Stimulus Australasia

Managing offline and online data

How to best collect online and offline data?

Combining online and offline data will ensure that you get a holistic understanding of your customers and a complete view of their journey through your channels and stores. 

To collect this data and be able to put it to use you will need data management and analytics tools. 





Why gather data?


Most businesses are still operating bricks and mortar stores. Most still have staff members interacting with customers in the shop front, gathering feedback about customer interests and answering the phone to deal with questions, comments and complaints.
It might be easy to believe that the most useful data you will acquire will be obtained online, but this is not the case. While gathering data online might seem more straightforward and easier to get, a cohesive data strategy will map out the way that your data can be acquired and put to use for the best result possible. 

To have a complete understanding of the customer journey, you will need to get to grips with the various ways they interact with your brand. This generates a more complete view of the customer and a more cohesive brand experience that can be consistent across any channel. 

You’ll need to know where to look for the valuable data sets that can help you achieve your omnichannel strategy and have a clear process for how you can integrate online and offline data for best results. Acquiring and combining online and offline data has its challenges, but combined data can bring enormous benefits for your brand and identity.


What is online data?


Not surprisingly, online data is gathered on the internet! And, there is quite a bit of information that can be acquired by logging customer interactions and transactions. Analytics data can show you how customers have found your site, how long they stayed on the page and at what point they left the site. 

Email subscription services can give you information about when people have signed up, and how many of your emails they have opened. Sales platforms can give you a vast amount of information about sales, spends and product preferences.
It’s also possible to get online information about where you are customers are located and what device they are using when they browse your site or make an online purchase. 

What is offline data?
It makes sense then that offline data is information that is acquired through means that are not online. Generally, this is information that is picked up in a storefront. Offline data could include information related to a transaction, the number of refunds carried out at a store or even through direct interaction with a customer such as a phone call. 

Some companies use loyalty programs to collect data about in-store purchases, demographics, contact information, comments or complaints received and store this information in a CRM system. 

Any system you use to gather records about your customers can be considered to be creating offline data. It is often personally identifiable information. Offline data could also include information and datasets provided by other agencies. 


Why bother with offline data?


Although we have seen huge shifts in how retail and purchases in B2B environment are changing, the fact is that for most businesses, most transactions occur in-store or with some degree of person-to-person interaction. It depends on what industry you are in, but the retail element is here to stay for most businesses. While around half off tech products are sold online, prior to the pandemic the figure for food and beverage was much lower.  

While many people enjoy researching products and shopping online, for its easy and accessibility, many more still enjoy the experience of visiting a store to see, hold and try out a product before they purchases. 


Offline sales go online and online sales go offline


And while you might think that traditionally offline purchases are moving online more and more, it is also working the other way. Subscription cards for online games are often sold in-store, and shoppers can purchase iTunes and other online gift cards at just about every shopping centre and grocery store in Australia. 

Other offline marketing strategies that can’t be tracked so easily include phone calls, conversations in-store, product catalogues, postcards and marketing gift items, and direct mail. With these tools, you typically set them loose on your customer base and gather what data you can about the usefulness or otherwise of these approaches.

When you send someone a postcard or letter in the mail, you can’t know their read time or be sure if they even opened the letter. However, the American Postal service estimates that 80% of people open and at least scan their mail. This is a much higher figure than the number of emails that get opened. 

And customers do often rate letters and gifts as key ways they like to stay connected with their favourite brands. You can see how well these forms of marketing are working for you by including a QR code or website password with your correspondence. 


Combining data sources


With online and offline data sources available to you, your overarching objecting is to have a good understanding of each of your marketing channels- be they offline or online. You want to know which marketing initiatives are working for you, and which aren’t. With a multi-channel attribution model, you will be able to integrate data from any source, to give you a rich, accurate and cohesive view of the customer. 


How to gather and analyse data online and offline


Integrating online and offline data can be done, and you will need a robust data management or analytics tool to do it. Customer information is the key to creating a cohesive view, but holding this information has its challenges. 

The merging of records that have been gathered in different ways and different settings needs to be done carefully. Through a process of identity resolution, you can combine information about your customers from multiple sources. 

By linking up any information about a customer, you will get a much clearer picture of their journey with your brand. As they navigate different channels with your brand, the customer may:

  1. Pops into your store in the CBD to purchase a gift card for a workmate
  2. Pick up a catalogue while paying
  3. See a product they like the look of in the catalogue
  4. Research the product online
  5. View your Instagram page, follow, and like a post with the product they are interested in
  6. Decide to subscribe to receive your monthly e-news
  7. Receive a personalised email with an onboarding offer of a 10% discount
  8. Head back into store to purchase the product and redeem their offer

By merging online and offline data in this instance, you can see how the actions have triggered the decision to purchase more clearly. You get a much richer and more holistic view of the customer journey, how they have discovered, engaged and connected with your brand. 

With an increase in the number of entry and access points, creating an omnichannel experience for your customers will allow them to get to know your offerings in any environment. Customers are bouncing around and engaging both online and offline. 

It’s critical that your products, offerings, and messages are consistent wherever they are placed. This way, you can store and manage master data records related to all of your customers and touchpoints. 


How to store offline and online data together


So it makes sense to understand your customers whether they come to you offline or online. Yet, many businesses struggle with bringing data from these two environments together. 

Holding customer data does come with responsibilities- you will need to consider privacy regulations and ensure that you let customers know when you are capturing and storing their data. If you chose suitable data systems, you can remove personally identifiable information and just get straight to the facts and figures you need. 


How to take action on the data - What does the data mean?


All this data has been delivered to you directly- so what to do with it now? A deep and rich data set is like gold for your marketing team. Accurate data sets give a great deal of insight into buying patterns, customer behaviour and prediction of purchases. 

Combining everything you know about a customer gives you a great opportunity to personalise your interactions with them- pointing them in the direction of products that might interest them, thanking them for their loyalty and reaching out at special events or milestones. This personalisation is exactly what most modern customers are after.

Data can also be used to enhance your brand and guide marketing campaigns, and lead to savings on ad creation and placement. Combined online and offline data is also beneficial for business with multiple shopfronts and stores. Marketing materials, display and promotions can be moved around to be set up where they will be most relevant and useful. 

Master customer data records are also incredibly useful for parent companies with franchises. Master customer records can show how customers have been engaged with different stores, to determine distance travelled, site preferences and other location-specific information. 

With a deep understanding of customer perspectives and behaviours, you can get more control over your stock and handling processes. You will have a much clearer picture about product demand and opportunities for future trends.

This, in turn, can help you create better budgets and stock control processes. By maintaining records about your products online, you can be pretty sure a high percentage of customers would have looked at these records before they head in-store to purchase. 

Ensuring your product information system is efficient and updated in real-time will help ensure customers don’t leave a shop disappointed when the item they wanted and thought was available, isn’t there. Ensure your offline customers can access consistent, detailed and accurate product information online to give them the confidence they need to come in and visit you in-store. 

Ultimately, you will have a better understanding of how online views are driving in-sale stores, and vice versa. Integrating and using online and offline data enables you to better assess marketing activities across various channels and environments and gain more accurate and holistic information than when using online data only. 


Using online information to create value in-store


There is strong evidence to suggest that the customer has done at least some research or review online for many, if not most of in-store retail purchases. According to Deloitte Digital research, smartphones influence 56 cents of every dollar spent in the store. 

So in the same way that offline data contributes to building your brand and improving your customer experience, so too can online information help you build brand loyalty for customers who visit you in-store.

Many companies use mobile phones to invite customers in the store- it could be inviting them in to scan a unique code with the possibility of winning a prize. Some enterprise businesses create interactive signage and other service offerings to encourage shoppers to log on to their accounts when they come in-store. 

With GPS and mapping data, you can information about in-store offers and products directly to the people who live, work or visit your area. In a recent study, Sailthru found that 33% of American customers have headed in-store as a result of an email offer or promotion.

Knowing your customers is essential. And a system that allows you to create master data records about your customers which are accurate and holistic. Combining online and offline data will help you to:
•    Learn about individual customer behaviour online, including online shops and social media
•    Use data from offline sources accurately and effectively
•    Create customer profiles and market segments
•    Use market segments to personalise correspondence and communications
•    Create customisable websites for customers 


Marketing benefit of combing online and offline data

Ultimately, this data set will enable you to do what all businesses need to do to survive and thrive in today’s climate. You will understand customer’s perspectives and objectives and create rich and compelling reasons to shop, interact and stay with you. 



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