Flashy graphical online advertisements may not be creating the splash marketers had hoped, according to an advertising-preference study conducted by Montreal-based iPerceptions, a provider of voice-of-the-customer analytics. Based on the behavior of more than 14,000 participants, the company determined that text links are the number-one most likely category of ad to be clicked.
The study gauged the propensity of consumers to interact with common types of online advertisements -- and measured the likelihood-to-click for each:
- text links (25 percent);
- right-hand banner (20 percent);
- top banner (12 percent);
- video (11 percent);
- interactive (7 percent); and
- interstitial, ads that are displayed before the content page (4 percent).
Banner adds debuted slightly more than a decade ago, and the notion of "banner blindness" was coined soon after; in the 10 years since, consumers have only gotten better at honing in on the content they're seeking, says Jonathan Levitt, vice president of marketing at iPerceptions. Levitt suggests that the popularity of text links may be attributed in part to the "Google conditioning" of users who have become accustomed to the text-link ads that accompany search results on Google.
Characterized as the generation most immersed in technology, adults between the ages of 25 and 34 showed an above-average preference for video ads (21 percent), but that was merely neck-and-neck with their affinity for text links (19 percent) and right-hand or top banner ads (19 and 22 percent, respectively). The even-younger demographic (under 25 years old) better matched the stereotype, with a decisive share (31 percent) clicking video ads, followed by a 23 percent likelihood to click top banner ads.
The study also indicates that marketers need to reevaluate where they're investing their ad dollars: Consumers with more to spend aren't the ones clicking online ads. Web-site visitors earning less than $50,000 were far more likely to click in the first place; those earning more than $50,000 clicked on an ad less than 20 percent of the time. The under-$50,000 group tends to skew younger, though. Does that pose a Catch-22 for marketers? Text links are the number-one ad preference overall, but they're less popular with the younger set; the youngsters, however, may be the ones doing most of the clicking in the first place, but they tend to have less money to spend. The report doesn't resolve these issues.
The study does, however, reveal something marketers may have already surmised: Frequent browsers are more likely to click on online advertisements. In fact, 65 percent of those who defined themselves as either weekly or daily browsers clicked on ads, while only approximately 6 percent of ad-clickers called themselves "sporadic users."
Levitt warns that the study's results shouldn't be interpreted to completely redirect advertising spend toward the top finishers, text and banner ads; rather, he says that it raises the importance of looking not only at what your consumers are clicking, but why -- a metric not readily discernible from numbers alone. The intent of your marketing campaign also matters, of course: Text links may be more appropriate for conversions, while video may be more effective in building brand awareness, Levitt says.
Despite having collected terabytes of customer information, Levitt says, many companies are still left wondering, "What am I doing with this data?" Web analytics has become widely accepted in the marketing world, particularly because Web activity is significantly more measurable than other forms of direct marketing. The problem, Levitt says, is that without capturing the actual voice of the customers -- through surveys, feedback forms, discussion groups, etc. -- it's difficult to fulfill the two critical goals of any Web site:
- identifying the purpose of a customer's visit; and
- determining whether the visitor completed her task.
Companies, Levitt adds, that don't focus on those two components -- and he says most companies don't -- are "missing the boat."
In time, Levitt says, attitudinal data will not serve merely as a complementary solution to behavioral data, but will actually outweigh it. "Four percent of responses from [an attitudinal survey]," he says, "will be more valuable than 98 percent of click behavior." One iPerceptions customer -- Lance Jones, manager of online customer experience at software provider Intuit -- claims to have already struck a happy medium between the two. "I could not do my job if you took one away. We need to know our traffic volumes -- we have such a narrow window for our products, that we absolutely need to know what kind of traffic volume we're getting, which marketing efforts are paying off, how engaged people are by average page views and session lengths."
Attitudinal and behavioral data are currently disparate forms of insight, but Jones says that he foresees a time when the two will be seamlessly unified. "No one's managed to pull it together or market it just yet, [but when it happens] they won't even be 'complementary,' " he says. "It'll just be an integrated solution."
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