Yelp tests offline attribution using guest WiFi and email matching

In early 2017, Yelp bought a Canadian company called Turnstyle Analytics, which provides free WiFi and email marketing services to local businesses. The company helps local businesses build lists and remarket to customers; it also has online-to-offline matching and attribution capabilities.

Turnstyle was renamed Yelp WiFi and recently completed an offline attribution test with Canadian restaurant chain Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill. The initiative was intended to measure the impact of Yelp ad exposures on offline restaurant visits. During the month of July in 2017, Yelp tracked the impact of ads on Jack Astor’s visitation and purchases.

How the test worked

Yelp used a one-day attribution window for exposed users who didn’t click on ads and a 30-day attribution window for users who clicked. Yelp didn’t use individual customer transaction data to calculate ROI, but used average ticket value and table size data supplied by Jack Astor’s.

Email addresses of registered Yelp users were matched with email addresses provided to access guest WiFi in the restaurants. Given this approach, it’s possible that some users who saw the ads and went into Jack Astor’s were not tracked because they didn’t use WiFi. Or they may have used a different email address to access WiFi.

What they found

During the one-month test, roughly 12,500 Yelp users (mostly mobile) saw the ads. Yelp said that Jack Astor’s saw $110 in revenue for every $1 spent on Yelp advertising. The company also reported that more than 30 percent of these customers were new to Jack Astor’s.

In addition to Yelp WiFi and other analytics, the company runs a loyalty and purchase-incentives program called Yelp Cash Back Rewards, which captures offline transactions (powered by Empyr).

Survey data indicates that small businesses (SMBs) often don’t know the ROI they’re getting from digital ads. And while online-to-offline visitation data and analytics have been available to enterprises for the past several years, these tools have mostly not been accessible to SMBs. (Another company called Zenreach offers similar guest WiFi and email marketing capabilities to SMBs.)

Offline attribution for small businesses

Google and Facebook have also been investing heavily in location analytics and offline attribution, but mostly with a focus on enterprises and larger agencies. However, these offline attribution capabilities will become more broadly available to SMBs in the near term. It’s inevitable.

“Attribution is a big focus for us,” said Yelp’s Chris Gilpin, one of Turnstyle’s co-founders. However, Yelp says that at this point it has “nothing to announce.”

Yet given the positive results of this test and the inherent appeal of this kind of data to SMBs, among others, I suspect we will see the introduction of offline attribution from Yelp in the not-too-distant future.

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