Online-Offline Integration – Is It Happening?


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Just about a year ago, I had the chance to publish my book on mutlichannel marketing metrics. The aim was to create a “how to” book that would enable analytics oriented marketers to integrate online and offline data.

Why bother?

Because customers interact with our companies across online and offline channels. They may see our ads on TV, do their research on the web site, yet purchase in our store.

Therefore, both the person tasked with putting an ROI value on the TV ad as well as the direct marketer benefit from knowing how to integrate insights across online and offline.

But now it is a year later.

And the good question that I want to check on is whether more companies have turned the idea of online-offline integration into reality.

In the past 12 months, I have had the chance to tour through Europe and US to speak with many marketers from online and more traditional sides of the house.

Here is what I am finding as to how far companies have come.

  • Online – offline integration has not yet become mainstream
  • But there are more and more examples of companies implementing something and those who do have great business results to show for
  • It isn’t always about online and offline channel integration though. Instead it is plenty lucrative enough for online marketers to integrate their click data from web analytics with their online customer data (e.g. customer type, value,etc.). There are now a numerous companies that have taken this step.

The reader would like some examples now, I realize. Allow me to save the examples for the next blog post so that this one doesn’t get too long.

Before then I should point out some things though that haven’t changed in the past year, as far as I can tell.

What are still the most frequently asked question?

The questions that I get now are still the same ones that I got a year earlier. Namely, typically:the following:

  • Most site visitors are anonymous, so is the thought of mapping site visitors to customers unrealistic?
  • Some 20% of Internet users delete their cookies regularly making tracking across multiple visits a limited success. Is this a red flag?
  • Are privacy considerations a red flag for integrating data?
  • Some marketers wonder why they should look at their customers’ click data closely now given that they haven’t yet used other data sources that are available to them to the fullest potential.

Lots to be said there. More than fits in this post. So let me dig deeper in future posts.

Which industries seem to be doing the best job at online offline integration?

The leaders today seem to be in the area of highly considered purchases such as automotive, group travel, telco, real estate, B2B high-tech, etc. Common to these industries is that

  • Before the WWW, buyers used to get all their advice from a live sales person whereas today most initial research occurs online in a DIY fashion.
  • The buying process often crosses online and offline channels, e.g. just like the example at the beginning of this post.

Oh and there is another great sign of change coming.

All direct marketing conferences (e.g. DMA, CMA, NCDM) contain lots of sessions on web analytics now (and of course social marketing too). Likewise, web analytics conferences have featured speakers from more traditional marketing disciplines.

At most companies there is still a big canyon between the online and offline groups. But we are beginning to take a peek across the divide and check each other out.

More to follow …


  1. For many, the fully integrated multi-channel experience is still a work in progress, Akin, I think you are right about that. Just read the latest Forrester Wave assessing technologies for Customer Communication Management. No single vendor achieved the end-to-end leadership rating, but many are getting close. Pitney Bowes Business Insight, for example, rated as a strong performer overall. They ranked highest (leadership level) in structured output, and came in as a strong performer in both interactive and on-demand communications. Have posted a link if you want to read the full Forrester report.

  2. I’m on the board of a company that is using offline data to deliver hyper targeted banner ads online.

    The goal is to minimize wasted impressions and only show ads to consumers who will find the information relevant to their needs and interests and, when appropriate, when there is a retail location within physical proximity.

    The results have been excellent. Lower cost because you aren’t purchasing impressions that are irrelevant to your business goals and much higher impact and/or response rates because the message connects with the targeted consumers who can take action.

    But your larger point is correct. There are very few people who are comfortable walking on both sides of the fence. For those of us who are, there is huge opportunity.

  3. Hi James, very well taken comment. Targeting ad banners based on offline customer information or previous web site behavior is a great example of what is out there.

    The version of using previous site side activity seems to be becoming somewhat more mainstream with a few vendors and agencies helping to facilitate the process.

    I have been referring to the latter as onsite-offsite integration. It is almost as if ad banners, emails, and widgets are an extension of the web site whereas they used to be rather silo’d separate channels. I think the era of onsite-offsite integration is upon us now whereas online-offline is still a few steps behind.

    Thanks for adding your experience!

  4. Akin, based on my recent study on “cross-channel” buying experiences, I’d say that progress is happening but it’s very slow. Orchestrating multiple channels is hard enough when they’re all electronic.

    But tracking customers across online and offline touchpoints seems to be an initiative that only a small percentage of companies attempt and do well. Some of the obstacles reported included making the business case, integration to legacy systems and just managing the overall complexity.

    The good news is that there is a win for companies that improve the customers’ multi-channel buying experience — higher buyer loyalty and sales conversion. More details at this recorded webcast (free registration required):

    Selling the “New Consumer” with Smart Conversations, Not Blind Automation

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  5. Thank you for weighing in Bob and sharing the data.

    On the point of building the business case, I just came off of a Webcast at the Web Analytics Association where my client National Instruments presented how they use web data to prioritize and profile leads for the offline sales team. So it is an example of online to offline integration.

    The speaker built the business case through a bootstrapping approach. At first she pulled data feeds from the web analytics solution which they loaded onto a server under her desk. They had searched around in the office and found some idle server which they used for this.

    Of course, it was painful and slow and manual. But the first success results came in from working with the prioritized target list. They were very positive.

    As a result the project got funding and more sophisticated tools and is now being used in marketing too.

    Interesting to see how innovative and entrepreneurial people are unstoppable sometimes!

    Hopefully, many more will follow.

    I will post the replay link once available


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