Understanding the value of digital marketing
As the world’s largest travel company for students and young people, STA Travel has over 2,000 people working in over 200 stores around the globe. And they help more than 2 million travellers a year start an adventure. But with 80% of transactions occurring in stores or over the phone, STA Travel faced a challenge in measuring and understanding the true value of their digital marketing investment.
STA Travel believed that if it could understand the proportion of offline sales that were a result of online initiatives, then it would be able to make more informed marketing decisions and investments. To do this, STA Travel’s digital analytics team partnered with Google to implement the User ID feature in Google Analytics 360 to measure online-to-offline behavior over a 16-week period.
Identifying traffic that leads to conversions
User ID works by assigning an anonymous ID to signed-in users while they are browsing on a site. When a customer makes a purchase in stores or over the phone, Analytics 360 uses the same customer supplied identifier. Using the same user ID allows the customer’s offline purchase information to be shared with Analytics 360.
After collecting and analyzing 16 weeks of combined results, the STA Travel and Google teams were able to authenticate 4% of the overall web traffic to STA Travel’s site (in other words, 4% of site visitors could be matched to an anonymous ID). This small percentage of web traffic was responsible for 26% of all offline conversions.
Analytics 360 was able to break down which online channels contributed most to online-to-offline conversions. While customers arriving via organic search contributed 40%, paid search ads were responsible for 22% of all online-to-offline conversions. Prior to this test, neither of these channels would have received any recognition for their contribution to STA Travel’s overall sales revenue.
Pinpointing profitable destinations
The methodology also allowed STA Travel to identify its most profitable destinations. The team was able to see which destinations’ performance had been previously undervalued — it had been unable to effectively measure the impact of customers who began their path to purchase online and completed it offline.
Finally, though the analysis only produced results for authenticated users, by using actual offline sale information and extrapolation based on session quality, STA Travel and the Google team could generate some predictions on the wider impact of digital activity. A cross section of users considered to show online signs of high engagement with STA Travel (another 3.4% of total site traffic) contributed 56% of all offline bookings. Since this figure represented only authenticated users and highly engaged users, the total impact of online activity to offline sales is believed to be even higher.
Moving forward, STA Travel is now incorporating offline sales information into reporting. It now uses this information to better inform marketing strategy and tactics. The team has also started to use this information to inform its own goal setting for digital marketing channels.