Tracking Offline Email Conversions

Email is a unique channel. Because it is sent digitally, and click-throughs drive traffic online, retail email marketing is traditionally thought of as only driving ecommerce orders.

It is often thought of in the same vein as something like search engine marketing, which directly drives traffic and conversions exclusively online in much the same way that direct mail has traditionally been thought to drive only in-store traffic.

It’s time to reconsider the conventional wisdom, however. Used correctly, email marketing drives a significant amount of traffic and revenue in the online and in-store worlds.

In just the last six months the industry has seen an 80% increase in the number of emails being opened on mobile devices. With this rapid increase in mobile consumption of emails, email conversions are just as, if not more, likely to happen in-store.

But don’t get me wrong, tracking offline conversions from email can prove to be challenging. The following are examples of some of the tactics used in the industry to drive and track offline conversions.

Unique Barcodes

The current state of the point-of-sale (POS) system will determine whether you have the ability to scan barcodes, or even enter a code. If the POS system can support it and the message includes a promotional offer, then include a barcode in the email to be scanned at time of redemption. This allows conversions to be tracked in direct correlation to the email campaign.

Even better, include a barcode that is unique to the subscriber. Unique barcodes allow you to know exactly which subscribers converted — even what SKUs each individual purchased. This allows for more relevant future messaging, based on previous purchase behaviors.

Including a unique barcode also prevents the email from being posted and over-used on coupon sites, blogs or forwarded to a large list. Not all retailers are concerned with this type of coupon abuse, but, when you employ this technique, it doesn’t hurt to include a message about it being “for one use only” for customer service reasons, as in this example from Banana Republic.

Banana Republic - Unique Barcode - Do Not Forward Example

Unique barcode creation can sound intimidating but is actually rather straightforward. Think of a barcode as a set of numbers unique to a product (or in this case, individual), displayed in a series of lines.

The barcode number usually consists of a unique ID assigned to the subscriber followed by a promotion code, and the last digit is the sum of all previous digits. The lines are created by applying a font to those numbers.

Applying a different font creates a different type of barcode. A number of toolsets exist to generate barcodes in mass quantities and track the individual barcodes images. Each image is then referenced as a URL in the email, by leveraging dynamic content or personalization in your ESP tool.

Mystery Offer

A “Mystery Offer” is a slightly different take on barcodes and is particularly effective at driving traffic to brick-and-mortar locations. In this type of promotion, customers must scan the barcode in-store to discover the value of their offer.

Mystery campaigns typically promote a tiered level of offer, like in this example below from Reebok. This requires the subscriber to bring the email in-store, hence the call-to-action “Find a Store.”

Reebok Mystery Coupon Example


Keep in mind that the email will need to be print-friendly if you are including a barcode for scanning — and that involves more than just the barcode.

Your customers will appreciate you limiting the heavy graphics in the email and conserving their printer ink, or linking to a print-friendly version, as in this example from Gordmans.

Gordmans - Unique Barcode Example

Rather than including a “Find a Store” link, Gordmans displays the three closest locations and store hours in the footer of the email, making it easy for the customer to drive to a store nearby.

By clicking the printer-friendly link in the email, you’re taken to a landing page that only contains the content that is absolutely necessary, again limiting the content to be printed (as depicted in the screen capture below).

Gordmans Print Friendly Landing Page

Tracking the number of times an email or its associated landing page was printed is another measurement of the offline reach of an email. Be warned, however, that it is not a reliably accurate one because it is a reflection of how many subscribers intended to redeem the offer, and not necessarily how many subscribers actually redeemed it.

The ability to track how many times an email was printed is available through some tracking tools, such as Litmus.

Tracking the number of times a landing page was printed can also be done via the number of clicks on a “print” call-to-action, if you’ve provided one.

Attendance At Events

If the invitation was strictly digital, then judging uptake is easy. You can judge the raw number of attendees, or even request that attendees show their email on their phone or print the email as their “ticket” to enter the event, thereby tracking the source at time of arrival.

If the invitations were sent via more than just email, then have your attendees complete a brief survey before leaving the event and ask them how they heard about the event.

Retailer Crazy 8 combined tactics for their grand opening invitation and included a trackable barcode — a strategy that makes a lot of sense as they’ll be able to use the POS purchase information to tailor their future messaging to the preferences of that consumer.

Crazy 8 - Grand Opening Example

In this example from Victoria’s Secret, an online RSVP request is included. This is a great way to estimate attendance of an event to ensure adequate staffing, number of promotional giveaways, or food and beverage.

Victoria's Secret - RSVP Example

In this example from Helzberg Diamonds, subscribers are invited to schedule an appointment by calling the store.

In this case, it is necessary for the local store staff to be trained and aware of the invitations, and to appropriately respond to incoming calls and inquiries.

Helzberg Diamonds Restyle Event Email

Caught Between Two Worlds

Some marketing channels have clearer offline conversion paths than email, which has traditionally been targeted for online redemption. The customer can easily open the email and click through to buy online.

But they can also just as easily open the email and stop by a store to make a purchase, especially with the rapid increase in mobile consumption of emails. That physical interaction has a number of unique benefits, as well — not the least of which are the strong possibility of upsell and the increase in affinity due to brand immersion at your outlet.

To effectively measure the offline results of an email campaign, you need to be ready to measure at the retail outlet. POS redemption data is required to prove the effectiveness of offline conversions to determine the revenue associated with the campaign. Event attendance data is required to prove the effectiveness of promoting an in-store event.

Marketing departments need this data to develop and evaluate their email campaign plans, and, in a perfect world, email marketing budgets would be allocated under the assumption that the associated spend supports both on and off-line revenue targets.

This can be an internal struggle for some organizations where the email marketing team and budget are assumed to support only the ecommerce or .com department, but proof points can easily be implemented to help bridge this gap in understanding.

Email is mobile and mobile is online and offline. It is quickly becoming mainstream to leverage mobile devices for payment, as evidenced by something as seemingly ubiquitous as the Starbucks loyalty app.

Starbucks App - Payment

Retailers that embrace the mobile movement, especially in the most affordable marketing channel — email — will see larger revenue results from their email campaigns. In an economy where every dollar counts, this could be the focus and shift that could accelerate a smart retailer past their competition.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Email Marketing | Conversion Rate Optimization | Email Marketing | Email Marketing Column


About The Author: is Director of Digital Direct/eCRM at DEG, a full-service digital consultancy based in Kansas City. Leveraging her 14 years of experience and thought leadership in digital direct marketing, she and her team lead email and SMS strategy, integrations, and campaign execution for flagship brands like Crocs, Helzberg Diamonds, MathWorks, Cabela's, Life is Good, and TITLE Boxing. In her spare time she runs half marathons, cheers on her beloved Royals, and drinks copious amounts of coffee while trying to exhaust her eight year-old daughter, five year-old boy, and one year-old golden retriever.

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