While the number of people shopping online is steadily growing, a new study also suggests that online research affects offline buying decisions. The study by Bazaarvoice suggests that 82% of smartphone users do online research on their devices before making a purchase in a brick-and-mortar store.
To estimate this effect, analysts created a metric known as Research Online Purchase Offline (ROPO). While this is an important metric that shows how effective a company is at establishing its online reputation, many businesses don’t really know how to track their ROPO ratio.
According to Bazaarvoice, approximately 45% of brick-and-mortar buyers read online reviews before making a purchase. The number, however, could be different for your industry and for your business. To calculate your ROPO rate accurately, you will need to follow a number of important steps, and you’ll also have to rely on dedicated software, such as CRM and business intelligence tools.
The Problem with Traditional Online Metrics
Online metrics like website visits or a click-through rate (CTR) provide valuable information on the performance of a campaign in the online realm. Such metrics, however, cannot account for what people do offline.
While online research is the one thing that most consumers do today to find the right products and services, multiple studies suggest that the vast majority of purchases still occurs offline. A 2017 US Census Bureau report suggests that 92% of retail sales still occur in a physical store.
Most buyers say that they want to feel a product in person before buying. This is one of the primary factors maintaining the popularity of traditional sales. In addition, consumers have responded that they can’t wait for a product to be delivered to them and that they are worrying about privacy when shopping online.
Whatever the reason, it’s clear that some of these consumers look for information online, and they’re drawn to a particular store because of web-based reviews and presentations. To measure this impact, business owners and marketers can do several things.
How to Account Accurately for ROPO Consumers
Let’s face it – establishing an accurate ROPO rate will be a challenge. In one study, Google measured the rate by monitoring configurations of online and offline advertising for three different German markets. The results of the research were compared to revenue levels. Obviously, such an approach is prone to error and bias. An additional qualitative component can be added to boost accuracy.
One of the simplest things to do is to carry out a point-of-sale survey. In-store customers can be asked whether they’ve researched products online in order to make up their mind.
Analysts from ecommerce development company Iflexion suggest additional strategies that businesses can rely on to determine the ROPO share of revenue:
- Tracking relevant local online traffic (for example, people looking for the address of the company’s physical store).
- Creating online coupons and discount codes and analyzing their usage at an actual physical location.
- Carrying out in-depth online surveys (while such can be difficult to get off the ground, the provision of the right stimulus could potentially increase the willingness of website visitors to participate in the online poll).
- Using a unique toll-free number that’s solely available on your website to track the percentage of these calls out of all the phone inquiries the company gets.
- Promote a certain campaign via your online channels and measure the in-store impact (for example, run a PPC campaign that features a certain call to action for a store visit and measure the impact). While correlation isn’t always equal to causation, you can still see the effectiveness of your online messages.
Similar experiments can be carried out to assess how effective your mobile presence is. For example, you can have special coupons made available solely through your smartphone app. Reliance on a multi-channel approach will show you the strength of your online presence, regardless of the technology that your customers use. As the number of people using a smartphone to do product research is growing, such a comprehensive ROPO calculation approach will make a lot of sense.
It’s All about Systemic Data Reviews
As a marketer or an entrepreneur today, you have access to tons of data. A systemic approach to the analysis of such information is one of the keys to calculating your ROPO rate.
One of the things you can do is collecting data about your online orders, if you have an ecommerce website. Next, collect all information you have about offline purchases and about the online behavior of the same person. You can, for example, link loyalty cards to the unique user ID your website visitors get in Google Analytics. Through such a connection, you will have 100% accurate information on the in-store behavior of people who have visited your website and used online options for joining your loyalty program.
Information about the customer loyalty program is also entered in your CRM software. Thus, you can bring yet another powerful tool in the ROPO calculation process. If you want to, you can calculate the amount of time it took from the issuing of the loyalty card to the store visit and the purchase of a product. Through such an integrated approach, you will gain access to even more in-depth information about online behavior and the specific parameters of its impact on offline purchases.
All of this data can then be visualized with the help of business intelligence software and made available to both sales and marketing teams. Through filtering and proper visualization, these company reps will know what the ROPO rate is, which groups of customers are prone to offline purchases after online research, and which digital channels had the biggest impact on their activities.
To gather even more data, you can rely on a digital touch point in the store itself. An e-receipt or a web-based warranty system will give you additional data about the people who have bought something at a physical location. Upon the completion of the respective action, you will get the information required to match the particular buyer to a certain type of online behavior.
Remember one final thing – even if you do everything possible to track offline conversions, you will still miss a portion of the people who carried out online research before visiting your store. This is especially true for companies that carry out multiple inbound campaigns via an array of channels.
Tracking and analytical capabilities may be limited for the respective channel, which is why the ROPO data may be somewhat inaccurate. Still, you will find out what approximate percentage of offline purchases your online presence has inspired. Based on this information, you will be able to enhance your campaigns/website for the purpose of optimizing the conversion rate in the future.