Measuring Retail Advertising

Posted by Jake Bailey on November 5th, 2012 at 9:00 am

Brian Leinbach, SVP, Systems Development and Field Services for Macy’s, recently said “90% of our customers research online at least occasionally before purchasing in a store.”  As consumers conduct this research, there’s no more powerful place to target them with advertising than on retail websites where they’re researching product information, reading peer reviews, and planning their offline shopping trip.

For brands, retail advertising is the most potent media available to influence consumers and drive them towards purchase. Available on sites such as Target, Home Depot and Sears, the retail channel enables advertisers to speak with consumers on a one-to-one basis. But what should advertisers be aware of when measuring retail advertising performance?

To maximize ROI within the retail channel, you need to converse with your target market in the most relevant context or behavior possible. While this may sound obvious, it actually doesn’t happen as frequently as you’d think. Most publishers are built around optimizing content consumption, whereas the retailer’s entire existence is about conversion. If you don’t convert your consumers, you won’t be in business.

To truly measure retail advertising without negatively impacting retail conversion, your measurement strategy must center on understanding consumer context and its impact on conversion.  As a contrast, both radio and TV are great ways to reach large-scale audiences, but there is no direct purchase corollary that can be used for brand measurement in this environment. There’s no way to measure direct sales driven from a TV commercial, especially when most brands are sending consumers to their Facebook page, which is even higher up in the purchase funnel! To truly measure the ROI of purchased media, you must have a direct tie into the purchase funnel. Luckily, online retail provides just that. For brands that are endemic to the online retail environment (those sold online), you can measure your direct influence on sales.

Before you enter the retail advertising world with guns blazing, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of your brand’s online market presence.  If you understand your brand’s market, it’s much easier to define “the needle” and how to move it. For your brand, that could be as simple as “getting more people to view my products,” or “capturing sales market share at the expense of my competitor.” Understanding your market enables you to set a control group before launching your campaign. This data should prove incredibly valuable when backing your advertising investment thesis. For instance, your campaign thesis might be “buying all of the ad space on my competitor’s product pages helps me capture market share,” or “consumer searches for my brand is a great proxy for intent to purchase.”

After you’ve launched your retail advertising campaign, you’ll want to begin seeing the results. This can be as simple as views/clicks or as complicated as defining “engagement rates” with your campaign’s rich media ads. It goes without saying that you’ll want to view not just the basics but also advanced metrics that are specifically tied to the online retail world.

How far did you move the needle? Were you able to influence purchases, consumer searches, product page views, or time spent on your brand’s product pages? What about the availability of offline market data? For instance, if you’re a mobile phone company advertising only in certain geographies, were you able to drive an efficient cost per order in those areas?

If you’re advertising within online retail, you may already be using some of these measurement techniques. But there’s always more opportunity to push the envelope.

The most advanced brands leveraging the retail ad channel have already moved a step further and turned their media into a research tool for capturing consumer insights. Not only is there a massive opportunity to advertise to e-commerce consumers, there exists an unprecedented opportunity to capture far-reaching consumer data in real time.

For example, a well-known laundry detergent brand asked users to identify their biggest laundry challenge. Each answer correlated with a specific product. For example, selecting “odor elimination” displayed the brand’s product that combats that particular laundry challenge.

These insights offer analysis by general location, so brands are able to better market their products to different customer segments. For example, New Yorkers appear to be more concerned about “dingy whites” than “tough stains,” which is what concerns.

These types of campaigns provide a wealth of knowledge to brand managers. Some brands look at consumer insights by region, some holistically. Others use these as the perfect opportunity to measure offline purchase intent. For example, you could measure how often consumers shop in-store, and whether or not their online activity influences their in-store purchases. What matters most here is the pure advantage of being able to get real-time feedback from consumers when they’re in shopping mode. Trying this tactic on non-retail publisher sites is just distracting and akin to getting telemarketer calls during family dinner.

To further optimize your future campaigns, it makes sense to request shopping analytics on your customer base. For example, ask, “What are the products that consumers always purchase with my brand’s products?” or “What are the search terms that shoppers use when buying my competitor’s products?” These methods can provide incredible insights into which advertising inventory will be most valuable to you during the upcoming crucial holiday period or other heavy shopping seasons.

Today, brands are being held to a higher standard of advertising ROI and nowhere is this more apparent and attainable than in the ecommerce world. However, traditional ad metrics just scratch the surface of the ROI that can be derived from this channel and smart brands are going much deeper and showcasing tremendous results with the right technology, partners and approach

Jake Bailey is VP, Product Marketing & Solutions at RichRelevance. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

One Response to “Measuring Retail Advertising”

  1. Ben R says:

    Excellent Jake, thanks for this... heads up that we @mediative have done some work in this space too... helping brands better define their ROI on retail sites.


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