It’s a tale as old as advertising:

  1. You run ads promoting your business.
  2. People shop at your business.
  3. You have no idea whether those people were actually reached or impacted by your marketing efforts.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3.

One of the traits of online advertising that had got everyone really excited in the early 2000s was its trackability. Assuming you had your online ads set up properly, you could know when someone saw your ad, interacted with it, went to your website and made a purchase. It was the perfect ecosystem; we could now tell the exact ROI of our online ad spend and make all our decisions based on that data. Huzzah!

As I’m sure you know, this only paints a small fraction of the picture of the impact of digital advertising.

Savvy advertisers learned quickly that the internet and its impact was not limited to a computer screen — the line between channels became blurred, and digital media rapidly and increasingly impacted consumer purchase behaviour. Over time it became clear:

E-commerce sales are not the primary indicator of online advertising success.
(If you have a whiteboard, please write that sentence on it 100 times.)

This is even more true in Canada, where more than 90% of retail sales still happen in brick-and-mortar store locations. If you evaluate your digital marketing efforts by their direct contribution to your e-commerce sales, you’re drawing a line between online and offline that doesn’t exist in the eyes — or wallets — of consumers.

That said, without a measurement mechanism it’s tough to prove that your online advertising efforts are contributing in a meaningful way in the real world. So, how do you connect the dots?

Advertising behemoths Google and Facebook recognized this and, within the last couple of years, have come to the table with a remedy — or rather, a few.

Store visit data

Offered by Google, this feature enables you, in aggregate, to connect store visits back to your online advertising — including search, YouTube and display campaigns, among others.

Google leverages location data captured by its extensive network of apps (Google Maps, Gmail, Google Play, etc.) to provide location information for the individuals using those apps on their devices.

Google then aggregates this data, connects it back to users’ online activity, and reports back to you with the number of users who interacted with one of your ads and then later went into a brick-and-mortar store location.

If you have historical conversion rates (transactions/foot traffic) and average order value, you take this a step further and calculate Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS) by applying them to your store visit data to project the total revenue that was impacted by your Google ads.

Revenue ($) = Store Visits (#) x Closing Ratio (%) x Average Order Value ($)

Offline purchase data

Facebook’s primary offering in this space provides insight into how many people interacted with your ads on Facebook and then proceeded to make a purchase in your store. This is calculated by matching users’ email addresses on Facebook with the ones from your own POS data.

It’s an imperfect system, as not every email address captured in your stores is going to match a Facebook or Instagram account — but getting reporting on confirmed transactions is incredibly valuable, so it ends up being a fair tradeoff.

(Plot twist: Google Store Sales Direct offers a similar feature, which also uses email matching to report on in-store sales. The bad news? This feature is still in beta, meaning only a select number of advertisers can access it. It’s unclear when this will be rolled out en masse.)

Revenue ($) = Transactions (#) x Average Order Value ($)

The catch

But alas, as fierce competitors, Google and Facebook have to date not “played nicely” together in terms of allowing ways for advertisers to neatly combine their data into a single-deduplicated number.

What that means is that although you can see that your most recent campaign on Facebook contributed to 25 in-store purchases and your Google campaigns assisted with driving 200 people in-store, you have no way of seeing the overlap between the two — that is, how many people interacted with both a Facebook ad and a Google ad and then went in-store and purchased.

This lack of transparency provides a bit of a stumbling block for advertisers looking to provide a holistic view of ROAS.

The game changer

Advertisers rejoice! Earlier in 2018, Google announced that store visit data would be rolled out as a new feature for Analytics. It remains to be seen when this feature will be widely available and how complete the data will be (and there’s a laundry list of requirements for being included), but this could provide an unprecedented glimpse into the online-to-offline customer journey for many advertisers.

The gist

Not all of the options listed above are applicable for all advertisers (yet) — particularly for small- to medium-sized businesses. Regardless of your size, however, you have options for gaining insight into the total impact of your marketing efforts.

Have questions? Please feel free to reach out.

In the first post in this series, we explored some accessible opportunities for businesses to leverage their customer information to reach and re-engage those customers. A solid, engaged customer base is the foundation of any successful business, and you can never underestimate the value of remaining engaged with past and current customers.

However, you can’t rely on your existing customer base to sustain — not to mention grow — your business for many reasons. This can be particularly true depending on the nature and life cycle of your product or service.

For this reason, most people would agree that awareness is critical for the success of a business. After all, if customers don’t know you exist, you’re pretty unlikely to get their money.

Accuracy of awareness targeting parameters

The massive nature of awareness-driving efforts can be challenging. How do you make sure you’re reaching prospective customers and not wasting spend on people who will never be interested in your brand? Digital advertising has made it possible to speak to a large, new audience while still being very targeted.

In the past, awareness ads were largely targeted based on geographic and demographic data. A person’s age, gender, marital status, occupation, income and location information served as general predictors of their purchase habits. If your business usually sells Vespas to 25- to 34- year-old urban professionals, you probably don’t want to speak to a 70-year-old rural retiree. Right?

The problem is, demographics are inherently limited. They allow us to make assumptions about individuals based on data that has no direct tie to actual behaviour. Customer interests and behaviours are varied and diverse, and these traditional predictors of purchase behaviour aren’t all that accurate.

Maybe that 70-year-old rural retiree does want to buy a Vespa. Maybe not. The point is, we want to target people based on their actual behaviour — not how we think they’ll act because of whether or not they check the boxes of a “typical” customer.

Lookalike targeting

Do you ever wish you could see into your customers’ brains for a minute to see why they decided to purchase your product or service? What matters to them? Why did they walk through your door (or visit your website)?

Lookalike targeting, in a way, does just that.
As you may have guessed, all you need for this is a big file o’ customer data — emails specifically. This can come from a brick-and-mortar POS, from customer records on your website, or if applicable, from a list of email newsletter subscribers.

This targeting functionality is not exclusive to Google and Facebook, but since these two behemoths dominate the digital advertising landscape and reach the vast majority of all internet users, they’re a great place to start.

Using customer data effectively

Their self-serve advertising platforms allow you to upload your list(s) of customer data, then rather than making guesses about a person’s behaviour based on the aforementioned list of external traits, they take your list of customers, match the email addresses to emails used on their platforms/networks, aggregate the data for anonymity and look for patterns in their online behaviour.

They analyze the data from this group of people who are already buying from you and build you an audience list of users who “look” like those people. That is to say, the audience they build demonstrates similar online behaviour to those who are already bought-in. They visit similar websites and conduct similar online searches. Rather than taking a surface-level look at prospective customers, this allows us to make targeting decisions based on deeper levels of “alikeness.”

Taking it a step further

Awareness is important. We’ve established that. However, simply telling someone that your brand exists will not likely be enough to turn them into a customer. And that’s ok! It doesn’t mean your awareness-driving efforts have failed — it’s simply the first step in the “purchase funnel.” (If you’re not familiar with the concept of the purchase funnel, Google it.)

What it does mean is that you should run awareness-driving efforts in conjunction with your consideration- and conversion-driving efforts (like the ones we discussed in the first post in this series). When you advertise to these “lookalike audiences,” some of them will engage with your ads, follow you on social media or visit your website.

Using remarketing efforts

Once those users have interacted with you, you can follow up with remarketing ads — now that they’re familiar with your brand, show them something that’s going to make them want to consider you for their next purchase.

If a user visited your cosmetics website and viewed organic face products, you can show them an ad that’s relevant to what they were viewing. If you’re a paint supply store and a user watched the video you posted on how to apply patterned wallpaper, show them an ad showing them your new seasonal patterns.

You get the idea — it all works together.


A set of data is only as useful as the effective interpretation of that data. It’s like trying to locate your favourite restaurant based only on a photo of the Earth: sure, the point you’re looking for is there, but without context you’re just looking at a blob and guessing at your target. You can probably find the right country, but it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint the precise restaurant you’re looking for.

Advertising — and extremely targeted advertising, at that — has never been so accessible and affordable. However, as digital advertising continues to increase in sophistication and a seemingly endless stream of new ad units and tactics continue to appear daily, entering the fray as a small to medium-size business can be intimidating.

It might seem like this is still something left to the “big guys” with million dollar marketing budgets and a team of data scientists — but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

With many online advertising tools available at your fingertips, you can run hyper-targeted and cost-effective campaigns regardless your business size (and marketing budget). And all this can be done using data you already own.

In this three-part blog series, we’ll tell you how to leverage your own data to:

  1. Reach and re-engage your existing customers as they browse the web
  2. Find new customers and build awareness for your brand
  3. Measure the efficacy of your existing online advertising

Reach and re-engage your existing customers

Studies have shown that it costs much less to retain an existing customer than to find a new one. In a lot of ways, that principle applies to online advertising as well. Customers who are already engaged with your brand are more likely to engage with you in the future.

Self-serve online advertising platforms such as Facebook Business Manager (which includes Instagram) and Google AdWords (which includes YouTube, among others) provide opportunities to use your data to target existing customers on the web.


The old standby is retargeting (called “remarketing” by Google). This advertising tactic allows you to “follow” visitors to your website as they browse the web. To get started, you need to place a tracking pixel on your website, so if you don’t have access to your website’s code you may need assistance from a web developer.

Retargeting, a heavily used (and abused) tactic, can be extremely effective when used properly. We’ve all had that experience where you visit a website once and are then bombarded with ads from that business for three months. Not fun.

But when used thoughtfully, retargeting can help a customer move along their purchase journey. For example, if you’re a home accessories retailer who is running a promotion on wall art, you can create an audience of users who visited the wall art section of your website twice or more, or added wall art to their shopping cart within the last 30 days but didn’t make a purchase. To make sure you’re not overdoing it, you can set a frequency cap to make sure no user sees your ads more than 10 times. So put together some ads, make sure you are sending users to a relevant landing page and bam, you have a retargeting campaign.

The possibilities with retargeting are nearly endless, limited only by your website data supply and willingness to experiment.

Email Targeting

A newer feature available on several advertising platforms uses lists containing emails of your customers or email subscribers to target those users with ads from your business.

The key data here is the email address. If you use this feature on Facebook, they scrub your list against their user database to view — in aggregate, for security and privacy reasons — the number of users whose email addresses match those in your list. Then you can show ads specifically to those users.

All you need is a CSV file; as long as you can trigger an export from your POS (or if applicable, the platform you use to send marketing emails), you can use this targeting.

This type of campaign is a great way to target existing customers with specific messaging (maybe a special VIP discount or a new product from a line they’ve purchased in the past). It’s also a great way to reach out to customers you want to re-engage — for example, if someone was on your marketing emails list but unsubscribed, you can target them with messaging to encourage them to re-subscribe.

What’s next

Potential new customers for your business are much closer than you might think—you just need to know how to reach them, and learning how to use your own data is a huge step toward a targeted and cost-effective digital marketing strategy.

In our next post, we’ll explore how you can use your existing data to find new customers and build awareness for your brand.

All Weather Windows, Canada’s largest privately-owned window and door manufacturer, was looking for a website refresh that could fully reflect the company’s knowledge, expertise and extensive product line. As a long-standing client of ours, we were excited for the chance to give this nationally-recognized brand an impressive new web presence.

All Weather Windows has been in business for over 36 years and, as a result, they have a large database of products to be displayed. In order to do them justice, we undertook a research process to ensure that we could showcase each product to its best advantage, while retaining swift and intuitive website usability.

For a website of this scale and complexity, and with such a wide variety of audiences, it is critical that visitors have easy access to information relevant to their needs. Whether the visitor is a dealer, builder or homeowner, the website makes use of rich drop-down menus, sidebars and contextual links so that every website visitor can find necessary and useful information.

The result of this project is a clean and modern refresh that truly highlights the expertise and knowledge of All Weather Windows throughout their many years in business, and that showcases their high quality, energy efficient products through informative product pages and a comprehensive style guide.

Having already overhauled The Brick’s Flip it to Win contest in 2013 with overwhelmingly positive results, Starburst set out in 2014 to maintain the fun and visually appealing website design while adding some exciting new features. The sophisticated back-end, complete with extensive custom contesting functionality, enabled players to interact with the contest for the chance to win instantly and gain entries into the daily and grand prize draws, while new features such as social login further improved game play experience.

With a limited advertising budget, a viral component was necessary to ensure the contest’s success. Flip it to Win was embraced by the contesting and social media communities, with information and game play codes being shared on sites across the country. Over the course of one month, the interactive contest drew 250,000 visits from over 100,000 visitors all over Canada.

Our work for The Brick’s Flip it to Win microsite was recently recognized by the Edmonton Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) with an Award of Merit at the 2014 Capital Awards.