The Internet is a data analyst's dream. A wide range of online marketing efforts can be tracked from ad view, to ad click, to final transaction. Logging detailed data about the customers' travels to the checkout line is no trouble at all either, including the time of day or the path taken once at the web site.
Whether you're using ROI tracking reports to assess your paid listings or other Internet programs, remember that just because online purchases can immediately result from these promotional efforts doesn't mean they always do. Don't be hasty in cutting nonperforming parts of your advertising campaigns. Your ROI solution isn't always accounting for deferred or offline conversions.
When a customer clicks your paid listing to visit your site, doesn't buy at that time, but returns sometime later to make a purchase, that's considered a deferred conversion. Your ad still generated, or at a minimum contributed to, that sale.
How does your ROI tracking solution handle deferred conversions? As you move forward with your research on choosing a vendor, ask candidates this question. Their default may be 24 hours or 30 days. Upon request, it can be possible to extend the deferred conversion tracking setting. Generally, 30 days is a fair timeframe, although 60 days isn't a bad idea. Search engine advertisers might be surprised at how many sales they've missed if their solution isn't yet tracking this. The discovery of delayed revenue could breathe new life into the campaigns you thought were dead.
This topic concerns stores with an offline presence. For instance, Sears could use paid listings to promote a discount on hardware tools. How are the customers who gather discount information from the web site and then buy from their local Sears store counted? They're probably not, unless the company has an online/offline coupon redemption program. Again, paid listings were responsible for, or contributed to, these sales but aren't being given credit.
An online/offline coupon redemption program is one way to ensure that your search engines investment is justified. Another way is to direct sales to the online checkout counter. Internet-only specials or free shipping are appealing incentives. Or, email customers a coupon that can be redeemed offline after they've made an online purchase.