Online-to-Offline: Facebook, Google Push Digital Metrics into Real World

Tracking and measurement are rapidly moving offline. This morning Facebook introduced what it’s calling “Conversion Lift Measurement,” which will allow Facebook advertisers (larger ones for now) to definitively track sales resulting from exposure to Facebook ads whether they’re online — or offline.

Online conversion tracking will be done with a conversion pixel or Custom Audiences pixel. Offline sales tracking requires marketers to upload sales data, which is then matched to control and exposed groups to determine lift. All data are encrypted to protect the identities of users.

The difference between the sales seen for the exposed group (those who saw the ads) vs. the control group (which did not) is the sales lift attributable to Facebook ads. Facebook makes adjustments for individual advertisers to take account of customer behavior and consideration lead time (e.g., cars vs. shoes) and other factors. This is why it’s being restricted for the present to larger advertisers with Facebook sales reps.

More important than the specifics of the Facebook program is the trend that it represents. Conversion Lift Measurement follows Google’s announcement last month of its Store Visits metric. Google uses location history and location services (for both iPhone and Android) to determine whether users have visited offline stores following a click on a paid-search ad.

NinthDecimal, xAd, PlaceIQ, Placed and others in the mobile world have been doing something similar, tracking mobile display ad exposures to the offline point of sale, for some time.

With its announcement today Facebook is advocating using conversion lift (sales) as an industry standard metric and getting away from abstract or proxy metrics such as clicks, impressions or even “engagement.” Sales or store visits don’t work for all advertisers or all campaigns. But the move toward more concrete metrics makes lots of sense for everyone.

We’re finally starting to approach “closed loop” measurement with digital advertising platforms increasingly enabling visibility into the connection between online (ads/research) and offline sales. I have been trying to educate and evangelize about this phenomenon and consumer pattern for more than a decade.

It’s exciting to see Facebook, Google and others innovating around offline tracking and leading the industry toward more “real world” measures of digital ad effectiveness.

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