Google Analytics 360 Helps STA Travel Weigh Digital’s Effect on Offline Sales

As the world’s largest travel company for students and young people, STA Travel has in excess of 2,000 people working in over 200 stores around the globe, helping over 2 million travellers a year start their 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.

Measure and understand true value of digital marketing investment
Used Google Analytics 360’s User ID feature to measure online to offline behaviour over a 16-week period
Customers arriving via organic search contributed 40% of all online to offline conversions
Paid search ads drove 22% of all online to offline conversions
Previously, these channels received no recognition for their contribution to overall sales

STA Travel believed that if they could understand what proportion of offline sales were a result of their online initiatives, then they would be able to make more informed marketing decisions and investments. STA Travel’s digital analytics team partnered with Google to work with Google Analytics 360’s User ID feature to measure online to offline behaviour over a 16-week period.

The methodology works by assigning authenticated customers an anonymous User ID while they are browsing online. When a customer is making purchases in stores or over the phone, Analytics 360 uses the same customer supplied identifier. Using the same user ID allows the customer’s offline purchases to be sent back to Analytics 360.

After collecting and analysing 16 weeks of combined data, the STA Travel and Google teams were able to authenticate 4% of the overall web traffic to STA Travel’s site (in other words, those site visitors where a user could be authenticated). 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.

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 because they 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 data and extrapolation based on session quality, STA Travel and Google 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. With this figure being 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 data into reporting and using this information to better inform marketing strategy and tactics in 2018. The team has also started to use this data to inform KPI setting for digital marketing channels.

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