Why Digital Marketers Should Unify Online and Offline Customer Data

David Howlett

Head of Data Science

Analytics and Data Science

Online and offline customer touchpoints define a user’s journey from prospect to sale. Without properly tying up these two types of communication in a CRM, marketers are missing the opportunity to assign value to the channels that truly matter within their digital marketing strategy.

Ever since users have been able to opt out of cookies, marketers have struggled to find new and effective methods to generate 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. Given this, it’s not hard to see why one recent study found that 56% of CEOs have concerns regarding the integrity of their customer data.

So, what can marketers do with the data they have to create a credible picture of their users? 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.  

Digital marketing team connecting online and offline data.

Why centralize 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 which need revising. By centralizing online and offline data, marketers can gain a clearer picture of their user’s behavior, allowing them to gain critical insights into the success of their eforts.

Centralizing online and offline data can enable digital marketers to

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

To reap the benefits of data unification, marketers first need to understand the differences between online and offline data.

What is online customer data?

Online data includes any customer data collected from online channels and events. Data from social media, emails, clickstreams, in-app purchases, and (albeit less frequently since rises in data privacy) user-accepted cookies, are all examples of online data. Online data can show what content your customers are consuming, which devices they’re using to interact with your business, and their digital actions.  

What is offline customer data? 

Offline data is data collected outside of online or digital platforms. It can come from a myriad of 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, like a CRM. This data is often personally identifiable and may include contact information, demographic data, and loyalty card details.  

Benefits of centralizing online and offline data 

The benefits of centralizing your data are far-reaching and can empower you to enhance your strategies with greater accuracy and results.  

For example, when you combine your offline and online data, you can give context to what was previously anonymous online behavior. This can enable you to track campaigns, to see if they lead to conversions, even if those conversions happen offline. 

You will begin to see how digital strategies influence in-store sales and vice versa. Furthermore, marketers can identify high-value customers enabling them to deliver targeted impressions, with a stronger chance of conversion. 

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

Issues with data centralization

While unifying online and offline data generates a clearer view of your users, their habits, and how they 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 various devices, available processes are far from airtight.

As such, marketers may overlook key insights, waste impression share, and misattribute conversions to less valuable channels. However, modeling, such as that provided by Google Analytics 4, can help fill these gaps with additional third-party data. And, even with the remaining gaps, the user journey is far more cohesive when online and offline data are connected to one another, 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 with valuable insights into their ideal buyer. While each type of data can be beneficial on its own, when online and offline data is unified, it provides marketers with a comprehensive understanding of their customers’ habits, enabling them to see which online or offline activities lead to the most conversions and ROI. 

Centralizing 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. 

Do you need help developing a comprehensive attribution strategy? Search Laboratory will work with you as a strategic growth partner to achieve your goals.


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