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DMNews, June 23, 2014
As omnichannel marketing becomes the norm, measuring performance across channels moves from optional to elemental.
Wine Enthusiast is a long way away from its roots as a direct mail business. “We have people here who pine for the good old days when you dropped a catalog in the mail,” says Glenn Edelman, VP of digital marketing for the nearly 40-year-old wine accessories and storage company. “Those days are long gone. The future is coming and it's coming fast.”
That future is omnichannel marketing. And as with traditional direct marketing, measuring performance across channels is essential to help determine how much and where to invest, as well as to show success and garner budget. What's more, even as marketers struggle to determine which channels are delivering the best results, “there's a rising bar and expectation for accountability in all aspects of marketing spend,” says Conor McGovern, managing director at Accenture Interactive.
Considering how challenging it can be to measure marketing performance in individual channels, measuring performance across channels can seem like an impossible task. In fact, according to a recent report by the CMO Club and Visual IQ, 84.6% of respondents say they're either not measuring their cross-channel marketing performance at all or are measuring it using anecdotal, subjective measures such as first-touch, last-touch, or some other criteria they've established.
It's precisely that inability to measure cross-channel performance, according to 82% of respondents, that's standing in the way of implementing effective omnichannel marketing.
McGovern says part of the problem is “the deluge of data that our [marketers] are facing.” Gathering, aggregating, and integrating volumes of consumer data across multiple channels is an enormous undertaking with its own host of storage, processing, and analytics challenges.
The good news is that savvy CMOs are finding new strategies and high-tech tools to crack the code and accurately measure their omnichannel initiatives. Wine Enthusiast, for example, relies on Convertro's marketing attribution technology to measure the impact its direct mail, online, email, paid search, display ads, social media channels, and affiliate programs are having on sales and customer engagement. Rather than simply track website traffic, Wine Enthusiast has adopted an integrated approach that measures which email campaigns or online customer support channels are guiding consumers effectively to its telephone channel, Edelman says.
Wine Enthusiast's products are a highly considered purchase. Consequently, many prospective customers need “TLC from a wine storage consultant,” Edelman says. “So, we drive a lot of [customers browsing on our site] to our phone with chat and pop-ups. [With Convertro], we can see what programs are driving people to the phone and that's important for us because it's difficult to track that online and offline behavior.”
Another way Wine Enthusiast is measuring its omnichannel marketing is by calculating how much affiliate sources contribute to conversions or sales. “One of the things that was always concerning to me were the coupon sites,” Edelman says. Using Convertro to determine what value these sites were delivering, Wine Enthusiast discovered that customers were visiting the wine accessory site first, leaving the website to retrieve the coupon from an affiliate, and then returning to the site to complete their purchases.
“We thought these coupon affiliate programs were great, but they really weren't doing much for us other than glomming off of our brand name and getting undue credit for an order,” Edelman says. “So we made a daring move and removed all coupon sites from our affiliate program. It was a huge, huge money saver for us—enough that it paid for Convertro for the year.”
Gearing up for omnichannel
Wattbike is another company that's catching on to the benefits of measuring marketing across channels. By establishing a strong social presence on channels including Twitter and Facebook, the bike training system has helped drive sales of its indoor bike, which delivers performance data and technical feedback to its riders. Prior to cycling events and trade shows, for instance, Wattbike generates buzz via social media channels by highlighting visitors who have pre-booked demonstrations, emphasizing event promotions, and encouraging social followers to post their Wattbike experiences on Facebook and Twitter.
To measure the impact of its social marketing strategies on complimentary channels such as the Web for an aggregated view of its marketing efforts, Wattbike works with digital marketing agency Metia to track variables such as engagement rates and attribution. “We can see the impact our social media interactions have on our Web traffic and then our Web traffic's impact on sales,” says Alex Skelton, marketing director at Wattbike. “This is the key to making sure that our marketing investments are paying off, and that not only do we have a growing number of followers on Facebook and Twitter, but that it's driving a higher number of people to our website, and as a result, driving sales.”
That's not to suggest, however, that measuring social's return on investment as part of an omnichannel approach is easy. Rather, because of the challenges presented by integrating data across channels, Wattbike still performs a lot of its measuring manually.
“We still need someone to plough through the data, put it in a spreadsheet, crunch the numbers, and spend quite a lot of time looking at where people are coming from, where we're losing them, and which channels are the best in terms of delivering a return on investment,” Skelton says.
Hanging up attribution
Fashion retailer Deb Shops is certainly no stranger to the difficulties of measuring marketing across channels, especially when those channels traverse online and offline worlds. “It's hard when we spend dollars on certain types of digital marketing to measure what the impact is on brick-and-mortar,” says David Cost, a Deb Shops digital marketing executive. “Attribution is really where the challenge comes from.”
To help bridge this gap, Deb Shops has shifted its focus from attribution to customer engagement. For instance, the retailer relies on Listrak's integrated digital marketing platform to track how often a customer clicks on an email, how often they interact with social media content, how long they spend on a particular part of a website, and how frequently they view product videos. “We're not looking to get a specific conversion rate out of a single channel,” Cost says. “We're really looking at how much our users use a particular channel and how much time they spend with it—is it something they find helpful or engaging?”
Once Deb Shops gauges engagement, the next step is to create a personalized customer experience across all touchpoints. For example, a customer who spends significant time browsing plus-size products may receive an email promotion featuring plus-size models wearing the latest fashions.
Deb Shops also measures the frequency with which customers make purchases across channels. If a loyal online patron fails to make a purchase over a set period of time, for instance, the retailer uses rules that it's set in Listrak to email a special offer to that customer based on past purchase behavior to immediately reengage them.
Even so, “when we're engaging with customers, we really don't know if they're a brick-and-mortar, online, or multichannel customer,” Cost says. “We truly take an omnichannel view. As long as they buy Deb Shops, we really don't have any preference for which channel they use to make the purchase.”
It's too soon to tell whether the best approach to measuring marketing across channels involves sales conversion tools, analytics-fueled spreadsheets, or high-tech customer engagement tools. What is certain is that omnichannel marketing strategies are here to stay and that their success hinges on marketers' ability to measure their results.