How to measure ROI without tracking purchases

How to measure ROI without tracking purchases

Find out how to track purchases without a closed loop between marketing and sales.

In a digital world, it seems that all transactions are happening online and marketers can make a split cost division to every marketing channel that contributed to a sale. However, if you can’t link communication to sales, it seems impossible to track ROI. But there are some ways to bypass this problem. Here’s how.

But first things first: we are calculating an ROI indication. Tracking exact ROI requires a closed loop between marketing and sales. If you do track exact conversions, read our blogpost on conversion attributions. For those who can’t track conversions, keep reading.

So how to tackle this problem? Let’s split it up in B2C and B2B and start with a simplified case:

Techniques in a B2C market

Suppose you are a small company that sells sports clothing. You have about 5 stores spread across the country, but don’t have web shop. How could you estimate the ROI of your email marketing, marketing automation, paid media, …? Here are some ideas:

  1. A simple way to track the impact of paid media to physical purchases is to run ads on a local basis, but to exclude the region around 1 store. So in this example you would run ads in range of 25 km. around the stores, but you exclude 1 store. What you could do next is compare the regular store turnover vs. the turnover since the ads are running. The 1 store that you did not target is your control mechanism.

  2. Another easy way is to use good old coupons. Create an ad where people can download a coupon. The coupons redeemed linked to the purchase is your ROI.

  3. An easy way to track the impact of your email marketing is to send a yearly survey to your contacts asking about their purchases and store visits. This is called claimed purchases. Your ask people if they have bought form your store the last year. When 10% of respondents said that have purchased on average one pair. You can extrapolate this to your entire database to get an idea of the database value.

  4. You can also use this a bit earlier in the customer journey by asking people how likely they are to make a purchase in your store in the coming 6 months when they sign up for your newsletter. This is called claimed intent. Contacts say how likely they will purchase beforehand. With this data you can make an estimation of the expected revenue.

  5. A last possibility is probably the easiest one: place an iPad at the cash registry and create a poll asking people how they discovered your brand or store.

Techniques in a B2B market

If you are focusing on the B2B market on the other hand, there are also various ways to track ROI. Let’s say you sell printing solutions to mid-sized companies, install multiple printers on the network and take care of the maintenance.

  1. If you send leads to your sales team, you can ask them to give feedback on the conversions & average order spend. This way you can calculate how many leads it takes to make a conversion, and predict conversion value.

  2. If you send leads to your sales team but can’t track the conversions, you can ask how many leads they need for one conversion and what the average order value Then you can extrapolate this on your database.

  3. The same B2C principle can apply here: upon registry on a digital touchpoint, you can ask how likely they are to buy at your company and use this claimed intent as an ROI driver.


Tracking exact ROI seems nearly impossible, certainly when you can’t link purchases to campaigns. However, there are some easy tricks that you can implement to start getting an idea of the ROI of your efforts. Apply them well and impress your colleagues in the boardroom.

Lastly, we added the Belgian ROI benchmarks in our own ROI calculator. Just click if you are active in the B2B or B2C market or own web shop. Everything is prefilled and you can change the numbers with results you know. Want to find out even more? Fill in the maturity test and get a personalized ROI report with optimization opportunities and forecasted ROI.

Do the Email Marketing ROI-scan

Posted on
Sep 19, 2019