Many years ago, the on-line marketing industry shot itself in the foot by proclaiming that the web was the only truly measurable medium. It demonstrated this by showing how it was possible to track the viewing of an on-line advert through to a sale.
Great. But marketing has always been a bit more complex than that.
For a start not all media activity needs to end up with a sale in the same medium. And indeed, not all marketing activity needs to end up with an immediate sale (although mostly it will want to deliver a sale at some point).
But the claim had been made. And so a lot of people still expect digital campaigns to lead directly to a measurable increase in on-line sales.
In fact we need a more sophisticated way of measuring the effectiveness of on-line campaigns.
Even the “simple” business of sales attribution isn’t so simple. Many companies still count the last click as being responsible for a sale. And yet the sales journey might have started offline with a TV ad, moved on-line via some video ads, progressed with a search of an advertising strap-line that led to a website, and then ended with a search for a brand that led to the same website and an on-line sale.
Companies like MC&C are experts in attributing sales value across different media. But there is an opportunity to go further. We can also look at measures of effectiveness that are “softer” than sales.
I am talking about brand “engagement”. Measuring this is important for many marketing activities.
For a direct response campaign it is useful to measure engagement as a proxy for value created elsewhere – off line sales or sales at some point in the future.
For TV, press and on-line video ads, effectiveness can show the value of campaigns that aren’t designed to lead to immediate sales. And the same is true of PR and event marketing.
So how can we measure engagement? Well it depends on what we want to measure: brand awareness, brand perceptions, intentions, behaviour? And it depends on the medium.
For offline media it can be difficult to go beyond established methods of pre-and post surveys and surveys looking at brand recall and favourability. There are potentially ways of going beyond this though:
- social media analysis can give clues about audience reactions, although this can be time-consuming to do properly
- website analytics may disclose search terms that seem to be related to an offline campaign
- eye-tracking could be used to identify the degree to which press ads or brand names and logos in TV ads hold the viewer’s attention.
It’s easier with on-line media. Where web display ads, or other marketing activity, generate a click but not a sale there are opportunities to examine a combination of page depth and/or dwell time with return rates: this is because people who stay a long time and return several times are likely to be more engaged with a brand.
More complex measures involving the measurement of accumulated indications of engagement are also possible. These indicators might include:
- Use of search box for product searches
- Visits to product pages
- Downloads of product PDFs or vouchers
- Abandoned baskets
- Use of store locator tools
Image a visitor who clicks on two product pages, downloads a product PDFs, and then uses a store locator. They could be assigned a value of 6, derived as 2 (a score of 1 for each product pages) plus 2 (for a pdf download), plus 2 (for using the store locator). In contrast a “busier” visitor who visited five product pages but didn’t download anything and didn’t use the store locator might only be awarded a value of 5.
On-line video provides yet more opportunities. Certain measures are obvious: plays, completed plays, average length of plays, click-through rate. But it is often possible to go further. If a YouTube channel has been set up then you can look at many more indicators such as:
- Channel subscribers and channel views
- Feedback and comments
- Video hotspots
In addition you can gain useful insight from identifying how the video was discovered – embedded in your website, via Google search, via YouTube search etc. And where the source was a visit to your website via Google, tracking the visit back to the search term used may also be valuable.
What would these insights tell you? On their own, perhaps nothing. What does it matter that the average visitor has an engagement score of 7? What does it matter if a video has 9900 “likes” or (beyond a trivial media value) has been shared 136 times?
But if these scores are used as benchmarks then they can indeed be valuable: by comparing data over time it is possible to track back to campaigns and make reasonable assumptions about how particular campaigns have increased engagement; there may also be potential opportunities to relate levels of engagement with sales.
Engagement is a hard thing to measure. But it does have some value. And any attempt to measure this is better that simply saying “I can’t measure it so it must have no value”. To rely solely on media that deliver hard sales data would be to miss out on many valuable opportunities.