For retailers, restaurants and autos, measuring click-through rates on mobile ads is pretty useless

Click-through rates have long been the standard measurement for the performance of display ads, but when it comes to mobile, Nielsen says we need a better metric.

Location-based ad targeting platform xAd recently teamed up with research firm Nielsen for a study to determine the most accurate measurement metrics for mobile ad campaign success. The report monitored the performance of 200 million ad impressions from campaigns run for 12 major brands in the retail, restaurant and auto verticals. Among the metrics that were analyzed were click-through rates (CTR), secondary actions such as calls and navigation, and lift in store visitation post ad exposure.

The results from the study showed that while click-through rates might indicate a level of interest, they don’t really correlate to secondary positive actions for the advertiser, which could be things like calls, in-store visits or lead generation. These post-ad actions are measured as Secondary Action Rates (SAR) and turn out to be far more accurate in measuring positive lift or return from an ad instead of a simple click-through.

“With most purchases still happening offline, one of the primary goals of any mobile campaign should be to drive in-store traffic and sales,” says Monica Ho, SVP of marketing at xAd. “Clear indicators of purchase intent, like SAR and Store Visitation Lift (SVL), provide the most accurate picture of how well a mobile campaign has achieved this.”

In addition, click-through rates on mobile phones tend to be inflated because the small screens increase the chances of an ad getting accidentally clicked on.

It’s important to remember that the study only tracked brands that are mostly reliant on making money through their physical locations, i.e. restaurants, retailers and auto-dealers. In this case, it makes sense for a click-through rate to lead to some sort of offline action to be counted as an effective metric. For other companies, where a click can lead to a piece of content, or a direct e-commerce site, a click-through could still be a direct indicator of revenue made.

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