One of the most excit­ing features of Google Univer­sal Analyt­ics is the ability to capture offline data that can be corre­lated with online activ­ity.  Prior to this offer­ing, digital analysts, program­mers and/or DBAs would have to develop a method­ol­ogy for corre­lat­ing disparate online and offline data sources. Today, there is an auto­mated way to get outside data where digital analysts and marketers need it. The program­ming process of captur­ing and sending offline data to Univer­sal Analyt­ics is a tech­ni­cal one. This overview is for marketers and product managers on how Univer­sal Analyt­ics offline data capture works and to offer some ideas about how offline data can be used for online opti­miza­tion.

The Prepa­ra­tion

As with any process, proper plan­ning is key is setting up offline and online corre­la­tions.  Begin your task by clearly defin­ing what it is you want to measure. Specify the metrics and dimen­sions you want in your defi­n­i­tion.  You may find it helpful to write your objec­tive in sentence form. Make sure your final sentences contain your metrics, dimen­sions, and any specifics.  For example:

  • I want to measure how many visi­tors (metric) to our site use a loyalty card (offline custom dimen­sion) in one of our stores.
  • I want to measure how many visi­tors (metric) to our site make a purchase (segment) and use a loyalty card (offline custom dimen­sion) in the store.

As a prac­tice, the sentences were written and then the metric, segment and dimen­sion nota­tions were added as a check.  Clearly defin­ing what you want to measure, or what hypothe­ses you are trying to test, will reveal the roadmap for ensur­ing the measures you need will be avail­able.

The Process

Simply saying “now you can go and bring your offline data in” is an unfair, over­sim­pli­fi­ca­tion of your tech­ni­cal require­ments. A very high level expla­na­tion of the import process is program­mers capture and send data in an http request to Google’s data servers. Google has detailed docu­men­ta­tion for program­ming and captur­ing offline behav­iors in its Measure­ment Proto­col Devel­op­ment Guide and in its Measure­ment Proto­col Refer­ence. When the behind the scenes wizardry is complete and the data is avail­able in your Univer­sal Analyt­ics account, you can apply metrics, build segments, and corre­late events like and other data element.

The Prod­ucts

There are count­less indus­try-specific uses for corre­lat­ing offline and online data.  Below are a few ideas that use avail­able APIs or company data sources to illus­trate the power of this feature:

  • Weather Related Data
    Many busi­nesses, espe­cially retail­ers, see a differ­ence in customer behav­ior depend­ing on the weather.  Retail­ers can adjust content or promo­tions based on weather fore­casts or condi­tions. Sites plan­ning and content opti­miza­tion can use trend­ing data to corre­late sales and engage­ment to weather patterns.
  • Crime Statis­tics
    Real­tors and home­builders can corre­late visitor engage­ment with neigh­bor­hood crime statis­tics.  This data can be used to adjust content, online promo­tions, or the voice of specific pages.
  • Center for Disease Control Data
    Health­care providers and phar­ma­cies can adjust promo­tions and content based on health and safety trends.  Trend data can reveal the best time to run promo­tions or commu­ni­cate specific messages with customers.
  • Loyalty Cards
    Customers that use store loyalty cards provide a wealth of purchas­ing infor­ma­tion.  Customers that regis­ter their cards online can be matched in Univer­sal Analyt­ics to reveal how purchases are researched and completed across multi­ple retail chan­nels.

The Bottom Line

Corre­lat­ing online and offline data in Univer­sal Analyt­ics can be a complex tech­ni­cal task, but it has the poten­tial for huge reward in the insights and opti­miza­tions compa­nies can gain.  There is a vast number of APIs online that give compa­nies access to envi­ron­men­tal data, or compa­nies can use their own data sources to corre­late to online activ­ity.  Thetech­ni­cal wizards at Search Discovery are avail­able when­ever you need help with captur­ing data and making sense of your Digital Analyt­ics.