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It’s undeniable that Covid-19 has dramatically disrupted the retail sector. But despite UK ecommerce rising to represent a predicted third of total sales by 2024, physical retail is still the norm. Advertisers have recognised drive-to-store as a golden opportunity to bring customers back into stores and increase sales, and they are leaping at the chance to be a part of it.

Now, they’re calling for a standardisation of drive-to-store measurement – a move that would benefit the industry in the long run by helping to build trust and create healthy competition by comparing like for like. But whether you’re an established brand or a newcomer, here’s what you should look for in your drive-to-store partner.

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of good methodology

To accurately measure incremental visits to stores (ie visits directly attributable to an advertising campaign) it’s important to have an accurate and dynamic control group that truly reflects your target audience. For each campaign, the control group will need to be identical to the target group in every respect and adapt to its evolution in real time, but won’t be exposed to any advertising. This is the only way to ensure the traffic measured in-store is generated by the advertising and not based on external factors, like any organic customers the store may have. By then comparing both groups’ conversion rate, it’s possible to accurately measure and attribute the in-store visits delivered by the campaign.

A helpful point to keep in mind is that your drive-to-store partner should always eliminate statistical bias by putting aside passers-by, store employees and the inhabitants of the targeted area. Don’t forget, this approach must be scientifically valid to give an accurate market representation. This is prerequisite to measuring incremental visits and we urge brands to review how their drive-to-store partners construct their audience control.

2. Look for transparency

Transparency has become a buzzword in the digital advertising industry, and with good reason. Regulations like GDPR and industry initiatives such as the IAB Europe’s TCF show market players have realized the importance of knowing where ads are displayed, how data is collected and how budgets are spent.

More transparency and complete accountability mean a smoother user experience, from ad engagement to store visit. It encourages consumers to associate with your brand, become loyal long-term clients and make purchases. It is also essential to keep track of return on ad spend. Make sure this analysis is aligned with your campaign objectives so that you’re measuring like for like – for example, ensure you aren’t comparing extrapolated figures with those that aren’t. This will help avoid having a distorted performance view and ensure campaigns are optimised towards the best-performing KPIs.

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3. Ask about independent measurement

Nothing gives a brand a better assurance of reliability, independence and transparency than having its drive-to-store partner’s performance evaluated by a third-party measurement company.

In the advertising industry, brands have access to a wide range of tools to push their ads to customers and measure their engagement. From GPS to beacon and wifi, this implies there are several ways for technology partners to measure in-store visits. Right now, for example, GPS measurement has the most reach, unlike beacon, which requires a device’s Bluetooth to be turned on at all times. But to have a complete view of in-store visits and overall campaign performance, it’s useful to partner with companies that can combine all these measurement methods for optimum results rather than choosing a single one.

Using the same measurement methodology across all your campaigns provides an unbiased view of each drive-to-store partner’s performance and will make it easier to see your true return on ad spend and measure like for like. So, consider calling on professionals whose core business is in-store visits measurement and who will provide reliable, verified and impartial campaign results. You could even ask them to measure campaign performance in real time to be as close to reality as possible and give you instant results.

Ultimately, accurate drive-to-store measurement is essential for brands to evaluate their campaign performance. To get accurate insights, a good methodology, greater transparency and impartial results should be at the centre of every measurement approach. By making sure to tick these three boxes, you’ll receive the gold standard of drive-to-store campaigns.

Caroline Sajas is UK head of operations at S4M.