Display advertising isn’t all about clicks, here are four ways to drive incremental conversions

We’ve come a long way since the first display banner ad ran in 1995. Brendan Muller, New Zealand sales director at Quantcast, explains how marketers should rethink the way they use ad views to drive conversions and grow their businesses to catch up to current times.

According to The Atlantic the first-ever banner ad (AT&T’s ‘You Will’) had a click-through rate (CTR) of 44 percent.

Here’s what the first banner ad looked like (HotWired / AT&T)

Imagine that. A campaign of say one million ad impressions sending some 440,000 primed consumers flocking to the advertiser’s website to review their messages and possibly buy their products.

Unfortunately, today sources suggest the average display CTR is around 0.07 percent. One million ad impressions might send 700 consumers to the advertiser’s website. Where have the banner clicks gone, and how are leading marketers using display to drive incremental conversions?

Let’s consider people’s browser journey, particularly intent. We know that display browsing is very different from search browsing. When searching, the user intent is about finding the solution and clicking on the most relevant search ad. Thus, clicks and CTR are a valuable metric.

Browsing articles and other content is an entirely different journey. The intent is to consume the most relevant information – not to distract by clicking away on a display ad interrupting the journey.

However, if the right ad matches the person’s interest and is shown at the right time, the person will notice the ad. While 99.93 percent of people won’t click, a large percentage will recall the message and visit the advertiser website later to purchase.

Think about your own behaviour. You’re in the market for a tropical holiday and have been researching destinations. Miraculously, you’ve been shown a killer travel deal for that trip to Hawaii. You might not click the ad, but you make a mental note and then go back to the travel company’s website later to revisit the details. Then you end up booking the deal or one similar after a discussion with your significant other. Technically that’s a post-ad-view conversion.

A post-ad-view conversion tracks people who view the banner ads, taking no action at the time, yet convert on the advertiser website later. We see most conversions being influenced in this way. Astute marketers account for this by placing credit on the ad vendor who’s driving the most efficient volume of incremental conversions. Ultimately scaling their marketing campaigns and online sales (or leads) accordingly.

The downfall of just measuring clicks and click-based conversions is that the advertiser is missing the true value of display ads, i.e. to get the brand and message seen by people that are in the market but are not necessarily searching right now. Only a small fraction of consumers time is spent in a search engine, whereas a large percentage of time is spent browsing the open internet. Therefore, more of your prospects are browsing the open internet. This is still a largely untapped market with less competition than a busy search engine. It’s a great place to find new prospects.

So how should we optimise our display campaigns to drive conversions instead of clicks? Here are four tips to consider:

Understand your online customers, particularly their demographics and interests.
Free audience measurement tools such as Quantcast Measure can assist you to do this. You’ll likely find out some new information about your customers that prove useful for ad targeting or for your creative messaging.

Set up a view-based (and click-based) campaign conversion analysis.
This can be done via a third-party ad server specifically for display, video and native campaigns.

Hyper target your campaigns.
Leading programmatic vendors who offer this can deliver pinpoint targeting cost-effectively and in brand-safe environments.

Judge your campaigns based on post-view and post-click conversion attribution and then scale the most efficient ad vendors to grow your customer base.
Consider conversion rates, cost per conversion or even return on ad spend analysis – rather than clicks and click-through rates. Attribution models are best left for another article.

It’s true with more ad inventory and content to consume in our busy lives the banner ad click-through rate has suffered. But by moving your focus to value what your prospective customers are viewing – not just clicking – you’ll continue to advance and drive incremental conversions in your digital marketing campaigns.

Brendan Muller is the New Zealand sales director at Quantcast.

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