IAB study raises doubts about ‘click-through’ metrics

A study into online marketing campaigns has underlined the importance of integrating activity in all channels and cast doubt on the value of click-through data when assessing their effectiveness.

New Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) research focused on three leading airline brands bmi, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic but AIB said the results represent an across-sector benchmarks.

The study found how online display advertising, email marketing, affiliate websites and paid-for and natural search all play their part in an overall campaign and in converting the customer.

Consumers were more likely to purchase having been exposed to a variety of online advertising and this has branding effect that bolsters offline activity.

For one of the brands studied, 78% of users that made a purchase had been exposed to online marketing activity.

The results also revealed up to 46% of those that see an online advertisement, and visit the site within a week of seeing it, have not been exposed to any other online marketing activities suggesting that online display has a positive, branding effect.

Tim Elkington, head of research at the IAB, said: “A customer seeing a display ad at the start of a purchase process is not necessarily prompted to buy as a result of that ad; our research reveals that a combination of online formats ultimately lead to a conversation.

“A display ad may fuel a customer journey, but the conversion may actually come from elsewhere, for example a natural search link or affiliate website.  Understanding this process and the interplay between formats will enable marketers to create more successful online campaigns.”

Elena Ragone, online acquisition manager, at bmi: “It’s reassuring to have independent confirmation around something bmi has been considering for some time.

“By defining success based on a mix of visitation, engagement and search behaviour you can look beyond simplistic denominators such as click-through and last event attribution.

“This research highlights that consumer behaviour proxies are better placed to reflect communication goals rather than just clicks.”

Other key findings of the research, according to IAB, were:

• Online activity is working. Individuals who make purchases on websites are more likely to have been exposed to a variety of online advertising formats;

• The study found that click-through metrics may no longer be the best way to assess the impact of display advertising. Click-through metrics call for immediate action, while the customer journeys analysed took on average a few days, from initial exposure to purchase;

• It’s time to start thinking about online display advertising in a new way, the traditional way of assessing online display advertising – the click through rate – isn’t an adequate way of expressing how effective it is;

• Different online elements work together, playing different roles at different stages of the journey – for example display advertising at the start of the journey to raise awareness of brands and their products and affiliates to drive the sale at the end of the journey. It’s not only the final click in the journey that matters;

• It’s unrealistic to always expect people to act as soon as they have seen an ad (this doesn’t happen for TV ads), so it’s important to consider the actions of those that see an online ad and then act at some later stage;

• The customer conversion journey is not a simple linear path. Users are exposed to lots of different online elements in their journey to becoming customers and come into contact with multiple campaign elements on multiple occasions – up to nine display ads, three organic click-throughs, two sponsored click-throughs and two emails over a period of up to seven days to make their first purchase.


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