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Study Shows, Once Again, Clicks Are Not Customers

Despite all the sophistication now available in analytics and customer journey analysis, a substantial number of marketers are still focused on clicks — including last-click attribution. And while clicks can be a helpful directional metric, it’s usually a mistake to focus on CTR as a primary KPI.

This point was originally made more than a decade agao by comScore, which conducted the famous “natural born clickers” studies. The top-level conclusion of those early studies was that the majority of clicks on display ads were coming from a minority of internet users, who weren’t necessarily the target population. If that study were done again today, we might find something different given more sophisticated targeting; however the lesson is still highly relevant.

Natural Born Clickers

Source: comScore, July 2007 and March 2009

The graphic above stands for the idea that “only 16% of internet users clicked on at least one display ad in March 2009.” The 2009 study also found that “heavy and moderate clickers are only 8% of the internet population but account for 85% of all clicks.” Again, I suspect the numbers would be somewhat different today but perhaps not significantly.

The study also found a latent effect among non-clickers that manifested later in return websites visits. One of the key comScore recommendations was “to move away from this metric and start measuring the success of a campaign against its actual objectives (awareness, preference, sales, etc.)”

That’s the same message that “walk-through” marketing company Zenreach is preaching to SMB and small enterprise customers today. The company tracks store visits and does segmented marketing based on multiple variables including customer visitation frequency. Zenreach presented at the Place Conference in Chicago in 2016.

Its core message for businesses with stores or other physical locations is online success doesn’t mean offline results.

Zenreach data

As an example, the company presents data showing that the primary group taking action online (males under 35 above) represent only 25% of store visitors exposed to a campaign:

This group represented 59% of online impressions and 55% took online action. But this group converted to in-store visits at a much lower rate—just 25% actually visited the advertiser’s business, a conversion rate of just 0.16%. Males over 35 converted at more than 4x that rate, or 0.66%.

This would all be invisible to marketers in the absence of in-store or online-to-offline attribution. Further, marketers might be inclined to optimize campaigns toward clickers (assuming that was the engagement metric), which could undermine or reduce actual visits. With the full picture presented above, creative and channel spending decisions would probably be quite different.

This all makes logical sense but it’s amazing how many people still don’t think about the online-to-offline behavior pattern that was and still is dominant among consumers.

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