How To Track Part Sales Back To An Online Video

A wise man once said something akin to “I know I’m wasting half my advertising budget, I just don’t know which half.”

If you’re an auto parts manufacturer or retailer who’s invested in online video, you can probably relate to this complaint. For most companies investing in online video:

  • You know people are watching your videos on your website and/or on YouTube
  • You’ve done some rough math to determine how much your video views are worth
  • You’ve got some anecdotal evidence to show that people are buying parts because of your videos

But, even with all of this, there’s probably a lot of uncertainty. Is making that install video for that not-so-popular model really a good investment? Can you justify more budget for videos about product line “x” when sales don’t seem to change much when new videos are uploaded?

In this article, we’ll talk about how manufacturers and online retailers can use basic tracking tools to estimate a video’s impact on sales.

The Power Of Tracking URLs

A tracking URL is a virtual link that triggers a specific tracking variable. For example:

  1. We create a URL to a page that doesn’t exist, say https://sporkmarketing.com/this-s-a-fake-url/
  2. We set up a redirect on our server (or in our content management system) to redirect this fake URL to a real page
  3. The redirect includes tracking parameters in the URL, which we can then use for attribution

If you click the link above, it will open in a new tab, and you will be taken to our homepage. Be sure to note the parameters in the URL. These parameters tell Google Analytics that you clicked on the link above. We can then analyze what people did after clicking on this link.

URL Tracking Parameters

You can pass tracking information to Google Analytics using these UTM parameters. Check out the URL builder link in the notes to learn more.

If you were to create a unique tracking URL for each video you create, you could:

  • Put the tracking URL in every video as a caption, e.g., “Visit OurSite.com/tracking-url/” to learn more.
  • Use the tracking URL in the video description when you upload it to YouTube.
  • Make the tracking URL a click target in the video (depending on the player).

If you’re a retailer, you can trace sales back to a tracking URL. If you’re a manufacturer one or two levels removed from sales, you can use the tracking URL to improve the quality of your sales estimates (more on that below).

NOTE: You can build your own Google Analytics tracking URLs here.

Hide Easter Eggs In Your Videos

Installation video easter egg

YouTube’s caption system makes it easy to add an “easter egg” to an existing video to try and measure its impact on sales…even if for manufacturers.

Another good trick for tracking video sales: hide a unique “easter egg” in each video. Examples of easter eggs include:

  • A special discount code
  • A rebate offer
  • A giveaway for a cool freebie (hats, t-shirts)

YouTube’s “add a caption” system is ideal for creating and delivering these easter eggs. The captions can be added to the later parts of the video, where only engaged viewers will see them. The captions can be changed weekly or monthly to maximize accuracy. Depending on the offer, sales can be tracked before or after they occur.

A good example: Using Textedly, a manufacturer can create a unique SMS code. A caption can be added to a YouTube video with instructions for anyone watching. Like this:

Did you buy our product because of this video? Text ‘liftkit’ to 33322 for a free gift!

The consumer can be instructed via text message to send proof of purchase (a photo of their receipt) as well as their name and address. If the special text message code gets out on social media, the caption can easily be updated with a new code. After a few days or weeks, the caption can be removed.

If you have 1,000 people watch your video, and 10 people take advantage of the special gift via text message, you can reasonably assume that about 0.1% of video views lead to sales. If you get even more data – and account for the fact that people don’t always take advantage of offers like these – you can improve the quality of that number even more.

Track Video Views To “Micro Conversions,” Then Extrapolate

Another tracking tactic is to measure micro-conversions and extrapolate outcomes. A micro-conversion is any action that takes place on the path to a sale.

  • If you’re an online retailer, for example, a micro-conversions could be something like adding a part to the cart or downloading the installation instructions pdf. Neither of these actions generates immediate revenue, but both of them indicate that the website visitor is interested in buying.
  • If you’re an offline retailer, micro-conversions might be when someone views the “where we’re located page” or clicks the “get directions” link.
  • If you’re a manufacturer one or two levels removed from sales, a micro-conversion might be when website visitors who looked up a part number, viewed the “dealer locator” page or checked the “rebates and special offers page.”
Dealer map page

Consumers don’t usually look at the dealer map page on a manufacturer’s website unless they’re interested in buying. Video viewers who visit this page are likely buyers, and a little math can put a value on each pageview.

The value of these micro conversions is that they’re fairly common. A parts manufacturer knows how many people look at their dealer locator page each quarter, and that number can be related to the total sales in the same time period. Then, video viewers can be tracked to these micro conversions (via tracking URLs) and value can be extrapolated.

For example: Let’s say you’re a manufacturer with a “Where To Buy” page on your website. This page lists all your dealers and online retailers. Let’s say that last quarter your company sold 5,000 units to dealers, and that 10,000 people viewed the where to buy page during the same period. You could then associate 0.5 sales with every view of the where to buy page.

Obviously, this analysis is a bit simplistic. Someone viewing a where-to-buy page is sure to be a customer 50% of the time. The trick is to analyze more than one type of micro-conversion and to build a model. If you have good tracking in place and understand the consumer’s buying process, you can assign value to specific actions.

Summing Up

Tracking sales from videos can be difficult. In most cases, it’s going to take some math and some assumptions to arrive at a reasonable estimate. However, when you consider the cost of a video – from the low four figures to the high five figures – it’s important to get this right.

NOTE: We did not discuss first-click and last-click attribution in this post. Be sure to read our post about PPC ad tracking to learn more about click attribution.

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Auto parts in the cardbox. Automotive basket shop. Auto parts store.