Making sustainability measurement more sustainable

 In the research we undertook as part of our Effective Property Marketing event this summer, we found that across the UK and across all affordability brackets, 65% of respondents confirmed that sustainability was an important factor in their decision making when buying a new home. Clearly this is a topic that matters to people, in home buying as in any other major purchase: its role in our marketing should be substantial. As an industry, how do we get on the path to tracking and measuring this consumer sentiment towards sustainability on a continued basis, rather than dipping in and out of a conversation that should form an important part of any Growth Marketing strategy?   

The bulk of sustainability and environmental messaging exists within owned media: as landing pages in ‘about us’ sections of sites and PR releases – so you can gauge engagement quite simply by tracking page metrics, and looking at comparative sessions and subsequent user behaviour and engagement quality in Analytics. Indeed, we have seen significant traffic increases here, particularly in the past year, both through paid and organic measures. Usually lacking however is data on all marketing output to provide context on how much awareness has been driven – both online and offline – in context of these changes, in the same way stock levels and media spend need to inform analysis when reporting development health.Isolating for all variables is inherently problematic, but at least quantifying some of them would help give context and improve understanding. We can capture the engagement at website level but we also must quantify what has influenced this engagement, and capture and learn from other data signals available at other points in the consumer journey around this growing motivator.  

Engagement and user journeys 

As interest and focus grow around sustainability messaging, this will likely lead to brands revising the structure and content of relevant website sections, increasing content within property listings and perhaps see the creation of microsites specifically on the topic. The road to net zero offers more places to stop and think and influence consumer journeys. Showing where and how sustainability engagement factored into those journeys is reliant on ensuring well-structured events are considered in Analytics. With the sunsetting of Universal Analytics and the majority of our property clients turning their attention to configuring GA4 as an immediate focus, we recognise an excellent opportunity to reflect on how more-sophisticated sustainability tracking can feature in BI reporting. Data streams set up in single properties in GA4 also means cross-domain tracking is simplified, if determining what users do after visiting a microsite becomes crucial to this reporting process: pass your consumers from website to website, while retaining visibility of the source of the original session on site A and the conversion taking place on site B.   

Get inbound tagging right 

Another vital opportunity to capture actionable insight around sustainability motivators relies on a rigorous approach to the hygiene of campaign naming and inbound URL tagging conventions. Proper protocol here would not only align off-site ad delivery information with other data sources such as Analytics, but would also provide detailed data on the nuances of different strands of sustainability messaging. A simple example would be an email campaign with different sustainability-led call-to-action links that can be compared by making use of separate utm content parameters for GA (whilst maintaining visibility of overall email performance as a whole). URL tagging tools can make far lighter work of this, enforcing consistency to maintain development identifiers and ensure that different messaging can be analysed over longer periods from a mix of a media channels. Dynamic parameters, in Meta for example, can also help bring automation to detailed content tagging taken from ad set ups rather than being an additional concern when managing campaigns and ad sets.  

The power of visualisation 

Analytics, ad platform, CRM and third-party (e.g. property portal) data are transformed, homogenised and primed for exploration in a data warehouse. Visualising the ‘combined impact’ of ad delivery on awareness, interest and intent – and ultimately reservations – is made possible by creating bespoke measurements made up of relevant, similar metrics from across multiple data sources. This can then be viewed at group, region and development level. The same is true for tracking sustainability output and results, provided a proper strategy is implemented to surface this data and make it identifiable in an homogenised way across all sources. This modelling suits the long customer journey of multiple touchpoints for property views over considerable date ranges. It is equally important to understanding the impact of sustainability messaging over time to build in some KPIs that show you’re maintaining a certain level of ‘informing’ or quickly identifying uplifts and interest and pinpointing how and why they’ve been driven to support sales discussions on the ground. As with all KPIs, the x axis on any comparison could be either temporal or geographic: what was different in that month vs the one before, or why is this territory or region stronger in this regard than the others? In either instance, contextualising the delta and trying to understand and diminish any underperformance would be key. Brand measures – from review sites or call tracking for example – can also be built to gain a sense of overall brand sentiment in line with sustainability messaging output and focus. 

Sustainability motivations – understanding your customers 

Consumer profiling is another initiative to explore in articulating how sustainability messaging is influencing your existing customers or potential purchasers. Can you identify your most sustainable products or customers in your CRM and segment your data accordingly? As well as a supply to the data warehouse and the aforementioned visualisations, these could also be profiled to give socio-demographic segmentation and geographic mapping. We’ve recently talked about how these classifications can open up a variety of opportunities, especially when augmented with research data on brand affinity, lifestyle choices and media consumption – invaluable in informing targeting and messaging and ensuring the sustainability chat is actually resonating with customers and not just seen through a veil of metrics. Tracking changes in the demographic profile of your consumer base over time may also be illustrative.  

Consider the tech you and your partners are using 

The elephant in the room, whilst providing warmth and keeping our energy bill down, is that moving and storing data from one place to another for this exciting centralisation work – whether on-premises or in the cloud – does have an environmental impact. It is estimated that data centres alone are responsible for about 2% of greenhouse gas emissions, comparable to the entire worldwide aviation industry. However, as we’ve discussed in our piece about our own sustainability journey we review and take an interest in the environmental credentials of all technology within our data stack. As a top line, Google Cloud forms a significant backbone of this and can be considered a frontrunner and advocate in the industry; currently carbon neutral with a pledge to run on carbon-free energy completely within the next 8 years. Read more about Google’s sustainability ambitions here. Moreover the carbon cost here can be viewed as an investment into a broader saving: by centralising, storing and surfacing key insights we can help to create a strategic roadmap for carbon-conscious marketing, encourage and support sustainable consumer habits and make a worthwhile contribution to the wider net zero project.