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The Future of Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking is already a major aspect of online marketing. You could almost argue that online marketing has become so successful purely because conversions can be tracked and allocated.

Until now, conversion tracking has been hardwired into the digital eco-system. Somebody clicks on an online ad, they make an online purchase, and the marketer sees the result in their ad platform. Conversions can be any measurable goal, but typically revolve around leads, purchases, downloads and page views.

Next up, conversions will be tracked offline. There will still be a device involved for measurement, but it will be counting actions in the real world rather than online activity.

All that is needed are two pieces of equipment: one that identifies a person, and one that records their actions.

Identifying a person

Right now, this is a smart phone. As long as you are logged into the likes of Facebook or Google, the phone can identify you to some degree. It can certainly tell that you are the same person who clicked on an ad that morning.

In the future the device might change, but it will be just like your phone but in a different format – like a watch, or glasses, or some kind of weird implant. As long as we enjoy the functionality of easy identification (paying for things, entering places), we will allow ourselves to be identified to marketers.


Recording actions

A smartphone will often do double duty, as it can and does measure activities as well as identify you. In theory, a marketer can track the following responses to their advertising, just from a smartphone:

  • physical activity, like running or swimming
  • sleep
  • pulse rate
  • altitude
  • location
  • orientation

So, in theory, if someone clicks on an ad for an event like Tough Mudder, we can track their registration, their training, their participation, and the resulting health benefits.

But now, in reality, Google is using the GPS receiver in your phone to tell if you have entered a retail store – after interacting with a related ad online.

“Store visits are estimates generated from anonymised data collected from a large sample set of users who have activated Location History on their mobile devices.”

Combining orientation and location means that your device can share what you are looking at (sorry, looking towards – you could be having a day dreamy moment). That could be shelves in a store, an outdoor billboard, even the cheerleaders at a football match.

So, in theory, if someone glances at a billboard for Doritos, and then attends a football match, we might be able to measure if he glances at other people’s bags of Doritos. Cameras in the arena could certainly locate and identify all the visible packets. Then when he goes to the concession stand and purchases Doritos, using his Apple Watch for payment, the marketer will know. Did he buy the new flavour that was advertised on the billboard?

Of course, all this information is anonymised. However, when he shares a pic of his new favourite snack on Instagram, we will soon find out if he is an influencer. When Samantha sees his Instagram post and then buys the same product from the supermarket, that purchase can be attributed to the billboard. Soon Doritos are ordering more billboards.


As we just saw, offline purchasing can now be used to track conversions, because the trend is for your payments to be via online devices, with you being easily identified. You will also be able to be tracked:

  • using public transport
  • entering ticketed events
  • staying at a hotel
  • leaving the country

In theory, GPS combined with flight departure information (gate and time), can be used to tell that you flew to Fiji for a week. The Fijian Tourist Board will connect that with the ad you saw a few months ago, and the brochure you subsequently ordered and viewed on your iPad (18 pages read in seven minutes).

In the future, a marketer will be able to measure almost any response to their efforts. It will come down to their imagination and the ability to affordably connect all the data points.

In the future, there will be so many ways to measure conversions that you will need an appropriate degree to understand it all. Gone will be days of simply looking at your Google AdWords interface and seeing seven sales from 109 clicks on your ad.

By Robert Skelton

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