tracking-offline-transactionsWhile we often debate how effectively we can track ROI online, it’s occasionally worth stepping back and remembering that the ability to track transactions and engagement points online is actually a  luxury.

In the offline domain the ability to effectively track ads and effectiveness can be severely limited. How do you know if your billboard campaign is effective?

Here’s a few ways to track what customers are up to when they’re off the grid.


The most basic of metrics but one of the most revealing for offline campaigns.

If you experience a sudden rush to your site as an offline campaign launches or even as a specific ad airs, you can be reasonably sure that it’s affecting web traffic. While this won’t account for everyone it is a reasonable indicator of interest.

If you have several campaigns running at once then you may wish to use this to track brand awareness rather than specific campaign success. 

You can also hone in on this by localising your offline efforts. Track localised traffic bursts for maximum accuracy.


Having a specific code or phrase related to a campaign is an old tactic but it’s still useful, especially if you have a wide range of products available.

By allocating exact codes you can track touch points easily, both through direct response and by tracking searches for your specific code or phrase.

Remember to match SEO around key phrases before launching in order to generate solid results here.


This might sound obvious but many businesses still funnel their tracking. If you experience an increase in online sales, then remember to attribute it to all campaigns.

It’s easy to say “sales are up 14%, our new Facebook campaign is really paying off” while forgetting about the impact your print ads had on this.

Make sure you include web branding and URLs on all your offline literature to increase cross-channel effect, and consistently track searches for specific products by volume for more accurate metrics.


Increasingly consumers are putting their trust in word of mouth, so add space on your site for reviews, questions and comments about specific products.

Most customers who leave an opinion will have already bought the product so others will feel confidant they’re getting an accurate and trustworthy look at your product.

If you have a series of campaigns running, ask customers to tell you more about where and when they purchased.

Unique URLs

If you want to accurately track conversion from offline promotions, then it’s worth considering setting up campaign specific sites and landing pages.

Not only will this provide consumers with an easily remembered phrase or URL to search for, but you can use it as a redirect to your main site and more easily isolate the figures your offline campaign is generating.


Again, search queries can really pay off here so make sure you are tracking phrases related to your offline campaign in addition to your regular keywords.

For example, you may be running a TV ad that has a great soundtrack. Keep an eye on searches for that song, and for related searches like ‘xxx product ad tune’.

While these may not be transferring directly into sales they do show that you are having impact offline.

In addition, check your usual web channels. Is there an increase in blog posts about your product or about a specific campaign or are you receiving an increase in links from new sources?

For digital marketers it’s often tempting to think of offline as less sophisticated. However, just as online we have the option to measure email, direct, paid and organic search, affiliates and any number of other factors, offline represents a huge range of interactions and possible effects.

The ultimate goal here is to effectively map customer behavior.

By increasing your efforts to track offline, you’ll also be able to promote your multichannel more effectively, and improve your service across the board.

Matt Owen

Published 6 August, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen is a marketing consultant based in London. He was previously Head of Social at Econsultancy and currently runs Atomise Marketing. Opinions expressed are author's own.

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Comments (10)

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Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

Absolutely - It is so interesting talking to offline FMCG marketers who have always tracked in these less granular but more holistic ways. Interestingly I feel that we are often tempted to concentrate on the absolutely trackeable - just as you said Matt, there are often other offline influences at work. Customers online are living and experiencing both on and offline - they are of course the same people!

about 8 years ago


Simon Cooper

Having previously worked at a Direct Marketing agency before I moved into Paid Search, I noticed a big difference in the tracking, and it's interesting to see how we can bring these two worlds of off and online together. As Rob says, they are the same people.

For me, the short URLs are interesting and I've started to see these being used in a number of offline areas. In magazines for instance linking to further articles and info on a publishers site.  This has the added benefit of being able to optimise the editorial content based on the popularity of click throughs.

Surprised to not see any mention of QR codes here, which again are already becoming prevalent.  Pepsi have been using one their bottle wrappers for some time. Use a trackable URL in that code, and you can easily track off to online activity. 

There's also a current poster campaign for the Tree-Athalon that I noticed was using a QR Code.

Also surprised there is no mention of unique telephone numbers.

about 8 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Marketing Consultant at Atomise Marketing

very good point about QR Simon, I think as genuine multichannel becomes more prevalent we'll all have to think about the wider sphere of influence, especially if we want to keep an eye on brand equity alongside sales, codes and stickybits are a useful addition for anyone dealing in physical goods or reliant on footfall.

about 8 years ago

Merinda Peppard

Merinda Peppard, Head of Marketing, EMEA at Adobe

Great topic Matt, very interesting and hugely important. While we know that consumers often research online and purchase offline, many companies just don’t have a way of linking sales to the keyword advertising that generated them. This is really important to understand which keywords are profitable, especially for those companies that have a lot of call centre conversions. Something that works well for Efficient Frontier clients is to ensure call centre staff take the customer's email address to confirm the booking. Then, when the customer clicks on the link to verify their email address, a conversion pixel is fired that links the customer to the previously installed cookie on the user’s computer which can be matched up to the original search term used. It's a great way of tracking those offline conversions!

about 8 years ago



This is a very useful article, we concentrate too much on tracking on-line sales where off-line sales is also equally important. Thanks for the advice. As always, your site has always been helpful.

about 8 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - business development mentor

I'd also add that there are a number of very good telephone tracking solutions that in our experience work very well. In simple terms different telephone numbers are displayed to website visitors depending on where they have clicked from i.e. paid ad, natural listing, email link, etc. This allows companies to track telephone sales back to their original source - very useful indeed as relying on sales staff to ask (and indeed expecting an accurate answer back from the customer) rarely works.

about 8 years ago

Dominic Geary

Dominic Geary, Managing Partner at Carat (Leeds)

Depending on the advertsier we would also advocate retail footfall analysis whereby you measure potential uplift pre and post activity. In addition, by pulsing or isolating your media depolyment you can  better understand its contribution to the bottom line. However, in order to do this effectively you need to understand how each channel responds. For example does it have the immediancy of television or the potential lag of magazines.

about 8 years ago


Bangalow Accommodation

Agree with watching traffic change and unique url's but codes is difficult to implement, alot of people are too embarrassed to hand in a voucher.

about 8 years ago


Keri Morgret

I second what Rosie Freshwater has to say, and want to add that you can also provision unique phone numbers for offline media (billboards, radio, newspaper) and tie it into a single dashboard, and end up viewing all of your leads in one place and without having telephone staff need to track anything.

almost 8 years ago


Adrien O'Leary

Hi Matt, can you share more insights on how to generate and manage codes when you only have one shop? Thanks.

over 5 years ago

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