The idea for Online to Offline (O2O) is twofold. First, to understand how advertising impacts sales and provide advertising attribution. Secondly, it is to “close the loop” on a sale, getting customers to register credit cards; or sign up for a club and/or submit reviews. Customers can be incented to give up their personal information with related promotions, loyalty points, cash back etc.
Part Two is harder. After several years, just tens of thousands of customers have signed up to O2O loyalty/incentive programs run by the likes of FiveStars, Belly, First Data’s Perka and Empyr. (Wallet providers like Square, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay also provide elements of O2O, mostly in terms of getting customer feedback.)
O2O growth may come quicker as network models take hold. Empyr, for instance, recently won distribution to Yelp and its millions of users. First Data is actively hawking Perka to its huge base of Clover Point of Sales customers.
But an attribution-only model seems the faster way to go because it doesn’t require user ID and is more universal. That’s the path taken by Google this week, which announced Google Attribution, a new program that lets SMBs match sales to ad campaigns.
Google vaguely says it has third party suppliers who can track ¾ of transactions in the U.S., probably at the Point of Sale. Merchants that sign up to the program can then determine whether customers were served ads via AdWords, and add or change their AdWords campaign.
The program is not entirely unique. Companies like SignPost and FreshLime also track sales to advertising. But Google can do it on an unprecedented scale.
While The Google Attribution program is anonymized, one imagines it can be stepped up with new features that specifically identify customers if the beta – scheduled to last several months –works out. As it is, we are seeing comments in the media from customers complaining about privacy issues, so Google needs to tread carefully.