Exactly how much do online and offline channels contribute to sales?

Do you really know exactly how much each of your online and offline channels are contributing to your sales?

The blunt truth is that the great majority of marketers don’t!

Google for instance claims that businesses make an average of $2 for every $1 spent on Google Ads, but this is just a blatant case of Google marking its own homework. Are they saying that $1 Google Ads caused the $2 worth of sales, or just that there is some form of observed correlation? And how do they account for the impact of all the other forms of advertising from TV to outdoor to press to email?

Given the billions that hang on decisions about how to allocate marketing budgets across different online and offline channels, we felt that it was essential to work on giving our clients the tools and the knowledge to properly support these important decisions.

We started with some key assumptions:

– That decisions to purchase are necessarily complex and driven by multiple factors. Many of these factors like brand awareness cannot be recorded in the context of an individual sale, but many can be, and for those that are, we should look at all the known recordable events before a sale, and certainly not just online events, or worse still, just last clicks.

– What we call recordable events are activities like receipt of a catalogue, opening an email, visiting a website from a social media advert, or using Google Ads to find a website. Some of these events are driven by the customer like natural search, and some are driven by the vendor like receiving a catalogue.

– That we would assemble all the recordable online and offline events before each sale and use these as the dataset from which to analyse the true impact of different channels and different time intervals between an order and an event.

– That having overcome the challenge of collecting all the online and offline events together, we would focus our analysis on the central question of how to weigh the different types of events. Intuition tells us that an event 60 days before an order may have played a smaller role in the decision to purchase than one on the same day as the order, but the question we needed to answer was by how much? Also, should we give different weightings to different types of event? Is an opened email more or less important than a website visit happening as a result of a click through from a Google Ad?

– We do not want to suggest that marketers should ignore unrecordable events such as TV viewing or driving past an outdoor lightbox. Rather that their effects need to be analysed using different techniques like time series analysis, and that in so far as credit is given to recordable events it should be shared with the credit due to unrecordable events.

We have used orders and recorded events from two very different retailers to provide the data sets for our analysis. The first and surprising discovery was to find just how many recordable events actually happened. One reason for this is that customers may make multiple visits to a website before purchasing or open an email multiple times. The following table shows the number of recorded events that preceded each order in a 90-day time window:

the number of online and offline events resulting in sales orders

The analysis is ongoing, and we are aiming to publish a white paper on it in August, but there are three important initial findings that we can share:
– different channels should carry different overall weights, and we can analyse what they should be
– that each channel has its own time decay curve. In other words, the impact of events in one channel will wear off more quickly than for another channel.
– that the set of weightings used for new recruits should be different to those used for existing customers

The final results will include quantification of these findings.

If you would like us to share the white paper with you when it is ready please email us. It will be free for our newsletter recipients who order it in advance, but will be sold to others.

And if you would like meanwhile to have a chat to us about how to solve your own marketing mix attribution problem, we would be delighted to discuss, so please get in touch.


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UniFida is the trading name of Marketing Planning Services Ltd, a London based technology and data science company set up in 2014. Our overall aim is to help organisations build more customer value at less marketing cost.

Our technology focus has been to develop UniFida. Our data science business comes both from existing users of UniFida, and from clients looking to us to solve their more complex data related marketing questions.

Marketing is changing at an explosive speed, and our ambition is to help our clients stay empowered and ahead in this challenging environment.