The Fallacy of Foot Traffic

by Chuck Moxley, CMO advertising, "campaign measurement", location, "sales lift", "store visits"
The Fallacy of Foot Traffic

There’s a common strategy error that can damage the success potential of a mobile ad campaign. It’s this: putting too heavy of a reliance on location signals without first understanding what location signals can tell you, and they what cannot – or often don’t.

The problem occurs when measuring campaign conversions using the ever-popular method of tracking store visits or foot traffic using ad requests.

This method is getting lots of hype these days in mobile advertising measurement. It’s embraced boldly by many brands and agencies to make sure they can prove a definite impact.

Many vendors using store visits methods for tracking campaign efficacy are able to aid marketers in campaign measurement. They generally use one of two ways to obtain store visit data:

  • The most popular and easiest way is to use the billions of ad requests generated daily, taking the device location and then mapping it to store and other points of interest to identify when a consumer is seen in a store.
  • The other way is using a selected panel of people with an app loaded on their phones who have opted in to send location data constantly from their device. This method is harder ( i.e., more $$$) since the provider must get many thousand participants and may have to incentivize them.
Both methods have flaws:
  • While it’s easy to measure store visits, both methods cannot prove Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). You only know that the device was in the store, not whether its owner made a purchase.
  • The location data collected is sometimes wrong. Even if it’s wrong by just 30 feet, you could attribute a store visit to the wrong store and skew your results.
  • If they did make a purchase, you don’t know what they purchased or how much they spent.
  • When platforms use ad requests to log foot traffic, the user must actually be on an ad-supported app while in the store, and there is no guarantee that they will use it while shopping.
In spite of these accuracy problems, store visits remain popular for measurement largely because more meaningful methods of linking mobile impressions to actual sales transactions is difficult.

And forget about using clicks/taps for measuring; with mobile devices in brick and mortar stores (where more than 90 percent of all purchases still occur today), there’s no correlation between clicks and sales.

Sure, store visits are better than clicks, thanks to mobile device location. Visits are a more logical connection between seeing an ad and seeing someone in a store. But all the store visits in the world won’t deliver a successful campaign if customers don’t visit the cash register.

In the end, store visits alone provide useful insight and an early read of campaign performance, but they are a poor measure of conversions.

Overcoming the Fallacy of Foot Traffic

Put measurement in its proper place. By all means, look at foot traffic from store visits. It’s still a useful metric, but the only way to get the full picture of a campaign’s performance is to trace ad impressions all the way through to the transaction – totally doable today. Many platforms do this, including 4INFO. It may not be as easy as measuring foot traffic because it does require linking the offline and digital data. But, it’s not as hard as it’s often perceived.

To reduce risk, go the extra mile and insist on measuring actual sales lift to get a meaningful analysis of conversions for your mobile ad campaigns. For most marketers, crushing it at the cash register is what really matters.