Offline to Online Conversion Fail

Star Trek
Image via Wikipedia

Ever since online advertisers realized that they weren’t getting credit for offline purchases inspired by their online ads ads , there has been much talk about online leads and offline conversion.  Fred Wilson talks about it here.  What I would like to talk about today is the opposite and increasingly more relevant problem: The challenge for online companies to acquire customers offline.

For example, the other day in the theater, a pre-film ad for Star Trek told me to go to I almost laughed out loud thinking how poor their conversion must be.

Another example.  I was sitting in Union Sq when a rock cello quartet began to play right there on the steps.  They were awesome.  When they finished, they passed out business cards stamped with their next live performance.  I gladly accepted one of their cards.

Two weeks later.  Have I downloaded or even listened to their music yet?  of course not.  Do I know where the card is?  No.  Even if i could find it, I would have to transcribe the information to the section of my notepad where I keep bands I want to research.   Even if my notepad were electronic (ie I own an iphone or blackberry), there is a serious loss of conversion from the content leads written down in the “to research” section of  my notepad to the content that I actually look up and consume.

Think about it.  What about cool stuff you see on TV that you want to research later?  Posters you see on the street?  Cool restaurants that you pass by?  Do you always remember to check that stuff out?  I don’t, but i wish i did.  It doesn’t matter what form the content is in- music, articles, videos- offline content capture is clumsy because the place where you keep your ideas is centralized but the places where you consume content are distributed.

What happens when you find content in the real world or learn about cool online content via an offline conversation with your friends ?  Generally you email yourself an idea or the conversation often ends with “email it to me” or “check out my twitter.”  Sometimes you remember enough specifics to be able to search for whatever you were talking about, but other times you don’t.  If your friend doesn’t remember, then you have to remember email and they have to email you back.  Messanging services like google and twitter often become the bottleneck or purgatory for content waiting to be consumed. The problem is that then your email becomes a “to do” list and we know that isn’t the best idea.

What do you guys think?  Does anyone else think this is a problem?  Does anyone have a good system for keeping track and ensuring consumption of content leads they discover offline (following up on or checking out books, restaurants, music etc)?  I’d love to get some outside perspective on this.

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8 responses to “Offline to Online Conversion Fail

  1. happens all the time. but being as i’m a geek and have a habit of carrying a moleskine notebook with me at all times.

    that being said, its hard to keep a mental notebook of ‘cool things to checkout’ in the offline world. Fred Wilson had a simple post the other day titled, “If The Message Is Important, It Will Find Me.”

    I think this holds true in your situation as well. You can’t capture everything that you find interesting or cool. the key is repeated exposure to a message/brand/performer that builds intrigue over a period of time. If it really is cool, interesting etc, then it will find me through a number of filters.

    • i definitely rock the moleskin as well, but i think we are in the minority. Many people will argue that everyone is going to have a notepad on the their PDA, but i would say, again, that the problem is getting content from the pad to the place where we consume it. Unfortunately, I don’t always remember to check my moleskin (read: iphone) everytime i check out amazon or listen to itunes or open up my RSS. Even if you use evernote mobile that syncs with your computer, it’s the same problem.

      i feel your point about multiple touches- we come across mildly cool stuff all the time every day that we never get around to fully exploring. I guess im just saying that the bar that content must hurdle to get researched is much much lower when i am online than when i am off. And i dont really see why that should be.


  2. For sure.

    We tried putting flyers for our website all over campuses in the Boston area.

    We also setup tables and had Ferrero Rocher chocolates with our cards and url stock onto them.

    The conversion rate from posters was zero. The conversion rate from the chocolates+cards was about 10%, which is surprisingly high. The chocolate+cards were at an MIT fair though, so this kids might be over wired.

    • interesting. how were you measuring conversion from the flyers? separate url, code? also, it’s clear that flyers must work for some offline things- im thinking of all the crap that they try to put in your hands when you are touring any european capital (bar crawl flyers, hostel flyers, bike rentals, whatever).

  3. Instead of displaying urls in movie theatres or handing out business cards on the streets, it would be better if advertisers could send text messages to all phones in a given location – everyone has their phone with them at all times, so that would solve the problem of decentralized content consumption.

  4. just a quick rough idea to throw out there:

    perhaps businesses should negotiate with phone companies to bear the brunt of sms costs on the backend, akin to snail mail self addressed envelopes in bulk.

    you’d apply for a license for a particular campaign. you’d tell customers that they can text you at no charge to receive coupons/reminders/info about your business and you’d only pay for the text messages that are actually used for your campaign.

    people always have their phones customers choose to opt in and businesses dont have to shoulder the costs of errant sms messages.

    …of course the particulars would need to be fleshed out.

  5. Pingback: My daily readings 07/26/2009 « Strange Kite

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