Why digital marketers should unify online and offline customer data

David Howlett

Head of Data Science


Analytics and Data Science

Ever since users have been able to opt out of cookies, digital marketers have struggled to find effective methods, in order to gain a complete view of the user journey. Muddying the waters further, users can now interact with a brand through various touchpoints, such as online, in-app, as well as in-person, further fragmenting the already patchy customer journey.

A fragmented user journey can cause several issues for marketers, including imprecise (and often incorrect) attribution, and an incomplete understanding of their customer’s habits. So, what can digital marketers do with their data to create a credible picture of their customer’s journey?

The solution is to unify online and offline data in your CRM. This method weaves together a comprehensive understanding of the most impactful moments throughout the user journey. Without properly tying up these two types of data, marketers are missing out on the opportunity to assign value to the channels that truly matter within their digital marketing strategy.

Why centralise online and offline customer data?

With the current lack of user-provided data, leading to a fragmented user journey, it can be difficult for digital marketers to understand which campaigns are working, and those which need revising.

By centralising online and offline data, it allows marketers to gain a clearer picture of user behaviour, providing them with critical insights into the success of their efforts.

 

Centralising online and offline data enables digital marketers to:

  • Gain a holistic view of the customer journey
  • Improve attribution to the correct customer touchpoints
  • Empower data-driven decisions
  • Enhance strategies, which improve engagement.

To reap the full benefits of unifying online and offline customer data, marketers first need to understand the main differences between them.

What is online customer data?

Online data is any customer data that’s collected through digital platforms or events. Examples of online data include:

  • Social media channels
  • Emails
  • Clickstreams
  • In-app purchases
  • User-accepted cookies.

Online data can show what content your customers are consuming, which devices they’re using to interact with your website or online platforms, and the digital actions they are taking.

What is offline customer data?

Offline data is data collected outside of online platforms. Offline data can come from a variety of different sources, including:

  • Point-of-sale purchases
  • User surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Third-party data
  • Any other customer data that’s collated through offline interactions with customers.

Offline customer data is typically stored within internal applications, such as a CRM. This data often includes personal or confidential information including addresses, contact details and medical history.

Benefits of centralising online and offline data

The benefits of centralising your online and offline data are far-reaching. What it can empower you to do is enhance your digital strategies, so they incorporate greater accuracy and therefore, lead to stronger results.

When you combine your offline and online data, you can give context to what was previously anonymous online behaviour. What this enables you to do is track campaigns, so you can see if they lead to conversions, even if those conversions happen offline.

As well as this, you will begin to see how digital strategies can influence in-store sales and vice versa. This means marketers can identify high-value customers which enables them to deliver targeted impressions, leading to a stronger chance of conversion.

This more comprehensive view of data enables digital marketers to adjust their campaigns, in order to focus on the key touchpoints, that lead to the most frequent and highest-value conversions. With confidence that the past attributions are accurate, these adjustments can reduce wasted impressions and provide a more significant ROI.

Issues with data centralisation

Although unifying online and offline data gives you a much clearer view of how users interact with your business, the available data still has certain gaps within it. While there are ways around this, such as encouraging users to create accounts that can be tracked across different devices, the processes are far from perfect.

Digital marketers may overlook key insights, waste impression share, and misattribute conversions to less valuable channels. But, modelling, such as that provided by Google Analytics 4, can help fill these gaps with additional third-party data.

And even if there are still gaps remaining following this modelling, the user journey is far more cohesive when online and offline data are unified, rather than sitting in silo.

How unifying online and offline data lets you see your ideal customer

Overall, customer data, whether online or offline, provides digital marketers valuable insights into their ideal buyer. While each type of data can be beneficial on its own, when online and offline data are put together, it provides marketers with a much more comprehensive understanding of their customers’ habits, enabling them to see which activities lead to the most conversions and highest ROI.

Centralising online and offline data can provide marketers with key insights into their customer base, especially as we venture forward into a cookie-less digital world.

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