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Metrics Go Offline: Google’s Real-World Data Push

January 12, 2015 |

One of the unexpected repercussions of the advent of Big Data is increased expectations. The internet revolutionized marketing by bringing huge amounts of data to marketers’ fingertips: suddenly, marketers could understand just who their ads were reaching, and not only that, but how they were being reached and how they were interacting with that advertisement. This lead to a massive expansion of what marketers could be expected to know and do. Impressions, engagement, and clicks became metrics to live and die by.

Now, marketers are used to this access to data, and starting to ask an important question: why don’t I have this level of detail in my offline data? Obviously, collection of offline retail behavior is an order of magnitude more complicated and difficult, but the potential rewards are indeed tantalizing, to say the least: estimated to amount to between $3.5 and $4 trillion dollars per year in offline retail sales. Yes, Americans still like to spend money! Services purchased offline add trillions more to that measurement.

So the question becomes: how to bring Big Data offline? Your pocket might hold the answer. Your smartphone, a tiny computer that goes everywhere you go, has the power to collect this data. By analyzing location data, bank information, and other pieces of information available to your smartphone, marketers can begin to track data on offline shopping.

With iPhone and Android phones, Google is able to see users go into stores and create metrics based on that — essentially, if a user sees your advertisement for Foot Locker, and then goes shoe shopping two days later, Google will treat that impression as a “success” and add it to your metric. Purchasing information from the Foot Locker they visit will only add to the validity of this data. To placate critics and privacy advocates, Google also affirmed that all data will be reported anonymously and advertisers won’t be able to access all of the location information themselves.

Store visitsThis information will be presented in Google Adwords as a new “Store Visits” metric within their Estimated Total Conversions subheading. Google isn’t alone in this push: Facebook also has announced plans to push for the collection of this kind of offline data, using its own massive user data stores. Google likely has another reason to provide this data: for years, they have been dogged by the perception that offline sales are not affected by online campaigns: with this metric, they may finally be able to prove that wrong.

It seems that 2015 will be the year that Big Data goes offline: more and more, we will see the kinds of information and consumer tracking abilities marketers have gotten used to using online being applied to the real world. With real-world stats on the efficacy of marketing campaigns, the very nature of offline advertising is likely to change: witness the difference in online marketing before and after the launch of Google Adwords. Offline data: an unlikely contender for the Biggest Metric of 2015.

Pic courtesy: Shutterstock Nick Rojas is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at

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