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February 21st, 2012

The Two Worlds of Online and Offline Measurement - Bridging the Gap

Consumer Behavior is Becoming More Complex

The truth is consumers are madly navigating between online and offline sources all the time. For instance, someone might see a car ad, and it raises their interest. So they check with friends online and offline, read online reviews, pick up a copy of AutoTrader (or Consumer Reports), do searches for price comparisons, and so on.

Launching a typical marketing campaign is akin to throwing a rock in a pond with traditional media or non-online event being the "rock." The media message reverberates throughout the social spectrum like shock waves through a still pond hit by a rock. A great example is Coke's recent "Honesty Campaign" [new window] in Portugal, a clever real life experiment that eventually went viral.

Minus the stimulus from the traditional media (or if the impact was beneath some observable threshold), the eventual social media buzz might be far less or nonexistent. Sure, marketers can hire a celebrity to drum up traffic or launch a video, hoping and praying it goes viral. But chances of a home run are slim.

The bottom line is that social-only strategies tend to be either unexpectedly expensive or have very low probability.

Ripple Effect of Traditional and Social Media

So the original media splash (an article, advertisement, etc.) is important - but just how important?

And what about the impact of word of mouth (WOM)? What sort of connection are we seeing between traditional media and offline WOM? What about between offline WOM and online social/WOM? Is online social a leading indicator for WOM and product sales?

Answers to these have been evolving for years as we test drive new theories, learn more mixing and matching and refine new analytic models. We may soon be challenging the existing wisdom of these relationships. We’ve already seen some things that suggest that different tools impact the buying process at different points in the funnel.

On the one hand, digital marketing tactics are gaining influence and their impact is rising. But focusing on one area alone, we're finding, provides only a partial picture. There's a need for a broader approach.

Measuring the Ripple Effect

The good news is we're very close to measuring the ripples from the rock in pond. Increasingly powerful new analytic capabilities are merging all of these activities so we can now take a holistic look at the “new sales funnel,” one richer, more dynamic, more fluid. Online and offline programs are starting to be measured together, seamlessly. This is providing us a fascinating look at the interplay between the two. The result that's emerging is a much more accurate, vivid snapshot of today’s consumer and their buying process.

Stay tuned. The fun's just beginning.

This is part 2 of a multi-part series on how analytics will change marketing and business. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as we explore key trends in the data analytics space.

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