We’re huge advocates of understanding the shopper journey and the impact this insight can have on engagement and retail sales. Here we look at advancements in tracking that journey and what it means to retailers.

The complex nature of how people shop today makes it difficult for omni-channel retailers to connect digital ads with footfall and offline sales. While click thru rates can give some indication of performance, they don’t capture the complexity of today’s customer journey.

Showrooming – examining products in a traditional store and then shopping online to buy the item for a cheaper price – is rife.

As is its counter process ROPO – researching online, purchasing offline – a theory which has been around a few years now and one of the major points of discussion it has spurred is around tracking and measurement.

At the recent POPAI conference, Google presented its ideas for web tracking and how it can be more useful in relation to ROPO. It cited two pieces of interesting data* to guide the discussion – 65% of consumers move between devices while shopping online and one in two perform ROPO.

The issue of tracking goes far wider than just the places that consumers visit – online and offline – before making a purchase, it also spans device.

Shoppers could start their journey on their smartphone while on the way to work, browse for more in-depth information on their PC while at work, go into the store at lunch to feel and touch the product and then finally purchase on their tablet while at home.

It’s virtually impossible to link this journey together; it appears as several different devices, and therefore shoppers. But this is where Google comes in with ‘estimated total conversions’ – a development which started to be introduced at the end of last year and which has the ability to track what people do, across several devices.

Using data from users who have signed into their Google accounts, buying and browsing behaviour can be tracked on any device. As well as capturing that someone has visited a store, they can also use GPS and Wifi to look at that journey in terms of how long someone has lingered in a specific area and if they’ve engaged with a member of staff.

So what does this mean for retailers?

Retailers certainly have a feel of the different ways their online ad spend is influencing behaviour across several devices. But while uplift in sales may be visible a couple of weeks after a campaign, it can’t currently be wholly accounted for, the process is not transparent.

Google’s new development instils confidence, gives insight to the number of conversions across devices. The whole process becomes more transparent as it will be clear how shoppers have engaged with a brand at every level.

Tracking complex customer journeys, which are inevitable for omni-channel retailers, will be vastly improved. It means that retailers will have a much better understanding of who their customers are and the way they shop and engage with their proposition.

Ultimately it’s all about proving incremental sales and tracking ad spend, as well as breaking down silos in customer communication between websites, mobile sites or applications and POS. This is a giant step forward, which has to be commended.

*Google Consumer Commerce Barometer Q3 2012

Adam Tregaskis