In-store digital attribution and Sitecore xDB

We've spent a lot of time with multi-channel brands recently.  About half our Sitecore business over the last 2 years has been with retail.  I've written several times about consumer brands dealing with channel conflict.  The multi-channel retailer often times has a bit of internal channel conflict going on as well - web sales vs. in-store sales.  Even though the teams are part of the same company there can often be division between the online and in-store departments.  Each may have a set of sales targets that do not have sufficient cross-channel attribution.  An on-line sale that included an in-store visit may not credit the store for their contribution.  Conversely, an in-store sale may not credit a pay-per-click campaign for generating the awareness, and online product showrooming & reviews for driving the customer to the store.  The lack of cross channel attribution can often lead to a zero-sum mindset within these two departments.  So much for being on the same team…

Credit where credit's due

In order to get us all (back) on the same team we need to realize that, regardless of where we take the order (online or in-store) there are a lot of different customer touch-points that influence the propensity to purchase.  This credit is typically manifested in the form of a digital attribution model.  Over time, the term digital will slip away and we'll have a multi-channel, multi-campaign, multi-journey segment attribution model that marketers & merchandisers will use as their scorecard.  For now, we'll color within the lines of the digital attribution model.  

To build a model, we need to be able to capture, store and evaluate sale related data.

  • Goal event data:  We need the amount of the sale, any applied discounts/promos, whether this is a first time customer, what they bought.
  • User journeydata:  What visitor activities occurred that can provide insights into purchase influence
  • Campaign data:  What campaigns can we associate with visitor awareness and visitor re-engagement

Let's think about this with a use case - Lets say I buy a 3 piece sectional sofa from a local furniture store.  Absent any user journey data, the sale credit should go to the store.  But what if we can associate my activity prior to walking into the store?  What if I look like this? 

  • I see a television commercial that has a special URL (attribution = TV) and visit the site
  • I do enough online research within sofas that I trigger an on-site research conversion (attribution = online merchandising)
  • The next day I return to the site from Facebook retargeting (attribution = Facebook paid campaign)
  • I read enough reviews on 2 or 3 sofas that I trigger another active interest conversion (attribution = user generated content)
  • I drive to the store the next day and buy a sofa

Armed with this valuable visitor data we can construct an attribution model that credits advertising campaigns for awareness, that credits the web for its influence on product research and credits the retail store for final sale.  By aligning purchase data with visitor profile information (pattern cards) we can establish a quotient that scores a digital influence level.  The higher the correlation between purchase and visit, the higher the digital influence level.  Models can get very sophisticated over time, but it's best to start small & simple.  

Sitecore xDB

So, how do we collect all this data.  The online and campaign data is captured out-of-the-box with Sitecore.  I'm sure we're all tracking that now.  Store data resides in our point of sale (POS) systems and can be appended to an augmented xDB through direct integration or by using Sitecore's Data Exchange Framework.  Our last challenge is to merge the customer record from POS that's now in xDB with the prior unidentified browser activity.  The simplest way to manage that is to send the customer a Sitecore originated email and entice them to click on a link.  That click will merge any prior web sessions into a single contact and will then display the customer's online history, and that's what enables the attribution reporting. 

Now, we're not going to be able to get everyone to close the loop for us, but lets consider the digital world we live in today.  We have mature loyalty programs and email receipt options at the register.  A one-click product registration along with a promotion or warranty extension…?  Put your marketing hat on here.  

You may have noticed that I've only covered the attribution associated with in-store sales.  In-store attribution for digital sales seems to be a smaller concern at the moment.  There are opportunities to do more of a two-way attribution model, but it may require more infrastructure- in-store wifi, beacons, etc. 

Note:  This is obviously not a technical post.  I'm surfacing ideas and sharing thoughts on how to put those ideas into practice.  Things like Data Exchange Framework configuration, xDB customization and some finer points on session merging require a deeper conversation.  If you'd like to discuss any topics here, please reach out.