Despite the explosion of eCommerce, to declare the high street terminally ill is to grossly oversimplify the social shift. Yes, online sales growth has outpaced that of the high street for some time now, and some former giants have been forced into closing their doors thanks to online competition, but brick and mortar stores have found ways to adapt. The UK’s John Lewis, for example, has seen a 27.9% year-on-year increase in sales made via its ‘Click and Collect’ service, and traditional retailers will be desperate to marry their online and offline in an effort to save the latter.
At the Digital Marketing Innovation Summit this March in New York, Empyr founder and CEO Jon Carder presented on ‘the new kid on the advertising block, CPR: Cost Per (in-store) Revenue. How the system works is that, rather than offering online discounts or offers, offline businesses - restaurants, local services, retail stores, etc. - create promotions. These online promotions are then shared on the likes of Yelp, Facebook, Virgin America, and others to drive consumers into the physical stores. Before they visit any stores, the consumer links their credit or debit card to the publisher’s website or app (just once) to begin earning cash back rewards at those stores. Then, having paid with the linked card, the publisher then sends a notification to the consumer outlining their reward, which is deposited monthly into the user’s bank account.
What Empyr’s service comes down to is the fact that digital marketing for offline businesses is incredibly difficult. ‘You can spend a ton of money on it,’ Jon says, ’and really have almost no idea how much in-store sales you’re driving. There are solutions that sort of survey people, there are data solutions that give you a general idea, but for the most part you’re sort of left in the dark.’ With 38.4% of advertising budgets spent digitally, businesses will be keen to bridge the gap between this spend and actual in-store sales.
There are, of course, ways of tracking any given consumer’s in-store buying habits - the likes of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have held data on it for some time. It’s only in the last few years, though, that these major companies have become more open with this data. It’s this mentality shift that has allowed Empyr to put together its service. ‘We work with Visa, MasterCard, and Am Ex, and we’ve been able to get real-time data of in-store purchases. What we did was build a platform around that that allows for what we call CPR.’
Empyr’s data journey doesn’t end when the cash back is deposited into the consumer’s account. After the purchases are made, the brand is then provided full reporting and analysis of ‘all the impressions they received online, all the way through to how many in-store visits they got, all the way through to how much exact revenue was spent in their store.’ The brand only pays a fee to the publishing site and Empyr when an in-store sale is made, hence the Cost Per Revenue distinction that Jon hopes will set his method apart. The system relies heavily on the assumption that customers will be comfortable with inputting their credit or debit card details before heading to make any purchases, but the promise of cash back may be enough to get sufficient on-boarding.
Cost Per Revenue goes a long way to clearing up the ambiguity around digital marketing’s actual effect on high street sales. Empyr’s CPR is just one of many products looking to bridge the gap between online and physical sales, as customers expect greater integration between the two. The high street is far from dead and buried, it’s just up to tech companies and innovative brands to ensure that it stays in good health.