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Decoding the Dilemma: What Is Foot-Traffic Attribution?

One of the first things we discuss with new clients is how we will measure the success of a campaign. For direct to consumer (DTC) companies with revenue tied into the digital ecosystem, the answer is usually more straightforward.

Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

However, measuring the effectiveness of an ad campaign for a physical location can be more difficult. One method of measuring success is called foot-traffic attribution.

Essentially, foot traffic attribution is a system of measuring if someone who was exposed to your ad showed up at the location you are advertising. Simple, right?

Well, it's not quite as simple as it sounds.

While digital advertising excels at capturing online conversions, determining the impact on physical store visits remains a tricky challenge.

Let's take a look at the complexities surrounding foot-traffic attribution and explore the reasons why it proves to be such a formidable task for digital advertisers.

The Offline-Online Divide:

Foot-traffic attribution attempts to bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds.

Online campaigns generate data-rich insights, such as click-through rates and conversions, which are relatively easy to track and attribute. However, once the customer steps out of the virtual realm and enters a physical store, tracking their journey becomes considerably more complex.

The lack of a direct and seamless connection between online impressions and offline actions adds to the intricacy of foot-traffic attribution.

Data Privacy and Consent:

Brands often rely on various data sources such as location data, mobile apps, or beacon technology to accurately measure foot-traffic attribution.

However, as digital advertising becomes more sophisticated, concerns surrounding data privacy and user consent have led companies like Apple to provide opt-out solutions that reduce the amount of mobile data advertisers can collect. This means the true picture of foot-traffic is often modeled data which is not 100% accurate.

Multi-Channel Consumer Journeys:

Modern consumers engage with brands through a multitude of channels, both online and offline. They might see an advertisement on social media, conduct an online research, visit a physical store, and ultimately make a purchase.

The challenge lies in accurately tracking and attributing foot-traffic to the initial point of contact that led customers to visit a brick-and-mortar location. The complexity of this multi-channel journey often results in a fragmented attribution model that struggles to assign accurate credit to each touchpoint.

Attribution Time Lag:

Another obstacle foot-traffic attribution faces is time lag. Customers may view an online ad, but their physical store visit might not occur immediately. It could take hours, days, or even weeks for the desired action to materialize. Determining which ad campaign or touchpoint influenced the visit becomes exceedingly difficult when there is a considerable time gap.

Attribution models need to account for this delay and accurately attribute foot-traffic to the correct advertising efforts.

In-Store Experience Factors:

Foot-traffic attribution assumes that once customers visit a physical store, they are more likely to make a purchase.

However, numerous factors come into play within the store environment that can influence buying decisions. Store layout, product availability, customer service, and even competitors' offerings can sway a customer's intentions. Accurately attributing foot-traffic solely to digital advertising efforts becomes arduous when other in-store variables play a significant role.

For example, if you are advertising a new salad dressing, a grocery store visit after ad exposure may be coincidental and not tied to a sale.

Scale Issues:

Foot traffic attribution requires a minimum number of physical locations to accurately assess campaign success. In many cases it’s a required minimum to stay clear of privacy issues. This means it won’t be available for small to medium size franchises and chains.

While digital advertising has revolutionized the marketing landscape, accurately attributing foot-traffic to online campaigns remains a perplexing challenge. As the advertising industry evolves, finding effective solutions will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in unlocking the true potential of digital advertising's impact on physical store visits.

If you are interested in a campaign to drive foot-traffic, please reach out. We'd love to chat and learn more about your goals!

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