have in-store offers that can be delivered in-person to online buyers. Lucky Brand is able to identify online customers if they make a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store (based on CRM data), and can provide them with offers that can be redeemed online at the point of sale. “We have some online exclusives such as shoes and we will give an offer such as free shipping at the point of register to shop for those exclusives online,” Cole says. The key, he notes, is to maximize the value and service given to these cross-channel customers, who are Lucky Brand’s most valuable.
Lucky Brand also tries to segment its offers based on other online and offline behavior metrics. For example, customers that buy its jeans at full price behave quite differently from those who only respond to discounts. The company is willing to retarget full price shoppers who have visted its site, but does not do this when a person is identified as a discount purchaser. “It’s really about pushing someone across the finish line,” says Cole.
Ultimately, it all may come down to adapting Web analytics to a multichannel world. Marketers will need to think about how they are tracking offline behavior and how those actions can be incorporated into online systems, and vice versa.