A year-long research project involving Unilever, Nestle and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has put a number on the effect that online display ads can have on the sales of popular household brands.
The project tracked the performance of ads for nine brands – Nescafé, Häagen Dazs, Persil, PG Tips, Magnum, Surf, Maille, Tropicana and Aquafresh – across a range of popular desktop and mobile sites such as The Guardian, Yahoo!, eBay, Gumtree, AutoTrader and Mail Online.
The researchers were then able to track the purchasing decisions of those that received the ads, as well as those that didn’t. This was done using a combination of Nectar loyalty card data (which provides transaction information on 12 million Sainsbury’s customers) and Nielsen Homescan data on shopping behaviour at UK supermarkets.
The data suggests that online ads do have a pronounced effect on consumer behaviour. Every £1 spent on display ads delivered an average of £1.94 in sales across supermarkets. One brand even saw a return of £3.38.
“The ‘Holy Grail’ question we get from marketers is what impact does an online ad have on offline sales, and the answer is a very big one as the vast majority of the sales attributable to the online ad happened in-store,” said the IAB’s chief digital officer Tim Elkington.
“The calibre and range of the brands involved in the project gives marketers a reassuring guide as to what their investment in digital will pay back.”
One interesting aspect of the findings relates to the ‘halo effect’, or the effect that store-branded advertising can have on sales. All of the ads served to consumers as part of the study carried a Sainsbury’s logo, and the IAB estimates that these co-branded ads are 21% as effective at driving additional sales in other supermarkets as they are at Sainsbury’s.
55% of shoppers believe that an ad carrying the Sainsbury’s logo indicates that the product would be available in other stores. 38% said that the logo would make no difference to where they would look to buy the particular product.