Marckini: Industry Looks for Metrics to Cover Blind Spot of Offline Conversion

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NEW YORK -- Fredrick Marckini, CEO and chief technology officer of search engine marketing agency iProspect, was on safe ground -- ad:tech New York -- when he made this prediction: Expect a rise in metrics and measurement tools and methods to capture the offline conversion next year.

But in a world racing toward digital media, offline conversion is probably the only metric that lacks a perfect method or process for capturing it, he said.

"So what are the implications in a world where 50 percent of all media will be digital by 2007, which is a study that [iProspect parent] Isobar did?" Marckini asked yesterday.

The first is that marketing becomes increasingly measurable in all media, cross-channel conversion being the exception. Perhaps the second is the degree to which customers and prospects are engaged in the brand.

"We're fast approaching a generation of marketers who will be raised with an expectation that everything they do is performance marketing regardless of channel," Marckini said.

He had a cure for the blind spot of measuring cross-channel conversion: pay-per-call. For example, let's say Marckini printed out movie listings from an online news publication and then typed in a ZIP code that referred him to a movie tickets site. He then called to buy those tickets.

"So now we have revenue we can tie back to a search result," he said. "By the way, what is a cell phone? The ultimate direct response opportunity. It's the one thing that people use to call a 1-800 number from a print ad in their doctor's office. It's the device they use to respond to an 800 number in a radio ad while they're driving.

"So the cell phone is a mega-trend that we don't think about -- the opportunities of a world of cell phone users connecting to trackable 800 numbers, which can be tied back to each of the media."

IProspect is prepared to meet this trend head-on with SearchTalk. This technology ties a unique 800 number to a keyword in a paid search campaign.

Another trend Marckini expects by 2007 is search's role in retail stores. Depending on the category and the price of the item, store customers soon may be asked as a matter of course: "Did you research this online before coming in today?"

Museums, for example, long have asked paying visitors for their ZIP codes. So have specialty retailers like Gap Inc. when customers are paying for apparel or accessories at the register. But few probe further into the media source that prompted the purchase.

"The primary way to research something online is with search," Marckini said. "Notice that the word 'research' contains the word 'search.' And as some of this data is collected, this will be the day when search budgets explode. Because right now, I believe a significant volume of store traffic is driven by search, but no one is measuring it or accounting for it.

"The early research is suggesting that a dramatically larger volume of searches is converting in stores as opposed to a Web site," he said. "The problem is that virtually all search marketers are pure direct or direct response marketers.

"As any seasoned manager will tell you, you'll get more of what you measure, and right now search marketers almost exclusively are being measured on what converts on the Web site."

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